Things I’ve discovered while being on a media diet the past week:
All in all, though it was challenging, it was a positive and somewhat enlightening week for me…what it comes down to is, do I want to be a constant consumer of other people’s images/words/ideas, or do I want to be primarily a producer of my own?
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.
The winter street speaks...
If you stand still enough to hear it.
The wan Seattle sun sets into
a frigid January night -
no one stays outside long.
Get off the bus, walk briskly those two blocks home.
Park the car, sprint to the door.
The dog gets a quick walk -
No lingering trip around the lake tonight.
But the winter street is out and about.
Icy lamps casting frozen diamonds in the grass
Telling tales of hidden treasure, if you listen hard enough.
Skeletal trees make brittle arches towards the sidewalk
And cars, like silent sentinels growing a moss of frost.
The winter street offers secrets
Inviting any who catch its whispers
To step into this quiet mystery of freezing dark.
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.