Quick Recap: I’m getting through Quarantine 2020 by doing the 12 week creativity recovery challenge in the book, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
Week Two: Recovering a Sense of Identity
Early in this second week of The Artist’s Way challenge, a longing consumed my thoughts and burned in my chest. I needed to destroy the walls of my office. Immediately.
Don’t be alarmed, reader. These urges from the universe are not new to me. Experience has taught me that I need to attempt something in order to satisfy the ache and release the pressure. For the last two weeks, I had been exercising in my office while listening to “Writing Down the Bones” and “Wild Mind” by Natalie Goldberg and “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle. During breaks, I’d spastically cover the mirrors with inspiration, quotes, and ideas with dry erase markers. Eventually, I ran out of room, and contemplated writing on my light gray walls. The walls were so nice and neat and clean and free of holes and perfect compared to the others in my old house that I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
In order to feel free to write on them, they had to be less precious so I wouldn’t hesitate to make mistakes on them with Sharpies. I longed to figure how to create space in my head, my heart, my laptop, with my time, and on my walls, to write whatever I wanted, where ever I wanted, and however I wanted. I wanted that freedom for my writing, and the only way I knew how to learn it was to just do it, starting somewhere safe.
The destruction began with short bursts of metallic gold spray paint. Hello, glam and gorgeous! And then white, teal, and blue, but it looked too pretty. Too safe. I started adding in purple as I moved towards the second wall, then eventually let loose, adding in short squiggly lines in every friggin’ color of the rainbow.
Once my finger cramped and I almost passed out from the fumes, I grabbed duct tape. On the last wall, I made a shiny, navy strip start diagonally from the corner of the right ceiling shoot all the way across and down to the opposite corner. Next was purple and white, crisscrossing and slicing the wall, across the ceiling and down to the first wall. I took a step back and was surprised by tears of delight and the light fluttering in my chest. What a glorious mess.
If you saw it, you’d probably guess I locked my toddlers in the room with some materials on the floor and told them to have at it. It is gross and wild and silly and amazing and exactly what I needed. It is my own grown-up, mental play room, where I can go as crazy as I want.
It is the start to helping me tune out the idea that I have to make something normal and comfortable and nice and neat and basic and boring. My work can be original and mine, uniquely showcasing me and my voice.
After showing Onteejo (my fabulous artist aunt and Artist’s Way Challenge accountability coach) she said: “You know, Em, diagonal lines insight energy. It’s the elements of 2D design…vertical lines insight stability and horizontal lines insight calm.” And I felt the Master Creator in her words, nodding encouragement and giving me energy to finish this challenge.
This week Chapter Two tackled trusting our creativity, tackling self-doubt by with safety and self-acceptance, working through skepticism, making sure you surround yourself with the right, gentle supporters, and paying attention.
A few excerpts I sticky-noted all over the house:
“…Survival lies in sanity, and sanity lies in paying attention…The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight [I love this line as it connected deeply with my playful soul]. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention…The reward for attention is always healing… More than anything else attention is the act of connection…”
“Each moment, taken alone, was always bearable. In the exact now, we are all, always, all right.”
“The poet William Meredith has observed that the worst that can be said of a man is that “he did not pay attention.”
Chapter two also has a set of “Rules of the Road” to follow in order to be an artist. The three that stuck out to me this week:
- Be alert, always, for the presence of the Great Creator leading and helping my artist
- Choose companions who encourage me to do the work, not just talk about doing the work or why I am not doing the work.
- Great Creator, I will take care of the quantity, you take care of the quality.
Overall, I head this message loud and clear: Pay attention to all things, stay away from the crazies and unhelpful right now as you recover, and DO THE WORK.
What work I did this week:
- 7 days of daily Morning Pages and chapter tasks
- The Artist Date
- A timed brainstorm of possible endings for my book and fleshed out a few scenes
- Fleshing out a SCIFI book idea that came to me in the shower
- Week one blog post
- Wrote two essays for my ongoing memoir essay book. One funny and one sad.
- Edited a previously written short story (a modern fairy tale – I turned a mix of Goldilocks, Cinderella, and Snow White into a creepy thriller) to perhaps submit it to contests for fun
- Light research on publishers, agents, and querying.
- Averaged three hours a day of writing by waking up at five or earlier