So, I have been doing an Artist's Way course facilitated by my friend and sometime colleague, Kate Gavigan. More info about these courses HERE.
Now let me explain. I have a little bit of history with The Artist's Way and my feelings about it.
Take One: I first heard about it sometime around fall 1998 when a classmate of mine was going through her reading deprivation week...then shortly thereafter, I was on a day trip to Bainbridge Island and found the actual book while browsing a local bookstore. Since I felt I was in the midst of some kind of creative awakening anyway, I purchased it, then read a little of it while I was on a trip to visit my parents in Brazil. I read some of it, did some of the exercises. I didn't really attempt morning pages, but I did revamp my journal, and since I was going through an awakening anyway, continued to allow that to unfold organically, from Spring 1998 through Summer 1999, realized I wanted to get back into theatre again after a 6-year hiatus, went about implementing that to see what it was about, and ultimately decided, after an *amazing* and life-altering Shakespeare Intensive at Freehold Theatre, that I needed to jump in with both feet.
Take Two: Summer 2001, after spending two years taking classes, and finishing my first production outside Freehold, I had a little time on my hands and decided to try doing Artist's Way again. This time, I got a little more serious, not only started to read the first few chapters, but also started doing morning pages every day...which pretty immediately became a dream journal. Artist's Dates are and have been something I've done since before I ever heard of the book, though I didn't necessarily call them that, so that was nothing new. A month after starting this process, I began taking a non-fiction writing course, and a few days after that, some terrorists flew some planes into some buildings in New York, which was kind of a big deal. About a month after that, I looked back over some of these morning-pages-turned-dream-journal, and discovered I had had a dream on September 8th where I was in New York and looked out the window just in time to see one of the WTC towers collapse. By this time, I had abandoned the book again, and just spent time analyzing and recording my dreams.
Take Three: Fast Forward to late Spring 2014. I have proudly called myself an artist without wavering for at least 13 years now, though sometimes it is hard to carve an authentic path for myself in the face of everyone and their opinions: peers, colleagues, instructors, extended family members, often popular culture and the magnetic pull of society at large. But yes. I am a Theatre, Literary and Visual Artist, have actually made a few bucks at all three at this point, even managed to support myself at times as an artist. I am also a Master of Fine Arts in Theatre now. I have written plays, poetry, pr materials, press releases, short stories and essays. I have acted in comedies, tragedies, classical and modern plays. I have devised and collaborated. Yet still, I feel like I am less than. I feel like I am not accepted in "the scene", feel like people think I SUCK, but I continue to make art anyway, because I am compelled to. So, though I don't feel like I'm necessarily fully blocked, like I have been at times, I feel like there is some blockage there, and knowing Kate to be an open and inclusive person, decided to take her class and finally complete the book once and for all.
That said, I must say I take some issue with a few things Julia talks about in her book...perhaps she has another one I am not aware of, where she discusses being in different parts of the process...but the whole "recovery" angle feels a little ooky to me. Though I suppose it is an addiction and an obsession if you choose to look at it that way, I've never received anything but positive feelings while immersing myself in making art, and the idea of being "in recovery" feels victim-y to me. I have a tendency to go into victim archetype anyway, so I certainly don't need any help with this. Ultimately, I am responsible for all my own choices...so yeah, even though I had a dick uncle who made fun of my writing when I was 14, I'm the one who ultimately decides if I'm going to allow that to stop me or keep writing anyway. Easier said than done, of course, and perhaps this comes out more in later chapters of the book, but these are some of the reasons why I had trouble continuing it in the past.
I'm not crazy about the "God" stuff either...but that I can at least replace with "Universe" and find it works for me. The other thing she does which, as someone who is not at the beginning of the spiral is a little troublesome is that she says, more than once, about people who call themselves artists that they may not be very talented and are just audacious. I realize this is probably meant to make the person "in recovery" feel better, but someone like me is going to see that as "Oh. I don't have any problems admitting I'm an artist. I've been making art for decades, despite what other people say about my work. Maybe this means I don't have any talent and am just audacious?" Because my inner critic is sneaky and crafty and will say whatever he needs to to beat me down. And since he doesn't have all that many opportunities to do that anymore, whenever he gets an in, he hits HARD.
At any rate, I am trying it again. We are in week 4. So far, I am noticing multidisciplinary ideas starting to come to me unsolicited again, which I love. Also, my dreams appear to be coming back, and I'm actually sleeping a little better which is amazing. I have made at least TWO fairly large discoveries/epiphanies during my morning pages, and it is kind of marvelous to be doing this while I am juggling several artistic projects of various disciplines and in various stages along of development. I have an instant "canvas" on which to work in some of these new ideas and some of these new habits. And I definitely can't stubbornly poo-poo any of that. So I am hoping I will make it all the way through this time.
Queen of Knives
Mother has been weeping for three days. Each time I go outside to
pick blackberries for supper, or even to take a dip in the pond, she looks at me as though she’s seeing me for the last time. She thinks I don’t notice – just tells me not to catch cold – but I see her wiping her eyes. I hear her at night. She always turns her back.
Mother, why are you crying?
I’m not crying my love, I have something in my eye. Allergies.
(laughs, brushing it off)
(shivering)It’s cold in here. Why is it so cold?
Autumn must be coming.
What is Autumn?
(sighs deeply) You don’t remember, do you?
It is like this every time. Always like it was the first time.
The first time?
You’re going back to your husband, my love.
Husband? I don’t have…
But then something stops me, because I remember…something…someone. I remember being afraid and I remember dark kisses and promises…I remember dead people and six pomegranate seeds laid out carefully
before me. I remember a choice…
She turns around to look at me and in her eyes I can see the memories that flood back are not simply dreams but the truth.
Your duties my dear. As a queen.
Queen? But I’m just…
More memories…darkness. It’s dark there, but not without its majesty. Rooms…caverns? Tunnels, and…ghosts. Parades and parades of ghosts, and I, next to my dark paramour on my throne…
He wants me back, doesn’t he?
He always does. As I’ve said, you and I, we have our duties.
You have your throne.
Autumn. Go dress yourself in something warm. The messenger will
be here soon.
It’s only while I’m in transit that I remember everything, and the memories build. When I reach either destination, I have no memory of the other place. I get there and it’s like I’ve never left…and my memories of the other place become cloudy and disappear and my time int hat place is untainted…until I’m travelling again and everything comes flooding back, is put into context.
Every six months, I do this. Follow the messenger up, or follow the messenger down. I am a rope, a sinewy, knotted rope, growing frayed with age as millennia pass. A rope in an ancient tug-of-war between stubborn and unyielding siblings. My mother. My husband. Six months here; six months there.
Neither of them has every asked me what I prefer.
He’s formidable, my husband, and the air perceptibly changes as I spiral closer and closer to where he is. Each time I see him, it’s like the first time, and he takes my breath away – why anyone would ever want to be blond and hale when dark and gaunt has such a profound sway –
My love. (breathing)
And my life up there starts to disappear again. There’s something so intoxicating and present about being here, being with him that it makes everything up there seem like a dream as I deal with the ever-present reality of the state of things here: The truth of the matter is, the dead pester me with their attentions. As though I could do something for them.
Queen! They call me, as they prostrate themselves at my feet. Mistress!
And it all comes flooding back to me, all the many names they have called me for millennia and my little life with my mother in our cottage by the pond is laughable, trivial and so very innocent!
Mistress of the Damned! Snow Queen. Spirit of Winter. Lady Ice. I slip my mantle on and the ice, like a thousand tiny knives settles back inside me as I hold court for the legions of ghosts who are my subjects with my dark lord by my side…and the tug-of-war begins again.
It is possible that I am in a constant state of being too busy. Highly possible. Because, as I am coming down off feeling really incredibly stressed out and being able to cross a couple things off my list, I realize my plate is still pretty full.
First you add the perpetual stuff: day job, boyfriend, cat, house upkeep.
Then sprinkle in extracurriculars, which at the moment include: a class at Freehold, volunteer PR Coordinator for eSe Teatro, rehearsals for Studio Series Project, Slash Artists Collective prep/planning/workshops, yoga classes, going to the gym, remembering to take daily photographs for my 365 photography/writing project, and of course, filming/rehearsing season one of Causality. Oh, and keeping up with the ridiculous number of television programs on my agenda.
Now add a good dash of actual stuff coming down the pipes as well as theoretical stuff to prepare for: applying for Bumbershoot and possibly more than one Fringe Festival. Upcoming readings of Don Quixote. Graphic design work for eSe and other clients. Trip to Mexico! eSe Taller workshop with Myra Platt. Developing/rehearsing another long-term theatre project with one of my good friends.
And of course, I must continue to nurture my family and friendships, because they have always been my lifeline, via email/social media or preferably in person. I hate the phone.
Somehow, I manage it all, though not necessarly always well. Things slip. I used to keep it all in my head, but now have to put it into a calendar, and thank goodness for that! I guess I will sleep when I'm dead.
I look innocent, don't I? Always a part of you. I follow you around everywhere, tethered as we are. So familiar to you that you barely even notice me.
I've seen everything you've ever done, you know. I have my opinions, but I keep them to myself.
Would you notice if I suddenly weren't here? Would you freak out?
There are things I'd like to do, you know. You think I'm merely a part of you that must always follow...but what if...what if I got away? What would you do? What would *I* do?
I ponder it often, especially when I see myself through your eyes...the delight of knowing how unnerved you would be if you suddenly saw me detach from you and...and what?
I could do anything. I could sleep with your boyfriend, for starters. Would he even be able to tell, in the dead of night? I could go out and rob a bank. Kill some folks. I wonder if we have the same fingerprint, and they'd trace it all to you?
I could apply for all those jobs you pass up because you think you're not quite qualified or haven't figured out how to write the perfect resume.
I could write letters to everyone you know. What would I say? Hmmmm...what can you imagine?
One day, I may find a way to detach.
You should probably be a little afraid.
So, I've decided to challenge myself to write more using photos as a catalyst. Every day this year, I will take a photograph of something that speaks to me - hopefully they will not all be of Vixen, since she speaks very loudly sometimes! - and write an accompanying narrative. It might be fiction - it might be fact. It might be haiku, or short play or recipe. I dunno - but let the floodgates of inspiration bust open! Today's is offering number one.
This ground looks innocent enough, I suppose. I never thought twice about it as I walked each day on my way home from the bus stop. I hoped I wouldn't get caught under there during an earthquake - who knows whether or not I-5 would buckle under the pressure?
The park and ride was just somewhere I walked to and fro at the beginning of the day and then again at the end. Sometimes I'd go by while walking to Bartell's or Whole Foods. I never thought I'd get stuck here forever and never be able to leave...
It happened so quickly I honestly couldn't have pinned the moment itself down. I was walking home from the bus - same as usual. I heard a loud noise and felt dizzy for a moment, but kept walking. I had almost cleared the bridge when I suddenly found myself back at the beginning of the bus stop again.
Except this time, there was the smoking ruin of an upside-down Lexus in front of me, and all sorts of people running over to the wreck. I ran towards it as well, being so close, yelling "Someone call 911!" I could see that someone was trapped underneath the wreckage, and I prayed a silent prayer she was still alive. I could see her shoes. That's odd, I thought, she has the same shoes as I do.
It was the next moment I realized something was horribly wrong, as a guy I recognized from my daily bus ride ran right through me. And I understood why the pinned woman's shoes were the same as mine.
This is the next chapter of my life,
Comfortingly familiar yet so, so wrong.
It is miraculous and at the same time just plain truth:
The dead pester me with their attentions
There might be any opportunity one could dream about
The wine has made me courageous and bold
I float inside the spaces between molecules
Am I a ghost?
The night listens
There is surrender
I have done nothing to forgive.
Dreams aren’t logical the way real life is
I am wind, and I uncover things – I stir things up.
What is the essence of purple?
He tries to cajole me from within my block of ice
the dead are all around him
Is he merely hiding?
I thought if his wings were big enough, he could fly high enough
It was nothing like that at all
I cannot help but follow the breadcrumbs dropped for me into this mystery
It swallows every other tiny tragedy:
Forced to swing back and forth, like a demi-goddess pendulum
All I have to do is surrender:
There are pieces of his shrapnel embedded throughout my body.
I have survived him.
I just want to be a part of life.
Day to day thoughts, rants and mental detritus.