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Month: July 2016

The Artist’s Way Week 10

The Artist’s Way Week 10

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

This is the eleventh 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


“For a workaholic, work is synonymous with worth…(p 168).”

Something I constantly deal with is my self-imposed workaholism. Because I don’t work outside the home, I do feel a constant need to be productive, to “prove my worth.” Even sitting down to watch TV while I eat lunch feels lazy, and I feel guilty about it. I sit down to write, but I’m constantly thinking of other things that need to be done around the house. Even now, writing this, I’m having an internal battle. I need to clean the bathrooms – the toilets have rings in them. I need to water the plants in the backyard. I need to do dishes, get started on dinner, do laundry. If I let myself do all the things that need to be done, I’d never get any writing done. Housework is part of my job. Childcare is part of my job. And, at the same time, being creative is part of my job. So yes, I still work in the evenings during family time, and on weekends, and on vacation, and do it when I’m sick. Weekdays and weekends, days and nights, they’re all interchangable. I have been trying to treat writing as part of my job, so it’s also part of my workaholism. So the workaholism quiz is difficult, because there are no office hours, work is already home with me (I don’t take it home from the office), I take work on vacation because of the nature of the work.

The thing is, I don’t think I reach for my creative block (work) because I see a creative breakthrough. I feel like I do it because I don’t see a creative breakthrough. Like, I’ve been struggling to figure out where my story is going, and I’m going in circles in my head, and out of despair that I’ll never find the answer – not fear that I will – I decide to scrub the bathroom floor. Still, I will try to pay more attention and “ride out the anxiety” next time I notice it. Maybe it’s there, I just haven’t paid attention. Try using the anxiety instead of turning away from it.


“As artists, we cannot afford to think about who is getting ahead of us and how they don’t deserve it (p 173).” 

If I get nothing else out of this book, the idea of audacity will always stay with me. I’ve been guilty of wondering how some authors, some stories, get published, when I truly believe what I’ve written is better. The answer is simple: (a) they had the audacity to seek publication, and (b) I have hidden my stuff away/not finished anything. Why do they deserve to get ahead? Because they did it. I’ve never thought “Why them instead of me?” I have thought, “If they can do it, why can’t I?”

“The spirit of competition – as opposed to the spirit of creation – often urges us to quickly winnow out whatever doesn’t seem like a winning idea (p 174).” Yet another reason I’ve all but stopped reading writing blogs. “Vampires are out.” “You can’t write like that.” “You must do this.” My #1 rule has become this – write what you want to write. Write the story you have in you. Someone will be interested in it. And if no one else is, at least you are.

We had a discussion at a recent writing group meeting, and the idea of “writing what’s popular” came up. I said, and others agreed, “You put two books side by side. One author is writing what sells. The other is writing the story they have inside of them. I can tell you which is which.” Passion for your story shines through. Passion for money and fame does, too. It doesn’t make one better than the other, necessarily, but I do think you can tell when someone’s heart isn’t in the writing – and the writing is usually worse for it.


Other notes:

“Creativity is God Energy flowing through us, shaped by us, like light flowing through a crystal prism. When we are clear about who we are and what we are doing, the energy flows freely and we experience no strain (p 163).” For some reason, while reading this, instead of thinking about writing, I thought about doing yoga. The calmness that flows through me. I need to get back to doing yoga.

“Blocked, we know who and what we are: unhappy people. Unblocked, we may be something much more threatening – happy. For most of us, happy is terrifying, unfamiliar, out of control, too risky (p 165).” Who are these people she’s talking about?! I love to be happy. I’ve never felt so good as having an accomplished day, and on the unhappy days is when I feel most out of control. Am I alone in this???

“During a drought, the mere act of showing up on the page, like the act of walking through a trackless desert, requires one footfall after another to no apparent point (p 170).” This is what they mean by Writers write, Butt in chair, etc. The only way to the other side is through it.

Argh. The Deadlies task drove me nuts. I drew food four times. Seriously, I went OFF the last time I pulled it. How the hell was I supposed to come up with five MORE ways food has a negative impact on my life? I’d already come up with 15. One of which was, “Making food makes me have to do more dishes.” I mean, seriously, how many more could I come up with? I went on a curse-fueled rant, where I may have used a particular word more than five times. 🙂


Checkin:  Morning Pages – I actually did very well this week, 7 for 7. That may be a first! Artist Date – A long bath while watching iZombie and drinking a glass of wine. Would have been two glasses if my husband had seen my text message to bring me a refill…. Synchronicity – I haven’t had a “girl’s night” in forever. One evening this week I took a class, and afterwards my friend, exhausted with parenting for the day, invited me for a drink. We met up, had a beer, and I felt a little like my old self. It was a nice reminder. A break from my workaholism!


Up Next, The Artist’s Way Week 11: Recovering a Sense of Autonomy

Episode 21 – 15 minute writing practice using word prompts

Episode 21 – 15 minute writing practice using word prompts

Writing Promptcast

The Writing Promptcast is the podcast you listen to while you write. It’s the writing prompt that consists of different words given at random intervals over a timed 15 minute period. All you need is something to write with.

Life is hard sometimes.  Writing is hard a lot of the time.  During this podcast, I’m asking you to write, anyway, regardless of how hard it is.  And to help you out, I’m giving you eight words – you just have to come up with the rest.  Remember, you’re not creating a story that includes these words – you’re writing a story and using these words to help you along.  Anytime you hit a wall, just remember – there will be a new word prompt soon.

How does the Writing Promptcast work?  Find out here.

www.writingpromptcast.com ¦ Facebook ¦ twitter ¦ Pinterest

The Artist’s Way Week 9 – Recovering a Sense of Compassion

The Artist’s Way Week 9 – Recovering a Sense of Compassion

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

This is the tenth 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


It’s a good thing I took a week off, because I struggled through this week. Re-reading my morning pages was a tiresome bore. It took me about 5 hours, I think, in total, and I could only do so much at any given time because, did I mention they were boring?


“Blocked artists are not lazy. They are blocked (p 151).”

One of my huge issues with a lot of writing blogs is the tendency for them to say, “You’re not blocked,” or “There’s no such thing as writer’s block.” “Just do the work.” “Writers write, if you’re not writing, you’re not a writer.” All this advice did for me, a “blocked writer,” was make me feel like I wasn’t really a writer. Like I wasn’t good enough. Like I was a fake – either I wasn’t a writer or the block I felt wasn’t real. That’s a big part of why I stopped reading a lot of those blogs. I was made to feel lazy. I told myself I was lazy. So thank you, Julia Cameron, for acknowledging the very real feeling of being blocked.

But again, Cameron blames our childhood and disapproving parent and child guilt for blocks. What about if you had supportive parents?

My fear, the source of my block, is that I won’t finish. That I’ll never come close to publishing a book. I cringe when people ask me how the writing is going, because it’s not. They think I’ll be published one day, and its lovely to have that support, but what if I’m not?

If I never try to finish, I never will.


“Our artist child can best be enticed to work by treating work as play (p 153).”

I had a professor in college – she was my favorite, and I learned from her, not just memorized. The reason? Her enthusiasm. I’ll never forget her lecture about medieval castles, and her description of garderobes. I have an ongoing fascination with them myself, because she was so enthusiastic.

I have an issue with enthusiasm, in general. I simply don’t get excited about a lot.  I’m very aloof, and I know that. I want to work on it. (Work on feeling enthusiastic – isn’t that like an oxymoron or something?)


“By its very nature, discipline is rooted in self-admiration. We admire ourselves for being so wonderful. The discipline itself, not the creative outflow, becomes the point (p 153).” So says the person who demands we roll out of bed every morning and write 3 pages – no more, no less – before doing anything else. Every morning. No, really, from much earlier in the book: “Morning pages are nonnegotiable. Never skip or skimp on morning pages (p 12).”

I got a good laugh out of that, since I don’t feel like I get any “creative outflow” from them, and the only reason I do them is because Cameron is so adamant about them.  I certainly don’t do them with enthusiasm…


Checkin:

I only did about half the morning pages this week, and I didn’t get to my artist date. But I got hit with the mack truck of synchronicity. I literally asked for help with something and got connected with someone who could help. And although I was nervous, calling this stranger out of the blue, “Hi, so-and-so said you might be able to help me with this,” I did it.

Hoping something more comes out of it, now…

Up Next, The Artist’s Way Week 10: Recovering a Sense of Self-Protection)

Episode 20 – 15 minute writing practice using word prompts

Episode 20 – 15 minute writing practice using word prompts

Writing Promptcast

The Writing Promptcast is the podcast you listen to while you write. It’s the writing prompt that consists of different words given at random intervals over a timed 15 minute period. All you need is something to write with.

Be sure to let me know what you’ve written with this week’s prompts! Share a sentence or two, or the whole thing, on the blog, writingpromtcast.com, on Facebook at The Writing Promptcast, or on twitter, @bySaraJohnson, #promptcast.

Don’t forget to check out the July “What’s the Story” challenge on Pinterest, where I give you a storyboard, and you write the story.

Episode 19 – 15 Minute Writing Practice using Word Prompts

Episode 19 – 15 Minute Writing Practice using Word Prompts

The Writing Promptcast is the podcast you listen to while you write. It’s the writing prompt that consists of word prompts given at random intervals over a timed 15 minute period. All you need is something to write with.

In The Artist’s Way, author Julia Cameron talks about listening to and writing down the story that already exists. She says, “Art is an act of tuning in and dropping down the well. It is as though all the stories, painting, music, performances in the world live just under the surface of our normal consciousness (p 118).”

That’s what I’m asking you to do – drop down that well and let the story come to you. Don’t chase it down. There’s no planning – every few minutes, with each new word, your story can take a turn, become something else.

Be sure to let me know what you’ve written with this week’s prompts! Share a sentence or two, or the whole thing, on the blog, writingpromtcast.com, on Facebook at The Writing Promptcast, or on twitter, @bySaraJohnson, #promptcast.

Don’t forget to check out the July “What’s the Story” challenge on Pinterest, where I give you a storyboard, and you write the story.

The Artist’s Way Week 8 – Recovering a Sense of Strength

The Artist’s Way Week 8 – Recovering a Sense of Strength

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

This is the ninth 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


“For an artist, to become overly cerebral is to become crippled (p 132).”  

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but this, I believe, is the reason for my writer’s block.  When I was finally able to “live the dream” and write full time, I threw myself into finishing and editing my favorite manuscript.  I read up on plot points and story arcs, on character traits and setting details, on agents and query letters.  Reading about how to write made me completely unable to write.  Trying to become “a better writer” made me lose my creativity.  I stopped believing in my own creative process and tried to adopt someone else’s.  Multiple someone else’s.  When I failed with one manuscript, I tried editing another, and ran into the same problems.  It made me think I couldn’t trust my own creative process, it made me think I couldn’t possibly be a writer.  But in fact, what I was doing was trying to adopt someone else’s creative process, and it didn’t work for me.

Which is why I started reading this book in the first place.  I wanted to get back to my writing roots, when I wrote what I wanted to write, without worrying about the midpoint or the inciting incident or even about being published.  I wanted to be able to tell a story again.  I wanted to hear the story in my head.

I’m not there yet, but I feel like I might be soon.


“The key to career resiliency is self-empowerment and choice (p 136).” 

For a writer, self-publishing is the epitome of self-empowerment.  If you’ve tried and tried to get an agent, to get published traditionally, and you truly believe that what you’ve written is ready for publication, wade in yourself and self-publish.

That’s always been my plan.  I want to be traditionally published.  I want that acknowledgement that my skills are up to par.  However, I have always said that if my novel is the best I think it can be, if I have beta readers who think it’s good, then I will give myself one year to find an agent.  If I don’t find an agent within that year, I will seriously look at the manuscript.  If I still believe it’s the best it can be, I will self-publish.  I will give myself that self-empowerment to see my dreams come true.


“We like to focus on having learned a skill or on having made an artwork.  This attention to final form ignores the fact that creativity lies not in the done but in the doing (p 139).”  

“Instead of allowing ourselves a creative journey, we focus on the length of the trip (p 139).”  

I’ve never considered myself too old to be a writer.  I’ve heard too many stories of authors publishing at 40 or 50.  That doesn’t concern me.  Some of my favorite authors wrote secretly for 20 years.

However, I do have concerns about the length of the process.  I am impatient.  I don’t like waiting.  When I make a decision to do something, I want it done now.  I don’t want to “waste time” in the doing of the thing, I want the thing.  I don’t want to spend time learning Spanish, I want to speak it.  I don’t want to spend time editing a manuscript, I want it done.  I know that if I finish a book today it will be a year or more to even be published.  I know that even if I finish a first draft, it will still need to be set aside for some time and then revised and edited several times before I can even think about sending out query letters.  I like the fun part of writing – the work part is bothersome.

Even though I would love to stop and see the world’s largest ball of twine, I am instead like the child in the backseat:  “Are we there yet?”  I can’t enjoy the journey because I just want to be there. But The Journey is it’s own kind of there, and I need to enjoy it more.


Other notes from this week:

I found the Goal Search to be quite helpful.  I’ve been meaning to do a five year plan with goals, and this was a good first step.  As I noted above, I want things done now, but laying out a plan helped me see that there’s always something that can be done now.

Having a next action, Filling the Form, as Cameron says, reminds me (again) of Getting Things Done by David Allen, which I’m still working my way through.  It’s about the process, defining the next small step in the process, and getting that done.  As Cameron says, “Take one small daily action instead of indulging in the big questions.  When we allow ourselves to wallow in the big questions, we fail to find the small answers (p 143). ”  In David Allen’s book, he says, “You don’t actually do a project; you can only do action steps related to it (p 41).”


Checkin:

Morning pages:  I seem to average out most weeks at 6 for 7, and the day I don’t get it done is almost always over the weekend, when I’ve slept until my son wakes up and then we’re running around all day.  I still don’t love them, but they have become almost a habit now.  I don’t resist them quite so much, because I feel stopping would be harmful.  We’ll see if I continue them after I’m done with the book.

Artist Date:  Check.  Not very adventurous, and something I’ve done before, but it was satisfying, and that’s kind of the point, right?

Synchronicity: one of the things on my list to try is Stand Up Paddleboard.  I figured I’d go to the Whitewater Center and rent one and give it a go.  This past weekend at a friend’s lake house, someone brought a SUP, and I was able to take it out – free!  I enjoyed it, and it got me looking at inflatable kayaks – hope to have one for next summer.  (It’s one of those things I’d like to own but don’t.)


I can’t believe we’re already through Week 8!  Just 3 more weeks to go, then I’ll be doing a recap post.  I’ve already picked the next book, that will start in September.  Stay tuned for more info!

I’ll be taking a hiatus next week, but the following week I’ll be back with The Artist’s Way Week 9:  Recovering a Sense of Compassion.

Episode 18 – 15 minute writing practice

Episode 18 – 15 minute writing practice

Hope everyone had a great weekend!  Time to get back to work, this week with a standard 15 minute writing practice using word prompts.  Small twist this week – I’m asking you to write on a theme!

I’d love to hear a bit of what you wrote with this week’s prompt.  Head over to Facebook and leave a comment with a sentence or two of your writing, or comment on the blog, or link to your online space.  www.writingpromptcast.com ; Twitter: @bySaraJohnson ; Pinterest, Facebook

July Writing Challenge – What’s the Story?

July Writing Challenge – What’s the Story?

What’s the Story is a unique writing prompt that gives you the storyboard (visual prompts) and you create the story using the photos as inspiration!

 

Image of Pinterest Board
What’s the Story?

The rules:

  1. Each Pin (picture) should be represented in the story.
  2. Keep the word count under 2500.
  3. Post your story online and link to it in the comments below.
  4. One story per person.
  5. Deadline is midnight GMT July 31, 2016.

Please post your story or a link back to it in the comments below.  I can’t wait to see what you come up with!  I’m working on a giveaway, to be given randomly to someone who shares their story, but I don’t have it ready yet.  If I can get it done in the next few weeks, I’ll let you know.

Click on the image above to be taken to the Pinterest Board.  Happy July!

The Artist’s Way Week 7 – Recovering a Sense of Connection

The Artist’s Way Week 7 – Recovering a Sense of Connection

This is the eighth 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

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

“Art is not about thinking something up.  It is about the opposite – getting something down.” (p 117)

“We are the instrument more than the author of our work.”  (p 118)

I can see how some readers may have an issue with parts of this book, this being one of them.  As a writer, we revel in the fact that we have created a different world, given birth to people that are, to us and to readers, sometimes as real as ourselves.  We worked to make a character exactly as vulnerable as they are, we worked hard to create an atmosphere, we worked our ass off to make sure someone would want to read our work.  We came up with ideas, we linked them, we worked our way out of plot holes and the depths of writer’s block.  How dare Cameron insist that true art comes to us, perfectly, if we just sit back and let it?

And yet, this is exactly how I once wrote, back when I believed writing was what I was meant to do.  Scenes would pop into my head, fully formed.  Characters would tap me on the shoulder.  I could almost hear dialogue being spoken as I struggled to write quickly enough to get it all down.  “When I teach screenwriting, I remind my students that their movie already exists in it’s entirety.  Their job is to listen for it, watch it with their mind’s eye, and write it down (p 118).” That’s how it was for me.  I saw the movie in my head, and all I did was write it down.

Until I no longer saw the movies, heard the voices.  Until I actually tried to write, instead of just writing.

That’s why I’m here, that’s why I’m doing this.  I want to get back to that point, I just don’t know how.  I want the stories to just be there, waiting for me.


“Midway through a project, the perfectionist decides to read it all over, outline it, see where it’s going.”  (p 120)

Once again, this is me!  I get stuck and I think,  okay, I’ll go back and outline.  And nothing ever comes of it.  I never move forward.  I want to keep going, but I can’t.  I come up with five different plot directions, but nothing seems right, nothing resonates.

The thing is, I don’t actually think of myself as a perfectionist, at least when it comes to writing.  I don’t have a problem with leaving spelling errors in a first draft.  I don’t worry too much about making sure the facts are correct in the first go.  I don’t really let my Censor have control when I’m writing.  This is not the root of my writer’s block, despite many blog posts I’ve read suggesting it is, despite the fact that, yes, in other aspects of my life, I can lean toward perfectionism.

I’m also pretty good about not saying “I can’t” when what I really mean is “I’ve never tried it.”  I am almost always willing to take a chance and do something new and different.  I love trying new things, finding out I’m not limited by what I think I can or can’t do.  With one exception.

I always say I can’t draw, paint, I’m not an artist.  But I’ve never really tried.  If I’m honest, I’ve always doodled in an attempt to draw, but the results have always led me to believe I can’t, despite never really actively trying.  I’ve bought paints and paintbrushes and canvas, but I’m scared to mess up, so I end up selling the supplies in a garage sale without ever using them.  Painting, taking a class, is something that has come up again and again in the exercises and tasks I’ve done throughout The Artist’s Way – if I could do anything, I would take a painting class.  It’s something I’m planning to do, once things settle down some from the move, once I feel like I have a bit of breathing room.

Who knows, I may find I’ve had an artist hiding inside me all along.


Checkin:

Morning Pages:  I was sick yet again this week, took Nyquil every night and woke up only when my son woke up.  And since he was sick too, he didn’t go to daycare, so I had almost no time to myself.  All of which is to say, I missed like 5 days….  The thing is, although I didn’t feel any real desire to do morning pages at the time, I did find it somewhat of a relief when I did them again.  I’m not saying I love morning pages.  I’m just saying…it’s interesting.  🙂

Artists Date:  Saturday morning, I dozed on the couch for a few hours while the kid and the husband played.  I decided that was my artist date – and well deserved.  Then I took a bath, and as I relaxed with some music I thought, this is my artist date.  Then my husband kicked me out of the house on Sunday to give me a few hours to myself, when all I wanted to do was stay home and read.  So instead I found a patio, ordered a glass of wine, and read there.  Overall, I treated myself quite well.  And trust me, it was deserved after the week I had!

Synchronicity:  None that I can recall.  But I spent most of the week cooped up in the house, so I didn’t give The Universe much opportunity.

Other issues significant to recovery:  I had a problem with most of the tasks this week.  As much as I would love to make a collage, I don’t have a bunch of magazines lying around.  I looked at both Goodwill and a used bookstore for some old magazines, but couldn’t find any.  In past tasks, I’ve done dream boards and such on Pinterest, but the tasks in this chapter needed to be a real collage, and I couldn’t do it.  I’ll have to ask around and see if I can find some old magazines, and maybe come back to this.

How are things going for you?  Did this week’s chapter resonate with you?  Or, do you know where I can find old magazines?

Up Next, The Artist’s Way Week 8:  Recovering a Sense of Strength