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Thank you Sandy and Merricat. I read both your posts and both were insightful, informational and very helpful.
Take good care
San Bernardino Mtns, Southern California
I just managed to get myself back online and...er...Um...I just finished doing that thing. You know, the chapter summary?
But it looks like you already have a great one.
I'll just...put it here. You know, in case anyone's curious. Or not - god knows you don't HAVE to read my babblings! But I just spent a couple of hours on it, so (shrugs) what the heck....
(Thank you, Sandy. You're a heck of a writer! :) )
WEEK THREE: RECOVERING A SENSE OF POWER
YOU! Yeah, you, the guy/chick reading this! I don't like you. More to the point, I don't like what you're doing. You're whining and puling and generally making me sick. Did you get into this because you thought it would be easy and fun, and everyone would be dazzled by your great progress (or your terrific posts or whatever), and now you're runnning away because - oh boo hoo hoo - it's so haaaaaard? Shut up with that whining. You make me SICK!
There. Wasn't that fun to read? Did you read it with a smile, nodding at my great wisdom, at how I've the nail on the head? And now, of course, I'll tell you HOW to stop being (whiny/bored/whatever) and it'll all get better?
Of course not. Maybe you found yourself getting mad, thinking "how DARE that bitch talk to me that way!" Most likely you raised an eyebrow, wondering what the heck my problem was, and figuring there had to be a point to this babble, because that's.....just the way things are. (And it's hard to write jeering insults when you're NOT angry, so the above probabaly sounds pretty rehearsed.)
But let's say that anger was your first response. Be it a truly good MAD or a slow, simmering sense of "I'm losing it", what did you DO with this response? Did you shut down the browser, throw away your book, punch out a pillow (calling it Merricat)? No. At most you stopped for a minute to tell yourself to ease up, calm down, there's more writing so there must be an explanation. You muffled that anger, ignored it, or plain blocked it out.
And that habit of anger-blocking can be a very unfair way to treat your artist.
In our culture, anger is the enemy. Therapists say that anger fuels depression, regret....heck, every negative emotion from annoyance to despair. Well, that may be on target in some cases, but overall anger is a very real and natural response. It is the opposite of apathy, of sloth and despair.
Anger - WHEN IT IS A REACTION TO AN INJUSTICE OR WRONG - is fuel. It is fire.
Don't confuse this with fear-based anger. "I HATE that tramp, she stole my husband!" is anger that hides "I'm so scared I'm going to be alone forever." That's a whole other story, and one that we (thankfully!) don't address here. I don't have the time or energy to write a textbook, and there are dozens out on the fear/anger issue already.
No, what concerns us is the anger that is sending us a simple message: you're not letting me do what I really love, and I'm mad about it. It's not hard to tell the difference, really. When you get that anger, stop for a second. Try to figure out what you're angry ABOUT. If you need to go through psychoanalysis to figure it out....ugh, I'm not going there! But if you realize you are ticked off because you want to do X, but your "good sense" says you can't POSSIBLY.....stop. Listen to that anger. It's a clear indicator of where and how to go.
It's energy. It is strength.
Don't be afraid of your own strength. When we treat our anger by listening to it, IT MAKES US DO THINGS. Not just write about it, babble and whine....DO. It is a friend. Not a very NICE, GENTLE or TIMID friend: it's the friend who says "That idiot just won the Canada Council award for literature?? YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! sHE wouldn't know a good story if it bit her in the butt! I can do TEN TIMES BETTER!!"
So go and do it.
I'll bet you my second-favourite cat that you've had answered prayers. You may not have called them that; maybe it was a "super-freaky coincidence", or "wow, great timing!" If you're a religious Buddhist like me, you might take a moment to bow in thanks to Kuan Yin or Amida for the whatever-it-is that has happened. Or other religions may give praise to God...Allah...Ba'al...you get the idea.
My husband and I have an ongoing joke: whevever we need something, we sacrifice a gummi-bear to the Great Garage Sale Gods, and ask for it. And more than 90% of the time, we find the thing we want within the first hour. When we hunted for a fondue pot, we found them at 3 sales. The first was too expensive, and I turned it down. The second was used and dirty; I said no. The third was a dollar, a full set, and still in the original box. Yes, that's what I asked for. Thank you, oh great "garage sale gods!"
I know similar things have happened to you. You've said "I could do THIS if only I had xxxxx!" or "I need to get XXXX, I can't afford it, WHAT AM I GOING TO DO!!?" Then, be it a day or a month or an hour later, you HAVE the thing, or it appears from an unlikely source AND it's affordable and just right. It's either exactly what you wanted or it's BETTER than what you were looking for - a better quality, a better fit, a better thing overall.
For those of us who have learned that such synchronicity isn't magical - in fact, it's EXPECTED - we see the process as a simple 1-2-3 one:
1. Define ("I need a greenhouse for my hundreds of yearly seedlings...but I could never afford a commercial one!") I
2. Ask ("I can build one easily enough, but I need to get a lot of glass or plexiglass. At best, I would find a bunch of old windows.")
3. Recieve. (During a town-wide "put out your large trash" day, my neighbor had dozens of windows on her lawn. I asked about it, and she told me they had just redone the whole house with more energy-efficient windows, and I could have the whole thing, no charge.)
Result? NOT a miraculous win of $3000-5000 to buy a greenhouse, but all the materials to build them for the price of nails and screws (the lumber for it appeared in a similar way about a month later).
As recovering artists, we have an amazing tool here. We are, in effect, saying "HEY! UNIVERSE! I NEED THIS!", and it's answering. When the request is clear, so is the answer.
Are you a woman who wants to act, but has no idea of how to start? Ask....and you WILL receive. You'll meet someone who teaches a Beginner's Acting class. You'll chat with your neighbor and find out there are auditions for community theater, no experience necessary. Or you're a writer yearning to be published, and you see a "writers wanted" sign when you go to renew a magazine subscription. The painter who can't afford paints finds an opening for part-time clerk in an artist supply store...with a VERY good employee discount. Or sees an article about a studio that offers beginning artists full lessons and materials in all forms (clay, conte, charcoal, paint), all free, for the purpose of promoting the studio. (If you think that last one is pretty damned unlikely, I invite you to check out Harcourt House in Edmonton, Alberta....and their free art program.)
Ask. You WILL receive. And when you do, it's up to you to NOT say "oh no I COULDN'T! I'm taking away from someone else who (unlike me) is really good/worthy/needy!" Nonsense! There is more than enough to go around. The "synchronicity distrubutor" may take a while getting to your order, but it WILL get there.
While we're on the subject, just WHO or WHAT is doing the distributing? It's:
The Most Great And Sacred Holy Gopher
The Power of Creative Visualization
Which is my way of saying "I don't have a clue, so don't ask me to pin it down." I just know it's a Something that is greater than the sum of all our parts, it's universal, and it's endless. You can no more drain it than you can empty the sea with a bucket.
The process is simple: Ask. Recieve. Accept it (VERY hard for some). Give thanks (your delighted surprise is a form of thanks). Then ask again.
And if you want to sacrifice a gummi bear or two.....I won't tell.
What is Art?
Oh, don't give me that look! I'm not getting into a big philosophical argument; if YOU want that, then go ahead and start your own "WHAT IS ART???" thread. But the question remains: what is (in large part) Art?
Everyone has a personal opinion, of course. My own is pretty broad: Art - FOR ME - is something that elicits an emotional response from me. It can make me feel safe and
protected, or upset, or delighted. It can be totally abstract and still make me say "ooooh I LOVE those colours together!" That, for me, is Art. So in my own personal definition, things that upset many people (Google "Piss Christ" if you want a good example of that) aren't necessarily Art (I thought the "P.C." thing was pretty dull).
Nor is it necessarily a matter of size or cost. There is a HUGE painting of old tires wrapped in pink ribbons that dominates the auditorium where I go watch Opera. I was standing in front of it with a glass of wine, looking at it (but actually my brain was a hundred miles away), and a couple came up to it. He gasped at the Social Significance, she moaned with pleasure at the Ramifications Of Societal Views On Waste and they both excitedly babbled about its incredible insight on How Society Tries To Beautify Its Own Excess For The Masses.
Then they made the mistake of asking me what I thought.
I looked at it again. It was big. Lots of money for paint, I'm sure. Big frame. Positioned under a spotlight. I looked back at them, and said "*shrug*. He draws nice ribbons"
And wandered off.
I'll leave you to imagine the ensuing outrage.
So art means different things to different people (AND at different times in history....think of those little "blackface" jockey statues so popular in the 30s and 40s). But one thing that IS a constant is this: Art exposes. And such exposition can be very shameful.
Back when I was in the BFA program in university, I drew a portrait of my mother. It was full-length, and realistic...but I peeled away a big slice of her and painted a dirty, skinny, raggedly-dressed child hiding inside and pulling on levers. My instructor said it was the best thing I had ever done....and I ripped it to shreds the next day. I felt....ashamed. Confused. I KNEW the woman was only doing evil things because of how she grew up, but how DARE I show that to the world?
We hide things we don't want others to know, but we also hide what WE don't want to know. I'm not primarily a painter, so my own example is just a personal event. But as a writer, I KNOW I'm hitting close to home when it hurts. I can't tell you how many times I've written a scene with tears streaming, choking back sobs, while at the same time I don't dare stop because it is EXACTLY what I want to say. The pain can be overwhelming....but it ain't NUTHIN' compared to the sense of shame that comes with it. I'm telling secrets. Deep, dark, horrible secrets....yet the reader only says "Hey, that's a great way of putting it! I love this!" and moves on.
An artist has no more "need" to feel shame as does a battered child who finally tells someone. Or a neglected child who finally lets on that Mom's a drunk, Dad's never home, and she's really on her own. Yet these kids are told they have "brought shame to the family." They are made to feel bad BECAUSE THEY BROUGHT SOMETHING HIDDEN INTO THE LIGHT.
Many artists/artisans just want to create Pretty. Beautiful paintings, drawings, comedic plays and stories....all good things. Nothing wrong with NOT looking into the darkness! Yet part of what makes us BLOCKED artists is that there IS that darkness somewhere within. And shame becomes a habit: if no one is shaming you, you'll do it yourself: "how DARE you call that mess 'painting'? You've just wasted money that could have gone to groceries! You're a disgrace!"
What's especially interesting is case of the artist who starts a piece of work with real enthusiasm, only to find - as it gets close to completion - that they don't want to work on it any more. It doesn't matter any more. It's not important.
Listen now: IT DOES MATTER, AND IT'S VERY DAMNED IMPORTANT!
Getting closer to that finished work creates a huge internal struggle. There is the artist saying "After all this work and time, I'm going finish this play!"; there is the hurt youngster saying "if this gets finished, people will see it....and they'll laugh....and I'll cry and make a scene....and I'll feel so ashamed for even TRYING! Oh, no! No way! THIS CAN'T BE FINISHED!" So suddenly it doesn't matter. It's no big deal.
That's a good coping mechanism for people raised with abuse or neglect. Mom forgot my birthday. Dad promised to pick me up but didn't. Oh, well. It doesn't matter. And what ends up happening is a lesson is learned: putting anything out for attention is a dangerous act because (oh no!) it might be ignored....or (even worse!) it may get the wrong kind of attention.
(Stop and think for a moment: is there a piece of work you haven't finished? Or something you started "con brio", but it petered down to "doesn't matter?" Or got "Boring?")
Artists are always children. Always. I had the pleasure of meeting Ray Bradbury years ago - a lovely, creative man - and he's always going to be about nine years old. You can see it in his eyes, and in how he talks. Everything is NEAT! Everything needs to be explored! Wow! Keen! Let's go, what are you waiting for, come ON!!!! Bradbury's artist managed the amazing feat of never growing up. It doesn't mean he's childish or petty or irresponsible; he's really a delightful man....but he also never learned that showing stuff off can earn a scolding. A delightful, talented, and LUCKY man.
Most of us weren't anywhere near that lucky. But we have a second chance now. Do we dare take it? Or are we tied to the past by invisible chains of shame and defeat? Are we scared-but-game, or self-pitying?
Self-pity is a sneaky thing. I takes PAST criticisms (which we know, as grownups, don't matter at all in the present) and put them to work in the present. It attacks us with weapons that should have long ago crumbled to dust. So we deal with it through apathy/detachment ("doesn't matter") or sloth ("I'm too tired to write"). And heaven forbid that
someone criticizes us! Even if that criticism is healthy and constructive, it screams FAILURE! DANGER! FAILURE! in our heads, and we run like heck. But despite that fear there ARE some good ways to deal with how criticism affects you.
When you receive criticism of any sort -- from family, friends, peers, the world, or even yourself -- follow these rules for softening the blow and getting yourself back on track.
1. Receive the criticism all the way through and get it over with.
2. Jot down notes to yourself on what concepts or phrases bother you.
3. Jot down notes on what concepts or phrases seem useful.
4. Do something very nurturing for yourself--read an old good review or recall a compliment.
5. Remember that even if you have made a truly rotten piece of art, it may be a necessary stepping-stone to your next work. Art matures spasmodically and requires ugly-duckling growth stages.
6. Look at the criticism again. Does it remind you of any criticism from your past--particularly shaming childhood criticism? Acknowledge to yourself that the current criticism is triggering grief over a long-standing wound.
7. Write a letter to the critic--not to be mailed, most probably. Defend your work and acknowledge what was helpful, if anything, in the criticism proffered.
8. Get back on the horse. Make an immediate commitment to do something creative.
9. Do it. Creativitiy is the only cure for criticism.
y/id11.html, taken directly from The Artist's Way)
DETECTIVE WORK: AN EXERCISE
You know, you're actually much more powerful and creative than you think. You're here, aren't you? You had the courage to start this course, and are sticking with it, no? And
you realize that a lot of the strength you have NOW is something you had all your life. Your biggest work is just...well, getting it back. Sort of a matter of regaining who you
WERE to realize just who you ARE.
So who were you?
Let's find out. Complete these phrases. Use one word or 40; it's up to you. Be aware that some of these questions are going to bring up strong emotions, and write as much as you think you need to (or want to) to really REALLY answer the questions:
1. My favorite childhood toy was . . .
2 My favorite childhood game was . . .
3. The best movie I ever saw as a kid was . . .
4. I don't do it much but I enjoy . . .
5. If I could lighten up a little, I'd let myself . . .
6. If it weren't too late, I'd . . .
7. My favorite musical instrument is . . .
8. The amount of money I spend on treating myself to entertainment each month is . . .
9. If I weren't so stingy with my artist, I'd buy him or her . . .
10. Taking time out for myself is . . .
11. I am afraid that if I start dreaming . . .
12. I secretly enjoy reading . . .
13. If I had had a perfect childhood, I'd have grown up to be . . .
14. If it didn't sound so crazy, I'd write or make a . . .
15. My parents think artists are . . .
16. My God thinks artists are . . .
17. What makes me feel weird about this recovery is . . .
18. Learning to trust myself is probably . . .
19. My most cheer-me-up music is . . .
20. My favorite way to dress is . . .
ndex.html, taken directly from TAW)
Two steps forward, one step back. Sound familiar? It's how we, as humans and artists, grow. And whenever we try to take those foreward steps, Black Synchronicity (my personal term for it) seems to step in. The Buts start. "I finished that drawing!" GREAT! "but....I broke my 2H drawing pencil, and that's the most expensive." Aww. "I did my morning pages all last week!" Yippee! "but....I only did 2 pages this week." Oh dear....
But that's normal. It's how life happens. This week you lose two pounds (YAY!), but next week you gain 1 (WHAT?!?). If you look at the overall process, it's all moving forward.
Maybe you gained that weight in muscle-mass, which burns more energy overall. Or maybe you were just down and had an ice-cream day. In the end, it all balances out.
We here are Spark are lucky: we understand the fits-and-starts of a task. You will NOT lose exactly 1.5 lbs per week over the next 52 weeks, therefore getting into that size 7 JUSt in time for your 20-year reunion.
You'll win some....lose a few....and keep going. It's the overall direction that counts.
To repeat a Grook from one of my favourite poets:
The road to wisdom? Well, it's plain
And simple to express.
Err and err and err again
But less and less and less
- Piet Hein
Take the overall lessons you learn at Spark and apply them to your artist. Be kind in small, concrete ways. Easy does it (or, more to the point, Easy ACCOMPLISHES it). Reward yourself with artistic little gifts - visit a gallery, buy some crayons - however you like.
Accept help. This is harder than it sounds....but DO work at it! Help from the Universe (see Synchronicity), help from friends and family, help from the most unexpected places.
ASK for help if you need it. If something bothers you, DO something about it. Don't hide away and do the Polite Chill ("I see. I'm sorry you feel that way. Thank you for calling."). Fix the whatever-it-is that bothers you so you can move ahead. You've got enough baggage from waaaay back; do you really want to add more now?
Live. Ask. Accept.
And grow. Always: grow.
1. Describe you childhood room. If you wish, you may sketch this room. What was you favourite thing about it? What’s your favourite thing about your room right now? Nothing?
Well, get something you like in there – maybe something from that old childhood room.
2. Describe five traits you like in yourself as a child.
3. List five childhood accomplishments. (Good grades you got in a certain grade, that time you helped an elderly person, or helping an animal, etc.)
4. List five favourite childhood foods. Buy yourself one of them this week. Anything that you like is ok.
5. Make a list of friends who nurture you – that’s nurture (give you a sense of your own competency and possibility), not enable (give you the message that you will never get it
straight without their help). There is a big difference between being helped and being treated as though we are helpless. List three nurturing friends. Which of their traits,
particularly, serve you well?
6. Call a friend who treats you like you are a really good and bright person who can accomplish things. Part of your creative recovery is reaching out for support. This support
will be critical as you undertake new risks.
7. Inner Compass: each of us has an inner compass. This is an instinct that points us toward health. It warns us when we are on danderous ground, and it tells us when something
si safe and good for us. Morning pages are one way to contact it. So are some other artist-brain activities - painting, driving, walking, scrubbing, running. This week, take
an hour to follow your inner compass by doing an artist-brain activity and LISTENING to what insights bubble up.
8. List five people you admire. Now, list five people you secretly admire. What traits do you find in these people that you can look for in your friends?
9. List five people you wish you had met who are dead. Now, list five people who are dead whom you'd like to hang out with for a while in eternnity. What traits do you find
in these people that you can look for in your friends?
10. Compare the two sets of lists. Take a look at what you really like and really admire - and a look at what you think you SHOULD like and admire. Your SHOULDS might tell
you to admire Edison while your heart belongs to Houdini. Go with the Houdini side of you for a while.
1. How many days did you do the morning pages? Did you skip a day? If so, why did you skip it?
2. Did you do your Artist Date this week (yes, and it was HORRIBLE!!). What did you do? How did it feel?
3. Did you experience any synchronicity this week? What was it?
4. Describe any other issues this week that you consider significant in your recovery.
(Source: As always, TASKS are directly from The Artist's Way. Check-in is somewhat paraphrased)
Edited by: MERRICAT at: 9/1/2008 (19:06)
Thank goodness for the long weekend so I can finish weeks one and two and start three! Oh my--you said it--time just flies when you are having fun!
Its all about the journey!
Go where your eyes are looking!
Perfectionism blocks creativity!
Just do it!
Awesome job Sandy! Oh my, I have to get week 2's tasks done, were did this week go? Week three is nearly upon us....
Thank you for your time and efforts...
"Because Nice Matters" unknown
"To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain and play with it." Charlie Chaplin
"Reality is as individual as our fingerprints." T.Rhiannon Lee
I am impressed... thanks... blessings
Terri, Princess of the Terri-tory~~Sure is hard to be a princess around here. WELL-BEHAVED WOMEN RARELY MAKE HISTORY *to be enlightened is to be without anxiety over imperfection. Allow myself to find happiness in the only place that it can be found: my real messy, imperfect experience Anon + Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You” Dr. Seuss+ SorryTHX,Forgive,Love+
This is Chapter 3. I hope that I do not disappoint or been too long winded.
When I read this chapter, one of my favorite quotes in history came into mind. It is by WEB Dubois, an early civil rights leader. He said that when you are enslaved by chains, you can be freed, but when you are enslaved in your mind, you are a slave forever. This is the primary focus of this chapter. What are the things that are used to enslave our creativity and self-worth and what are the things that we must embrace and use in order to free it.
The first section of the chapter talks about anger. We all presuppose that anger is the enemy of us all. We are told by therapist and others that our anger is the fuel of our depression and every negative emotion on the planet. Contrary to this, anger is an essential tool in recovering our artist and healing it. Anger reminds us that we are not living to our potential and calls us to action to do something about it. It tells us that we have the power to change. The true enemies of our artist are apathy, sloth, and despair. We feel these things when we deny our anger and do not use its power to influence and change our lives. The next time you are angry, do some form of action. It would lead to self-discovery and creativity.
The second section of the chapter talks about synchronicity. We all have been in a time of despair or frustration when we look at the sky and say, "I could do this if I had ______ or I need ______. To our amazement, what we ask for miraculously appears. Was it luck? We assume that but it is a higher power. It is leading us to reach our potential. As human beings we are created for a purpose. I truly feel that people are unhappy and become mentally ill due to not finding or following the purpose that our own higher power has for us. The higher power opens up so many doors for us and we slam them in his or her's face. Some of us are so afraid of success that we set ourselves up to fail every time. We are really slamming it in our own faces. We have the power and tools within us to make our life full. We must make a commitment to ourselves and that higher power to take a leap of faith. To believe despite what is going on around us, that we deserve and we are entitled to a better way of life. We were not made to just exist. We were made to thrive, to be alive, and to be conquerors of our environment. We are to nurture ourselves and in return our example empowers and nurtures those around us.
The third section of this chapter deals with shame. Shame is the one of our most powerful enemies in our pursuit to live full and creative lives. It lies in wait to distort and destroy all of the positive thoughts, feelings, and creativity that we possess within us that our higher power wants us to express. Shame is actually a defense by CP to limit us as they are limited. It prevents them from being embarrassed at their own despair by denying us all that we have the potential to be. Criticism is the main weapon of our enemy shame. When it is harmful, it denies us our feelings, emotions, self-worth and identity. In ways it denies us our humanness and turns us into objects. The usual response to shame is detachment. We deny our feelings and our self-worth. We stunt our anger and its ability to activate us to positive action and we become apathetic and lazy. Self-pity is knocking at the door. Shame also is sneaky in that it will take the criticisms of the past and use them to attack our actions and work in the present.
So how do we deal with shame and its cohorts of detachment, apathy, and sloth. We create a safe environment for criticism. Remember some criticism is healthy and helps us to grow. It triggers our anger and then motivates us to want to change and seek avenues for change through the higher power. There are several ways to do this.
1. Write about criticism that are given to you and reflect on how they make you feel.
2. Surround yourself with people who believe in your purpose in life and support you.
3. Remember the ugly ducking turned into a beautiful swan so failure sometimes causes success.
4. Write letters to self and to those who shame you. Get rid of the negative by making it positive.
The final section deals with growth. Growth is like the ocean tide. It has an ebb and flow. It requires us to have great patience and perseverance in order for us and others to see it. It requires us to practice and hone our craft whether artistic, spiritual, emotion, or physical. It requires us to have solitude to really come in touch with our needs and to find ways to nurture ourselves. We all have a common addiction as I like to call it of people pleasing. The first person that we need to please is ourselves. Again it is important to note that we are equip with the power to heal ourselves. Use it boldly, and wisely to stay on course.
Task for the week.
1. Describe your room as a child as you wish. Focus on your favorite things then and now in your room
2. When you were a child what traits did you admire about yourself?
3. List your childhood accomplishments and a treat to buy yourself. I already did this today by buying myself one of those candy necklaces.
4. Review your hablits and see if any conflict with your ability to self-nurture.
5. Create a safe environment by listing supportive people in your lives. Pick one to contact for support.
6. List five people who you admire and then five you secretly admire. List the traits you admire. Finally list five people who are dead who you would love to meet. List their traits as well and compare them to your friends. Compare these lists to discover what traits your heart desires.
7. This week take an hour out to listen and allow your inner compass and higher power to guide you to activities and new insights.
Hope I was not too long-winded. I enjoyed doing this.
Love you all