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Month: June 2016

Episode 17 – Low and Slow

Episode 17 – Low and Slow

We’ve done the fast word prompts, with more words and less time between them.  This time we’re doing slow word prompts – only a few words in this podcast, but there’s more silence between the words to use for writing.  Let me know what you think! ; Twitter: @bySaraJohnson ; Pinterest, Facebook

The Artist’s Way Week 6 – Recovering a Sense of Abundance

The Artist’s Way Week 6 – Recovering a Sense of Abundance

Image - The Artist's Way
Available on Amazon and other book retailers

This is the seventh in a series of posts about The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  Join the discussion, and read more with us at the Books on Writing Reading Program!

“Making art…begins with getting into the now and enjoying your day.  It begins with giving yourself some small treats and breaks.”  (p 108)

I am pretty good at giving myself small treats and breaks, actually.  Unfortunately, I think they’re the wrong kind of treats and breaks.  They aren’t usually in pursuance of my art.  Breaks are usually mindless – TV, games on my phone, reading the news.  Treats usually involve food.  Because of this, I’ve been trying to crack down on treats and breaks.  Now Cameron is telling me to take them.

I need to find some new ways to allow some luxury into my life, treats and breaks that aren’t unhealthy.  I’ve been spending some time exploring what gives me true joy.  The one thing I keep coming up with is TIME.  Time is such a luxury.  I have a constant project list running through my head, things I’ll do “when I have time,” but I never seem to have that time.  It would truly be a treat to me to cross a project off my list.  So how do I carve out some time to truly treat myself, even if it means cleaning the toilets, because it’s been bugging me that I haven’t been able to get to it?  Seriously, now that I’ve gotten to it, I feel a lot better.  It was actually a treat to clean toilets, because now it’s off my mind.

I’m lucky, I don’t have to worry too much about money, so the “luxury” of spending a few dollars isn’t an issue.  However, since I don’t actually earn my own income, I do feel guilt over some more extravagant things, like massages or a gym membership, both things I would love to have but don’t allow myself.  Lately it hasn’t been so much “I can’t afford it” as it’s been “I don’t need it.”  I’m a recovering psuedo-hoarder, so special teacups or toys are just things I know I will likely never use and end up keeping for years, adding clutter.  It’s not so much “too expensive” as it is “a waste of money.”

That’s why time to tackle projects seems more rewarding to me.

“Remember that your artist is a youngster and youngsters like things that are ‘mine.'” (p 112)

From childhood, we are constantly reminded to “share,” so that by the time we reach adulthood we inherently feel guilty about claiming things as ours, not sharing.  I think, perhaps, we should instead teach kids to own their things, while still allowing others to play with them when they’re not using them.  As an adult, we should claim our time:  MY time = I choose when to share it.

As far as having My Space is concerned, I’m still working on establishing that.  I’ve actually been missing having my space for a while now, and that is an issue I deal with.  We’ve been living abroad for four years, then in a rental house for five months – it was always in my head that where we were wasn’t permanent, and so I never established a space.  I wanted to get to a permanent place and find the right things to fit into my space.  I’ve been looking forward to that for well over a year now.  The good news is, we’ve finally moved to our permanent home (permanent as in we don’t have any plans to move in the foreseeable future) and I finally found a desk!  I just need to actually pick it up and get it into the house – then I get to Establish My Space.  I can’t wait!

Other notes from this week:

I had this sudden realization that not every bit of the book has to apply to me.  There have been weeks that have really resounded with me, and others that I struggle with and have tried to find deeper meaning.  But this week I realized that I don’t have to have every problem Cameron talks about.  One person may find the root of their issues in Week 2, while another might find it in Week 7.  I don’t have to have issues with all of it – it’s a good thing I don’t!

“Most of us harbor a secret belief that work has to be work and not play, and that anything we really want to do – like write, act, dance – must be considered frivolous and be placed a distant second.  This is not true (p 106).”  Here’s how I read this:  Stop making writing WORK and make it fun again.  This is what I’ve been trying to do.  I’ve stopped reading how-to’s, stopped looking for writing advice.  The fun hasn’t returned, but at least it no longer feels like a hellish job I want to quit.

I was thinking back to The Virtue Trap from last week.  I think it’s made worse today with social media and the judgement I see daily on there.  Everyone wants to prove they do more, they’re busier, they are more burdened.  People rarely take time for themselves because they’re supposed to be too busy for that.  They “sacrifice” for someone else to prove themselves.  I want to consciously start publicly celebrating the occasional frivolousness of my life.

Checkin –

Morning pages – It really upsets me that I still don’t like them. I want to love them.  I want them to be enlightening, to make me more creative, to be the answer Cameron says they are.  Maybe I’m expecting too much.  They’re still a chore, I still struggle to get them done, almost every morning.  I don’t look forward to them, and it’s a relief when they’re done.  What am I missing??  “Creative living requires the luxury of time, which we carve out for ourselves – even if it’s fifteen minutes for quick morning pages… (p 112).”  This is one of my issues with morning pages.  Because I don’t like them, because I don’t feel like I get anything out of them, I feel like they are a waste of TIME – that oh-so-precious commodity.  And because I feel like they are a waste of time, I dislike them even more.  Vicious cycle.

Artist Date – I went to a local college and walked the labyrinth there.  As I neared the center, I got an idea for the book I’m working on.  As I stood in the center, I raised my face to the sun and the wind picked up, rustling the leaves in the trees around me to drown out the traffic and construction noise nearby.  It was amazing.

Synchronicity – After walking the labyrinth, I considered doing some shopping in the quaint downtown area to look for a desk.  It was really busy, though, and I couldn’t find parking, so I kept driving, with no idea where I was.  I happened across a Habitat for Humanity Restore, and turned in at the last second.  I found a desk.  For only $60 (I was looking in the $200-500 range).  And it was 20% off that day only, so I only paid $51. Thanks, Universe!

Other issue significant to recovery:  I really worked hard last week to do only work during “work hours” I have set for myself.  And by work I mean Promptcast and Writing.  No household chores.  And I got a lot accomplished, in part because I’ve recently started reading Getting Things Done by David Allen.  I applied some of what I’ve learned and buckled down.  And felt a sense of accomplishment.

And you, how did this last week treat you?  Have you recovered a sense of Abundance?  Or does this chapter not resonate as much with you as some others?  I’d love to hear from you!

Up Next, The Artist’s Way Week 7:  Recovering a Sense of Connection

Episode 16 – 15 minute writing practice

Episode 16 – 15 minute writing practice

I hope you’re finding The Writing Promptcast helpful!  In this episode, I’ll tell you a bit about where the idea came from.  There are a lot of writing prompts that give you four or five words to use, to plan your story around.  What the Promptcast does is give you a word to write with.  Then another word to add in.  Then another.  It’s a great way to let your story surprise even you!

Don’t forget about the June Storyboard Challenge on Pinterest – I give you the storyboard, you give me the story!  Learn more here. ; Twitter: @bySaraJohnson ; Pinterest, Facebook

The Artist’s Way Week 5 – Recovering a Sense of Possibility

The Artist’s Way Week 5 – Recovering a Sense of Possibility

Image - The Artist's Way
Available on Amazon and other book retailers

This is the sixth in a series of posts about The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  Join the discussion, and read more with us at the Books on Writing Reading Program!

(Apologies for the delay in posting this week.  We spent a week moving, and then my son and I were sick for a week, and I swear I had written this post and yet somehow I can’t seem to find it….)

“…we shake the apple tree and the universe delivers oranges.” (p 96)

The Universe (or God) has an unlimited supply of Good.  By having something good today, you are not depriving someone else of something good, nor are you using up your good for tomorrow.  There is plenty of good to go around, to everyone, for all time.  The thing is, we look for it in the wrong place – we should be more open to finding good things in places we’re not accustomed to looking.  And, perhaps more importantly, we should learn to recognize good things coming to us, even if they’re not what we expect.

“Pray to catch the bus, then run as fast as you can.”  (p 92)

The story about Cara, the writer who found a new agent (“Once Cara became willing to receive her good from whatever source it appeared in, she stopped being victimized (p 93),” reminded me of something a friend of mine always says.  Years ago she saw a bumper sticker that said, “You deserve what you accept.”  It made her find a new job and move across the country.  She stopped accepting that what she had, which she didn’t like, was all there was, and she looked for other options.  It’s a phrase she repeats with some frequency, and one that, while I like it, I have a hard time applying.  Stop accepting the bad, look for the good, and you’ll find a better path.

But you also have to be willing to put some effort into it.

I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten “a lead” on something and not followed up, because it felt awkward or unnecessary.  “You should call my friend Phil, he might know someone.”   I never call Phil, but maybe Phil can help.  We should look at it as a possible answer to a call, a call we may not even know we’ve made, instead of us being an imposition on a stranger.  The next time someone tells me I should contact someone, I will do so.

“Many of us have made a virtue out of deprivation.  We have embraced a long-suffering artistic anorexia as a martyr’s cross.”  (p 98)

Honestly, the Virtue Trap idea hit me so hard, I rewrote whole paragraphs in my notebook. The belief that it’s selfish to take the time you need.  The idea that you have to be the perfect parent, spouse, friend.  The shoving off of desires for something more “respectable.”   I personally put off writing and most other creative pursuits for “when I have time,” after the chores are done, after dinner is made and the family is fed and the kid is put to bed.  The problem is, there’s always something more to do before I feel it’s okay to give myself time.

“For an artist, withdrawal is necessary.  Without it, the artist in us feels vexed, angry, out of sorts.  If such deprivation continues, our artist becomes sullen, depressed, hostile.”  (p 96)

I can’t help but wonder if this is why I’ve felt blocked.  I haven’t given my artist time on her own, and now she’s checked out.  I’ve always had problems writing when I’m dating someone, and this current block started around the time I started dating my now-husband.  I always thought I simply dreamed of “happily ever after” when I wrote, and when I was dating someone and had my happily ever after (even if it wasn’t), I didn’t need to dream.  But maybe it’s simply this unwillingness to withdraw from my loved ones, to spend time away from them.  I definitely feel like there is a limited supply of time I get to spend with my family, and so I should spend as much time as possible with them when I can.  I find it hard to withdrawal when I could otherwise be with them, even if all I want is to be alone.  It’s part of the Virtue Trap, I see that now.  The Artist Date has given me an excuse to get away.  I don’t know that I’m ready to take even more time, though.  After all, we have a limited time together, and my husband deserves his time alone, as well.  How do we divide the time up?

I also wonder where being an introvert comes into the equation.  Am I saying “I want to be alone” for my artist, or for my introvert?  I’ve struggled with saying no to things in the past, times when I would really love to stay home and not be around people, but I’ve always forced myself to say yes because otherwise, I might miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  As Cameron herself says, replace “No Way” with “Maybe” and “open the door to mystery and magic.” So when do we say yes, when do we say no?  When am I being a martyr and when am I being true to myself?  When am I protecting my artist child and when am I opening myself up to life, synchronicity, experience?

Learning to tell the difference is something I’ll have to work on, obviously.

Other notes from this week:

As we get a new idea, “we must in good faith clear away our inner barriers to acting on it and then, on an outer level, take the concrete steps necessary to trigger our synchronous good.” (p 94)  This reminds me of David Allen’s Getting Things Done (at least what I’ve read so far):  instead of a to-do list, you should have a “next action” list.  Instead of just having the idea, percolating away in our head, we need to figure out what to do with that idea and then do it.

Cameron says we should ask for answers in the evening, then listen for answers in morning pages.  Does this mean I can make a list of things at night?  Honestly, this might help with morning pages.  I’m going to give it a try.  I still feel as if I’m doing morning pages “incorrectly,” especially when I read that I should be becoming more true to myself, more open and positive, less judgmental of ourselves and others, because of morning pages.  I don’t feel that big of a shift in me.  Have I not let go enough?

Check in:

Morning Pages:  6 out of 7 days.  I full on forgot one day, like it completely slipped my mind.  I still don’t love them, they’re still a chore, a task to be marked off.    Page and a half truth point? I certainly feel something a page and a half in, it’s usually my stall out point, a lack of something to write.  Which, yes, has forced some deeper thoughts, so…yes?

Artists date:  Went to see a movie.  It was a nice break this weekend.  I haven’t heard any answers, though.  No adventurous artist dates yet, but hopefully soon.  Just need to get through the move!!

Synchronicity:  Nothing that I can recall, although my back has been killing me, right at the time we were supposed to move.  Luckily (though I didn’t think so at the time), the move got delayed, so maybe there’s my synchronicity.

Any other issues significant to recovery?  The Virtue Trap is hitting me pretty hard.  I feel a lot of guilt because I don’t “work,” by which I mean I don’t earn a salary outside the home.  But I still work a lot, around the house, with the podcast and with writing.  Regardless, I feel guilt taking time for myself when my husband is home, because he HAS been working all week, and he deserves some relaxation time, too.  It’s definitely something I need to work through.  Once again I’ve decided that the hours my son is in daycare are going to be working hours – no housework, no errands, no projects, just work (which includes The Writing Promptcast, the Reading Program, and Writing).  We’ll see if I stick with it this time.

How about you, are you seeing any recovery while reading The Artist’s Way?  Tell me about it, I’d love to hear from you!

Up Next, The Artist’s Way Week 6:  Recovering a Sense of Abundance


Episode 15 – 10 minute writing practice

Episode 15 – 10 minute writing practice

The Writing Promptcast is a freewriting practice using multiple word prompts, spaced out over the course of 10 minutes. You should listen to the podcast while you write.  Short and sweet this week, since I’ve got a cold.  🙂 ; Twitter: @bySaraJohnson ; Pinterest, Facebook


Episode 14 – 15 minute writing practice

Episode 14 – 15 minute writing practice

The Writing Promptcast is a writing prompt podcast that you listen to while you write.  Check out this post for more information.  Let me know what you wrote with today’s prompts!

Also, the June Storyboard Challenge is up on Pinterest – I give you a few photographs that make up your storyboard, and you write the story. ; Twitter: @bySaraJohnson ; Pinterest, Facebook



Artist’s Way Week 4 – Recovering a Sense of Integrity

Artist’s Way Week 4 – Recovering a Sense of Integrity

This is the fifth in a series of posts about The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  Join the discussion, and read more with us at the Books on Writing Reading Program! 

In pre-skimming this chapter, I found that we’re supposed to take a break from reading this week.  NOOOO!  I have 45 pages left in the book I’m reading, and I just picked up some business related books from the library!  (speedreads 45 pages, looks at other books longingly)

Actually, it took me three tries to get through this “week.”  Finally I just gritted my teeth and plowed through.  Not well, by any means, but it’s done.  It wasn’t the subject matter, I enjoyed that.  The problem was, I was trying so hard to do it “right.”

While I hated not reading, it was certainly not hard to do.  But that was the problem.  I generally only read books at night, in bed, so any “extra” time I might get by not reading was unused – I just went to sleep.  But then, I do other reading, don’t I?  I was staying off news websites and my blog feeds, but what about the bane of our existence today, social media?

Come to find out, the printing I have of the book is from 2002, before spending hours on social media was a thing.  I did some searching online and found that Cameron now suggests Media Deprivation, which makes a lot more sense.  So I started my “week” over.  Then I had unexpected visitors in town for a few days, which threw everything off, so I essentially started over again.

Unfortunately, I’m in the middle of buying a house, which means I have a bunch of emails coming in regarding things that that have to be dealt with right now, not put off.  I’m shopping for furniture and appliances, so I need to do research online, again, not something I can put off for a week.  And, I have this new podcast (and associated reading group) that I’m trying to get off the ground, and social networking is pretty much IT right now.  So, yeah, media deprivation did not go well. I did try to limit my time spent online, and I didn’t read the news, and I didn’t read any books (which has been KILLING ME), and I didn’t read any blogs.  But because I’m moving soon, any extra time saved was pretty much spent on the cleaning out and packing process, so nothing fun like doing the cha cha…

I’ll have to try the Media Deprivation idea at a later date, maybe sometime in July.  I understand the concept – give your brain some quiet time and don’t drown your inner voices out with other stuff.  It’s just not something I can do at this time.

Regardless of the difficulty I had getting through this chapter, I did enjoy it.  I’ve been dealing with an identity crisis for well over a year now.  I started off 2016 wanting to “find myself,” do self-guided programs to help with that, but life got in the way (life, by which I mean a huge move, a hospital stay, and several other large upheavals).  If I can just get through the next two weeks, things should settle down some. (fingers crossed)

The thing is, there’s always something, right?  So yes, I’m totally using all these things as excuses, just as I use them as excuses for not writing or not exercising or not, I don’t know, cleaning out the fridge.  But sometimes excuses are, in fact, valid.  The only thing I can do is try to do better in the future.  (Just please please please let me get through the next two weeks…)


“One of the clearest signals that something healthy is afoot is the impulse to weed out, sort through, and discard old clothes, papers, and belongings.”  p 83

I’ve been doing this off and on since December.  It needed to be done before we moved back to the US from overseas (in February), and now we’re moving again and I’m trying to clean out some stuff we had in storage.  But the cleaning out goes deeper than that – some days I have an almost rabid desire to Toss More Crap.  I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo in February, and realized how desperately I wanted to purge my stuff.  And I’ve felt great about doing it.  The other day I cleaned out a bin full of college research papers, complete with research note cards.  Because apparently I thought I’d need all that some day.


Other notes from this week:

I loved writing the letter from 80 year old me.  The letter from 8 year old me, not so much.  As I mentioned last week, I simply don’t remember my childhood, so I have no idea what I would have said.

My Life Pie is filling out a little bit, I’m definitely feeling more accomplished in a couple of areas, but one area is actually worse than during Week 2.  The other three things remained about the same.  I’ll work on it.  After the move.  🙂


Check in:

I’m still having issues with morning pages.  I’ve found that when I do get up early and “roll out of bed,” I sit and think too much about what to write.  I really have nothing in my head that early in the morning, other than going back to bed.  I have better luck if I can get through breakfast and the most basic of my morning routine.  Still, I find myself writing after noon way too often, and actually wrote at 8pm one night this last week.

My Artist Dates keep happening kind of by accident.  I get in the car and wonder what I should do, and then I’m doing something.  This past weekend I spent a couple of hours just driving around, windows down, radio on.  It was awesome, and I came home quite refreshed!

I did notice some synchronicity this week.  On Thursday last week, my heel started cracking enough that it hurt.  In Saturday’s morning pages, I actually said, “I just need to suck it up and get slippers, even though I don’t like them.”  That day, I needed to return a pair of my son’s shoes, and I received a 10% off coupon that was good for an hour.  I hadn’t intended to do any shopping – I had somewhere to be – but I thought, what the heck, I’ll look for some casual shoes.  Didn’t find any I liked, but then I found some slippers.  On clearance.  There were two pairs left.  One was my size.  Synchronicity!

Any issues significant to recovery?  I’m getting back into affirmations – I haven’t done them in a while.  I tend to tweak them a little bit every day depending on what I need to hear, and it’s been helpful.  And apparently, I really need to take up painting or take a painting class.  During the Buried Dreams exercise in this chapter, painting kept coming up.  I’ve never considered myself to be a visual artist.  Stick figures end up lopsided.  But I can’t deny always wanting to paint something.  So hopefully, I can do something about that desire soon.

Tell me how the book is going for you!  Have you uncovered any long-buried desires?  I’d love to hear from you!

Up Next, The Artist’s Way Week 5:  Recovering a Sense of Possibility