Week 5: White Claws and Video Games

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.

Chapter Five: Recovering a Sense of Possibility

I nicknamed this the Childish Week, as I felt silly, defiant, and in tune with what I wanted to do regardless of whether it was right or wrong.

Cameron says this week I examined payoffs in remaining stuck, explored how I curtail my own possibilities on the good I can receive, examined the cost of settling for appearing good instead of being authentic, and found myself thinking about radical changes, no longer ruling out my growth by making others the cause of my constriction this week.

Me and Onteejo (my artist aunt who is doing this along with me) both agreed this was the best quote of the chapter: “The true self is a disturbing character, healthy and occasionally anarchistic, who knows how to play, how to say no to others, and “yes” to itself.”

With 70 days of Covid-19 Quarantine putting large limits on my “inner child,” this week was particularly rough. I did find myself more anarchistic and desperate to play than normal. My husband got visibly distraught with me about not wearing a helmet on our slower-than-walking bike ride through our neighborhood, and also upset about my decision to visit a friend who just turned 50 (outside and six feet apart!) while the stay-at-home order is still in place for any non-essential activity. I bought only foods that could be eaten immediately or microwaved at the grocery store and I played video games (the source of inspiration for the book I’m writing!) while drinking White Claws one afternoon instead of doing laundry and other desperately needed housework.

My whole life I have lived in a way that makes sure everyone else is comfortable. My empathic nature and religious upbringing instilled the sense that being selfish is wrong, and thus, I never learned the right way to balance my needs with the needs of others.

This chapter of the Artist’s Way journey showed me how in doing so, I unknowingly abandon myself. So, despite feeling a bit strange at first, I practiced choosing myself this week. I gave myself permission to play, and to take small steps—calculated, daring risks—towards correcting those destructive notions.

What I found was peace, joy, and freedom in being and doing what some may think of as “wrong.” I experienced the delight in playing my favorite childhood video game, the elation and freedom of feeling the wind whip through my hair and the sun burning my cheeks while riding bikes with my kids, the healing joy of belly-aching laughter with two friends after months of deprivation.

In choosing to say no to others, I said yes to myself. I found I didn’t emotionally caretake my husband for his feelings about what he considered “unsafe” actions. I didn’t feel the usual guilt when saying no to a friend’s group phone call that I knew I wouldn’t enjoy, or canceling plans to get together with others later that week. I was willing to accept the consequences and aftermath, because—and most importantly—I was only willing to do and choose what was right for me. And now in this moment, looking back on this week, I realized I made choices based on what needed.

“We listen to other people’s ideas of what is self-destructive, without ever looking at whether their self and our self have similar needs. Caught in the Virtue Trap, we refuse to ask ourselves, ‘What are my needs? What would I do if it weren’t too selfish?’”

Cameron spends a large portion of the chapter addressing another important need (or “selfishness”) of an artist: alone time.

“An artist must have downtime, time to do nothing. Defending our right to such time takes courage, conviction, and resiliency. Such time, space, and quiet will strike our family and friends as a withdrawal from them. It is.”

Five weeks in, my family has definitely felt the withdrawal. However, being endlessly quarantined together for the last two and half months has made this challenge extra difficult, as none of us are ever truly alone. I’m beginning to let go of the guilt I’ve felt when I try to make space for myself, and because of that, I’m starting to reap the benefits and enjoy the change. With the first three weeks of this challenge being the hardest, it’s taken a lot of adjusting from all of us. In the next two weeks, as the quarantine lifts, we will likely have to do it all over again.

“An artist requires the upkeep of creative solitude. An artist requires the healing of alone time. Without this period of recharging, our artist becomes depleted. Over time, it becomes something worse than out of sorts…For many creatives, the belief that they must be nice and worry about what will happen with their friends, family, mate if they dare to do what they really want to, constitutes a powerful reason for non-action…What we really want is to be left alone. When we can’t get others to leave us alone, we eventually abandon ourselves…Afraid to appear selfish, we lose our self. We become self-destructive. Because this self-murder is something we seek passively rather than consciously act out, we are often blind to its poisonous grip on us.”

In Glennon Doyle’s recently released book, “Untamed,” she says to her kids: “It’s your job to disappoint as many people as possible in order to avoid disappointing yourself.”

I now have a sticky note on the wall in front of me with my new mantra: It is not your job to make people comfortable.

Leslie M. McIntyre says: “Nobody objects to a woman being a good writer or sculptor or geneticist if at the same time she manages to be a good wife, good mother, good-looking, good-tempered, well-groomed, and unaggressive.” Yeah fuck that.

What I did this week:

  • Morning pages and chapter tasks everyday, averaging about 5-6 hours of writing/work time total per morning
  • An artist date (video games!)
  • Wrote a blog post (this!)
  • Wrote three chapters of my young adult fantasy book (YES!)
  • Spent Saturday morning brainstorming
  • Submitted a short story for critiques
  • Posted to my author Instagram account
  • Research for my book
  • Finished the book “Still Writing” by Dani Shapiro and loved it.
  • Came up with a new idea for a cozy mystery series