Week 4: Adult Tantrums and Monkey Orchids

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 4: Recovering A Sense of Integrity

According to the author, I grappled with changing self-definition, was catapulted into productive introspection, and integrated a new self-awareness this week. Cameron warned that all this might be both very difficult and extremely exciting.

First, the extremely exciting:

We got deeper into why the Morning Pages are so important and why you might be experiencing toddler tantrums about doing them every day.

“We discover our boundaries. As we clarify our perceptions, we lose our misconceptions. As we eliminate ambiguity, we lose illusion as well. We arrive at clarity, and clarity creates change… Over time, it becomes a call for action and then an action plan… In short, the Morning Pages point the way to reality: this is how you’re feeling; what do you make of that? And what we make of that is often art…We become original because we become some specific: and origin from which work flows. As we gain—or regain—our creative identity, we lose the false self we were sustaining.”

A few points I took away from how the Morning Pages (more specifically) change us:

  • Once we engage in the process of morning pages and artist dates, we begin to move at such velocity that we do not even realize the pace.
  • There will be a change in energy patterns. Your dream will become stronger and clearer, both by night and by day.
  • Many areas of your life that previously seemed to fit will stop fitting.
  • You may find your candor unsettling.
  • In short, your taste and judgements and personal identity will begin to show through.
  • The snowflake pattern of your soul is emerging.
  • People and objects may have taken on a different meaning to you.
  • The Morning Pages symbolize our willingness to speak to and hear God.

As for me, I haven’t had any tantrums with the Morning Pages practice yet.* In fact, being a private person (yet an external processor), the Morning Pages have become sacred to my self-care. They are my bubble bath and face mask, my mini vacation, my glass of wine on a summer evening. They are my gift to myself. Dumping out a days’ worth of thought-garbage is hella cathartic, creating space and clarity in my head for new thoughts and ideas. The Morning Pages are my personal air filter. As the negative junk leaves my head and goes through the pages, it gets processed, aired out, and disperses.

Thanks to the Morning Pages, I have more confidence about how I feel about things. I’m more willing to sit with the good and bad experiences, since the pages are a great way for me to keep them or let them go. My dreams of a writing career are clearer, when before this, I wasn’t sure I had any career ambition other than to have a book published. Stronger personal boundaries are revealing themselves, and as I understand my needs I’m bravely solidifying them with myself and others. I care less about my possessions, replacing some of my go-to retail therapy with writing, realizing I would like to have less (Less clutter! Less to clean!).

It wouldn’t surprise me if I continue to sing praises of Morning Pages week after week. Year after year, even.

And now, the very difficult:

Oh man. Cameron assigns a week of reading deprivation. “By emptying our lives of distractions, we are actually filling the well…if we are not reading, we will run out of work and be forced to play…We gobble the words of others rather than digest our own thoughts and feelings, rather than cook up something of our own.” With her decades of experience, Cameron claims that those who have most resisted it (and even yelled in her face about it) have come back a week later as the most smugly rewarded for having done it.

Desperate to be smugly rewarded, I conceded to the assignment of book destitution. After all, it was only a week and I was curious about the results. However, I did not agree to keep from having a daily tantrum, whining to my husband, or being generally miserable during this challenge of not reading my beloved books. How would I get through the mundaneness of exercising without listening to an interesting book? How would I pass the time doing chores (or eating a meal) without being swept away to a magical world where dishes and laundry don’t exist? How would I keep my mind quiet enough to fall asleep at night without the illuminated pages of a novel?

Let me answer your burning questions of how I made it though this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad challenge:

How did I exercise? I pumped up my tires and dusted off my bike. For an hour, I rode around a local park while listening to music, instead of my usual indoor exercise routine of listening to a book while riding my Peloton or lifting weights. Also, I spent all weekend working on a family project: cleaning, sanding, painting, more cleaning, hanging pictures and curtains, rearranging, organizing, and more cleaning the kid’s bedrooms.

How did I do chores? I didn’t. I ignored the laundry this week. I let the dishes sit in the sink for two days before I did them. I was consumed with finishing the girl’s bedrooms, so I was definitely distracted.

How did I fall asleep at night? Exhausted from waking up every morning at 4:30am, making sure I have time alone to write and do Morning Pages, I was unable stay awake past 9pm. I fell asleep within minutes.

Did I cheat? No, I did not crack open a single book. However, I did find myself clicking articles on social media that I wouldn’t normally check out. Lucky me, I now understand the life and career of Anna Wintour (editor of Vogue magazine), and know which celebrities—one of the Olsen twins— is getting divorced. Thanks to my “research” for my book, I now know the basic parts of a sailboat and how to cleverly name your sea-faring vessel, which birds are the most talkative (the African grey), and thirty facts about island flowers and monkeys (please do a Google image search of Monkey Orchids and thank me later).

What Helped? My husband was great in not letting me bend or cheat the assignment when I learned of it. He let me whine, bitch, and moan, but he wouldn’t let me give in to temptation. Getting help from people who care about you is highly underrated, even for silly things like this assignment.

What did I discover about myself? How important books are to me. Like, damn girl, get-a-room important. Reading is my absolute favorite, main source of entertainment. Social media is my far away second. TV and movies are an even further third, as I don’t watch much TV or movies at all (with the except of maybe a binge every once in a while).

How did I treat myself during the misery? What did the toddler tantrums look like? I treated my daily misery to the Little Debbie’s that were left over from last week. (See Week 3). So there!

What were the results or biggest takeaways of this assignment? I finally did it! I jumped back in and actually wrote two chapters of my book…the whole freaking reason I started this challenge in the first place! Instead of being lost in my research and plots, or someone else’s characters and fantasy world, I wanted to know what would happen in my story and how my characters turned out. Aw yeah! 

While the reading deprivation assignment this week had it’s rewards, I might buy more Little Debbie’s, you know, just in case.

What I Did This Week:

  • Morning pages and task every day. My hour-long bike ride was my Artist’s Date.
  • World building as character development study, did a lot of researching game maps for inspiration.
  • Researched and complined names, since I’m having trouble coming up with names for everything, everyone, every place, and every animal in my book.
  • A character development study of magic, trying to create the rules and figuring out how it fit into my story and helped it.
  • Wrote a one page synopsis outline of my book
  • Edited a short story to submit to a contest this upcoming week.
  • Critiqued other’s short stories.
  • Shared my erotica piece with a few friends and family.
  • Attended the Erotica open mic salon online. It was new and interesting, especially while stuck home and bored during this quarantine. I didn’t read my piece but resolve to at the next month’s meeting.
  • Wrote two and half chapters for my book.
  • Wrote a blog post.

*I’ve only missed doing the Morning Pages once: the third morning of Week One, after a night of drinking. I haven’t had a drink since, due to seeing how it impacts my commitment to this process! So, go ahead, question my dedication again, I dare you!