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.
This actually occurred exactly a week ago, last Thursday, 3/29/12. Best day of my life. The moment I walked out of the building, I felt like an oily veil of fear, doubt and chaos was lifted and I could see more clearly than I'd been able to in a LOOOONG time.
But of course, now I'm unemployed, and have to figure out what to do with that. I'll be okay for a little while, and an even longer while if I am able to collect unemployment (which may be an uphill battle, but I have smoking guns and am prepared).
Of course, I remember being unemployed last time, for over a year. It was really hard. Specifically on the psyche and spirit. No one could come out to play, and many days morale was so low that I didn't ever make it out of my pajamas. The job market was so bad I just got discouraged and at points, just stopped submitting my resume because it felt like it was just getting lost in the email void, never a "We've received your resume, thank you" or a call for an interview or...NOTHING. During that time, I sent over 150 resumes/cover letters out and got TWO interviews. One led to a 2nd interview. But otherwise, nothing.
This was where it started - my devaluing of myself, that is. I had just come back from grad school where I had excelled - 4.0 for three years straight, while consistently meeting all my assistantship hours and participating in a variety of theatrical productions in multidisciplinary capacities - and an outside job to boot. Then I got back to Seattle and suddenly, I was nothing. No one would hire me. Many in my previous theatrical network had left town. The economy tanked.
Finally, I got hired at a small theatre, mostly because I'd designed brochures for the AD before grad school. So desperate was I to have gainful employment at that point that I accepted the low salary and dove in with both feet, despite knowing the AD was a "challenging personality".
I did okay for the first year and a half or so. But then the AD got sick and things started to go downhill, in terms of everything got piled on me and the Education Director. Lots of work, but no more compensation. And by the time she returned, I was dancing perilously close to complete burnout. I hung around through the summer with a bad attitude, and things seemed to get a little better in the fall - interesting projects to publicize, fun outside people to work with. But despite hiring an assistant, new and more complicated work got piled on...but still - no added compensation, no word of how I was doing, nothing. There was never any catching up - I was always a hamster in a stationary wheel.
In the month preceding my dismissal, things had started to come to a head...and the funny thing is, my getting canned had more to do with getting OTHER artists at the theatre some kind of small budget than anything to do with my own salary.
Now that I'm gone, I see how I've allowed my love of theatre to be taken advantage of and how I've allowed myself to be devalued and more importantly to FEEL less than or mediocre...something which started while I was unemployed and persisted through this roller coaster employment situation.
Well...no more. I'm hanging up my gloves in the Carolynne vs Carolynne fight. I have some mad skills. There are a ton of things I'm actually quite GOOD at! And instead of wasting all this energy feeling like I suck at everything, am going to expend the energy celebrating those skills and honing them even more. GO ME!
As I was driving home from Olympia this afternoon, it occurred to me I could use my unemployment as a great jumping-off point for this blog that keeps stalling. Make a commitment to myself to either get out of the house at least once each day or do something significant at home that has to do with honing these skills. And now that I actually have the time to write...here we go!
Day to day thoughts, rants and mental detritus.