Week 9: Playrooms and Protests

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 9: Recovering a Sense of Compassion

“This week finds us facing the internal blocks to creativity. It may be tempting to abandon ship at this point. Don’t! We will explore and acknowledge the emotional difficulties that beset us in the past as we made creative efforts. We will undertake healing the shame of past failures. We will gain in compassion as we reparent the frightened artist child who yearns for creative accomplishment. We will learn tools to dismantle emotional blocks and support renewed risk.”

The first sections of the chapter are Fear and Enthusiasm. “Fear is the true name for what ails the blocked artist. It may be fear of failure or fear of success…The need to be a great artist makes it hard to be an artist. The need to produce a great work of art makes it hard to produce any art at all.”

Cameron continues to drive home the point that art is childlike: “Enthusiasm is grounded in play, not work…In order to work well, many artists find that their work space are best dealt with as play spaces.”

This made me feel validated in my reframing last week of my idea of “fun” this summer, and the work I did in the beginning of this challenge to mess up the walls of my office, or what I will not refer to as my playroom. The walls are spray painted in rainbow colored squiggles, crisscrossed by bright duct tape and sticky notes, and covered in quickly scribbled quotes with colored Sharpies. It’s a hot, glorious mess. “Most little kids would be bored silly in a stark, barren room. Our artist child is no exception.”

The last two sections are Creative U-turns and Blasting Through Blocks. They were helpful this week as I have found myself slowing down and spending less time writing. I’m on the last act of my book which is getting complicated and harder to manage in my brain, never mind even getting it out on paper! It’s stuck in there and swirling around like a confused drunk that can’t unlock a door.

Thanks to this chapter, I realized that I actually didn’t have the mental space to write my book, and I wasn’t giving myself permission to create more space. The Artist Dates have been the most difficult thing about this challenge for me, as it’s been particularly difficult being in quarantine and not wanting to burden anyone with my needs.

“To recover from a creative U-turn, or a pattern involving many creative U-turns, we must first admit that it exists. Yes, I did react negatively to fear and pain. Yes, I do need help…Remember, your artist is a creative child. It sulks, throws tantrums, holds grudges, harbors irrational fears…it falls to your to convince your artist it is safe to come out and (work) play.”

By the end of the week, I recognized my block and asked my kid’s grandma to take them overnight. This gave me the mental space to sit and read my Morning Pages from weeks one to eight, which I printed out (A whopping 85K plus words! It’s basically a short, boring novel…but full of personal insight and actionable items). I also took a delightful afternoon nap and enjoyed a completely clean house for the first time in over three months.

I asked for help and was able to create mental space for myself. And it felt good, like I could bring my creative self to the writing table again.

“We learn to do something by doing. There is no other way.” – John Holt (Educator)

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This week, I:

  • Did my Morning Pages and chapter tasks every day
  • My Artist Date: an hour and a half bike ride on the Delaware Canal Towpath where I yelled at geese and turtles that blocked my path. I also got a hitch put on my car and added a bike rack so the family can ride together now, too!
  • Finished Chapter 14 and half of 15 of my WIP
  • Spent on average an hour or two a day working and writing
  • Wrote my kids three, one-page chapters for a book we started. It’s a about them, their super dog, Max and his summer adventures. They can illustrate or act out the stories, and my oldest has taken to helping me with the plots and characters. She likes seeing them printed out, so we punch holes and put them in a binder, along with blank sheets of paper for them to illustrate on or write story ideas
  • Did a peaceful Father’s Day protest march with The Dad Gang for the Black Lives Matter movement in D.C. with my family
  • Finally booked a weekend in Cape May, now that we are in the green during this pandemic (it’s been distracting me every morning as I scour the internet for places to stay instead of finishing my book)