So I’ve started to do The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Now I had never heard of Julia Cameron until the Burlington Library decided to put one of her books on display a few weeks ago. I love looking at displays of books. It’s my version of porn. So many ideas, so many places to visit, so many people to get to know. It’s almost better than fudge if you hit a good book. This turned out to be a pretty good one. It was called The Creative Life which as this is what I am trying to lead was quite a compelling title. It turned out to be a diary of sorts of the creative process for this prolific writer, composer and director. Now I didn’t find the story itself particularly well written – weird I know. But I still wanted to read it. It was nice to find out that even successful writers have their times where things don’t go well. Where things get stuck. Where they too have doubts and fears and foibles to deal with. It was that she continued to work through it, collaborating and accepting others ideas that I found interesting. Despite her relative fame and success, Julia Cameron still looks to others to not only improve herself but her work. This lead me to her program, The Artists Way, which is designed to help you unblock and accept your creative self. And here is where the story begins.
I’ve decided to continue my blog, a la Julie Powell, about this course and the process it takes me through. I’m sure if I found some type of inspiration in Julia Cameron’s work that someone else might feel connected to my unsticking process. I’m actually in week 2 and appear to be hooked. This is a three month course, all for me, that I might actually finish. I might actually take the time to delve in to my creative side, put some analysis into this nutty mind of mine and see where we land.
The first week was learning about the toxic people in your life that may contribute to the blocking of your creative process. I came up with the weirdest people. Most would suspect the go-to’s of the parents. Gotta tell ya that despite the perceived level of decimation my parents may have inflicted during my teen years, it was really much less damaging in hindsight. Yes, there were some god-awful, total crap years that will show up in therapy some time but as crappy as those times were, my parents always supported my creative bent. They came to my musicals, attended my flute concerts, oohed and ahhed over my art work and my mother has been endlessly complimentary about my cakes. So I can’t lay the blame on them for my creative crisis. Not totally anyway. They did have a habit of calling me stupid and asking why I couldn’t finish anything but eh, who’s perfect ? What I discovered that is that some friends I’ve had have done far more damage than parents ever could. Underneath it all, I knew my parents loved me. They were stuck with me and weren’t going to kick me to the curb. These women, these toxic people – they did more damage. I’ll have to throw in the obligatory elementary school story of the evil teacher who called me stupid in front of the entire class but upon reflection all she did was make me hate math.
Toxic women – why must we smack each other down ? One woman has been around for over 30 years and she has been toxic just about the entire time. We go through lulls where she is nice and supportive and all is good. And then we hit spots where her life isn’t roses and she feels the need to throw weed killer all over my garden. I finally kicked her to the curb about two months ago. I still can’t figure out why I even tolerated the situation as long as I did. Maybe it was the five year breaks in between sucky times. I’ll call it the childbirth effect – you forget how bad it was. Having said that, I have a virginal cervix as I had c-sections so maybe that is the problem. I don’t have the right level of pain to compare the relationship to.
Another woman was more of a crazymaker. Her life was the only topic for conversation. Her problems. Her kids. Her husband. Her, her, her. I was the sounding board. I was the one who needed correcting and instruction on etiquette. I needed to be reminded to watch my tone and watch my mouth and watch my whatever. Well you know what honey ? Watch the screen door doesn’t hit you on the ass as you walk out of my life. I stopped returning her calls. Stopped agreeing to go out. Just stopped. And I felt so much better. I do psychic readings and that seemed to be her hook. I was forever reading her to give her insight or something. If you are in the middle of your crazy I guess you can’t see it. Plus her mother, who died 10 years ago, kept showing up and asking me to pass on messages. It got to be a bit much on every plane of my existence. She could take her life and her husband and her problems and hit the road. I’d had enough.
Both of these women had the ability to make me feel like absolute crap about myself. About decisons I made for my family. About decisions I made in parenting. About my job. About my creative ability. About anything. It was astounding. And for a while I believed them. I actually kicked woman 2 to the curb a couple of years ago and woman 1 just two months ago. I put up with all that crappy feeling for years ! I let them suck my creativity and my everything for years ! Sheesh.
So now I’m out to unstick myself. I’m out to finally accept that yes, I am creative. Yes, it is ok to be creative. And no, it is not a shameful thing to be creative. This was my gut reaction to week 2 when we had to look at recovering our identity. I’m still working on this weeks assignments but I had an instinctual, gut fear reaction to looking at my identity. It was a little scary actually. I did not expect that at all. While I’ve always been somewhat humble bordering on deferential about my various creative abilities, I never thought I was ashamed of them. It had never occured to me that I was frightened by being identified as creative. I’m not sure what this all means and maybe the standby blame your parents may have some credence after all, but for now I think I’m just going to enjoy the process and see how it goes. If the worst thing that happens is that I get to read a good book and learn some new things, well then I’ll just get myself some fudge and head to the library. There’s lots of creative people there….