Hullo Groovy Humans!
Sunday again and here I be with the skinny on my week’s work with The Artist’s Way.
Week 8 is … chock full o’ goodies and I do believe that this one is going have to revisit this one somewhere down the line in order to get some more juice out of it.
We cruise through sections on: Survival, The Ivory Power, Gain Disguised as Loss, Age and Time:Product and Process, Finding the Form an exercise on revealing our Early Patterning and some Affirmation work.
It’s a long post…. let’s dive in.
Hmmm…. Once again my plans went a tad … awry.
I am in the process of declaring/claiming Wednesdays as my “Full Day” in the Writing Burrow. This was to be my first. Sadly… the new propane heater that the Raggedy Man so generously purchased for me to go with the big ole $45.00 HOSE I bought so that I can use a big refillable propane tank instead of the wee disposable canisters… wouldn’t WORK. And… it was cold. I messed around with the heater n hose for an hour or so. Then the Raggedy Man took a crack at it for another hour. No go.
So… into town we go to see if the handy folks at Home Hardware can help.
We have a replacement hose on order.
Annnnd… so the day slipped away from me.
I did spend some time gathering materials for the mending of the compass necklace and for the making of a leather pouch for my new runes.
But my wee inner Arty is getting mighty cranky about me not giving her some dedicated play time.
So often I think… “Well, my whole LIFE is an Artist Date, isn’t it? Isn’t this working through the book a good Artist Date? Isn’t working on my novel?”
And I hear back, “Uh… No Pam. Those things don’t count. You need to make the time to PUH-LAY. OK?”
“OK. I promise. This week, for sure. A no distraction stretch of time for creative play. Not work. Not organizing or whatever. Pure play or rest or whatever you want, for 2 hours. I swear it.”
Drawing a blank. I imagine there was some… but I can’t bring any to mind, right now. Can it be that I am taking things for granted?
First up we have this lil gem….
Perhaps the most damaging form of artistic loss has to do with criticism, The artist within, like the child within, is seldom hurt by truth….much true criticism liberates the artist it is aimed at. We are childlike, not childish. Ah-hah is often the accompanying inner sound when a well placed, accurate critical arrow makes it’s mark. The artist thinks, ‘Yes! I can see that! That’s right! I can change that!”
The criticism that damages an artist is the criticism–well intentioned or ill–that contains no saving kernel of truth yet has a certain damning plausibility or and unassailable blanket judgement that cannot be rationally refuted.
Only thing in here I take issue with is the “I can change that!” I would write… “I can WORK WITH that!” instead. Otherwise… I totally agree with Julia on this.
I have been fortunate to receive some fantastic, useful, criticism on my work. People who challenge me to do better, to write clearer and with more honesty. People who see things in my work that I could not see myself — both strengths and weaknesses. People who ASK ME THE RIGHT QUESTION. It seems to often come down to that for me. A question that gets me excited to go back in to the material and make it better, stronger, faster and funnier or more heartbreaking than it was before.
I have also been on the receiving of… well-intentioned criticism that has sent me to my bed and stopped my writing hand. Criticism that has somehow… shamed me into silence. For a while. Luckily, I always bounce back. And I’ve learned something from these episodes as well. Even it it is just… chose your mentors and those you allow to read early drafts of your work WELL. And be clear with them about what it is you want from them.
Julia spends some time talking about the dangers inherent in our current… academies of learning.
The following rang true to me as a sometime teacher and mentor to blossoming writers. When she speaks of “younger” artists, I take it to mean young in the sense that they are just beginning to create, no matter what their biological age may be. I’ve worked with teens and seniors. There are seedlings artists of every age, and they all need nurturing and support. They can take “the truth” but the responsibility of being a teacher must be taken to heart.
Younger artists are seedlings. Their early work resembles thicket and underbrush, even weeds. The halls of academia, with their preference for lofty intellectual theorems, do little to support the life on the forest floor.
…as taller trees, let us not allow our darker critical powers unfettered play upon the seedling artists in our midst.
Amen to that!
And then… there is this…which may sound unrelated… but it ain’t.
…Often audacity, not authentic talent, confers fame on an artist. The lack of audacity–pinched out by critical abuse or malnourished through neglect–may cripple many artists far superior to those we publicly acclaim.
Oh man. Oh man oh man oh man.
First off… audacity… the taking of risks… is PARAMOUNT to an artist. In order to create original work we must take risks.
But there is another form of audacity or courage or pluck, that is just as important… the courage to put our selves and our work “out there.”
I know so many super talented artists whose work I ADORE that just don’t have it in them to self-promote. It is so hard. And a blow from a mentor can knock any whiff of self-confidence and belief in your own work, right out of you.
I don’t just mean self-promote in the make a website, create a newsletter, build your fanbase and sell your stuff sense.
I also mean self-promote in the sense of… walking across the floor to introduce yourself to the new Artistic Director of a theatre, or that film director or gallery owner you admire or going out in search of an literary agent. I mean self-promote by getting yourself to the party at all. By sending your work out into the world.
Let us be AUDACIOUS!
And when criticism takes us down, we must remember….
Like the career of any athlete, an artist’s life will have it’s injuries. These go with the game. The trick is to survive them, to learn how to let yourself heal. Just as a player who ignores a sore muscle may tear it further, an artist who buries his pain over losses will ultimately cripple himself [herself] into silence. Give yourself the dignity of admitting your artistic wounds. That is the first step in healing them.
No inventory of our artistic injuries would be complete without acknowledging those wounds that are self-inflicted. Many times, as artists, we are offered a chance that we balk at, sabotaged by our fear, our low self-worth, or simply other agendas.
Wanna hear something hilarious? When I high-lighted this passage, I left part of it out. Guess which part?
Give yourself the dignity of admitting your artistic wounds. That is the first step in healing them.
I slay myself sometimes. In the laugh-out-loud sense. And, sadly, in the other sense as well.
Gain disguised as loss is a potent artist’s tool. To acquire it, simply, brutally, ask: ‘ how can this loss serve me? Where does it point my work?’ The answers will surprise and liberate you.
‘In order to catch the ball, you have to want to want to catch the ball,’ the film director John Cassavetes once told a young director. Hearing this, I took it to mean, ‘Stop complaining about the lousy curves you get thrown and stretch, reach for what you really want.’
Julia goes on to reveal how hard it was to have her original scripts bought and never made into films… for YEARS. Trudging down the well-worn path of “how things are done” writing script after script and watching them all DIE, til she finally “began to look for the other door” and became an independent film maker.
Like a lot of film folk I know, who wanted to tell their own stories and not just work as “crew” on big outta town films.
Like my musician friends who create and release independent albums.
Like writer pals who hire editors and designers and self-publish their own work.
And like my playwriting compadres who form companies with actors and produce their own shows. Or even become actors themselves and take their solo shows on the road.
These are other doors.
..when hit by loss, (learn) to ask the right question: ‘What next?’ instead of ‘Why me?’
Like Shirley Clarke – a woman I totally need to find out more about.
She was a dancer, who started making films so there would be some decent dance films and became a first-rate feature director and then evolved into a videographer when her film revenues dried up.
As Julia notes:
She clearly took to heart the idea that it was harder to hit a moving target. Whenever one avenue for her creativity was blocked, she found another.
She goes on to list other instances of the same sort…
Elia Kazan, out of favor as a director, wrote novels. The director John Cassavetes, also a fine actor, used his acting to fund his directing efforts which were too eclectic for studio backing…
We would not enjoy the wonderful series Fairytale Theatre if actress-producer Shelley Duvall had stayed home, complaining, during acting droughts instead of turning her creativity elsewhere. Non illegitimie te carborandum, the graffiti in prisoner of war camps is said to have run. The rough translation, very important for artists, is ‘Don’t let the bastards get you down.’
When faced with a loss, immediately take one small action to support your artist. Even if all you are doing is buying a bunch of tulips and a sketch pad, your actions says, ‘I acknowledge you and your pain. I promise you a future worth having.’
I dig that.
I also dig what she has to say to those who would say, “I am to old to become an artist!”
Our ego plays this little trick to keep us from getting started. Instead of allowing ourselves a creative journey, we focus on the length of the trip. ‘It’s such a long way,’ we tell ourselves. It may be, but each day is just one more day with some motion in it, and that motion toward a goal is very enjoyable.
Because… and here is a real kicker… a true and wonderful kicker…
…creativity lies not in the done but in doing.
Focused on process, our creative live retains a sense of adventure. Focused on product, the same creative life can feel foolish or barren.
We, as working artists, may want to explore a new artistic area, but we don’t see where it will get us. We wonder if it will be good for our career. Fixated on the need to have something to show for our labors, we often deny our curiosities. Every time we do this, we are blocked.
Man she makes me want to shout shit from the rooftops.
The grace to be a beginner is always the best prayer for an artist. The beginner’s humility and openness lead to exploration. Exploration leads to accomplishment. All of it begins at the beginning, with the first small and scary step.
And small step by small step… we do what she calls “filling the form.” Which means…
You write your daily pages. It means that when obsession strikes–as it will–about how the damned thing is not any good, you tell yourself that this is a question for later and turn back to do doing the next right thing. And that means you write the pages of the day.
Annnd…. here comes the weeping again.
Bang on. I’ve no better advice for anyone working on their first or eighty-first story, or dance or painting…
I call it… Showing up to the page. Every day. Or on the days you can. Show up and do your work.
And maybe whisper…. “I create, I listen and I am led.”
It’s helping me keep the faith.
Cuz here’s the truth of it…
The creative life is grounded on many, many small steps and very, very few large leaps.
Creativity requires activity.
Most blocked creatives have an active addiction to anxiety. We prefer the low-grade pain and occasional heart-stopping panic attack to the drudgery of small and simple daily steps in the right direction.
Man, it feels like I am typing out this whole fricken chapter. I just gotta STOP now.
If you are digging this info – you MUST go and get the book and begin your own journey through it. Believe it or not – there are a million pearls that I am NOT typing out.
Working through the book with my fellow SpiritWalkers over at Sea Change – I am amazed at what each of us gleans from each week’s journey. It is vast and deep this book and it will speak to each artist in a different way, each time we work with it.
This is just the stuff smacking my particular head at this particular time in my life.
She has other goodies, especially for you. I promise.
And when you get to the end of Chapter 8 and do the Goal Search task…. drop me a line and let me know how it goes. It has KNOCKED ME FOR A LOOP!
Find your True North.
If you get to the end of chapter 8, you’ll know what I mean.
I don’t mean to be elusive… I’m just tuckered right out and need to drink some tea and head to bed.
Thanks for stopping by.
Sorry this one is so long.
Wishing you a week of… clear vision.
Go easy ~p
PS – Look what I found! A short Shirley Clarke Film.
A little something for film buffs… and folks who like bridges….
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