“You are dealing with an inner child. Artistic child abuse creates rebellion creates block.” Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way, p.72
Cameron spends a lot of time this week dwelling on childhood, and I understand that that’s where a lot of our neuroses are usually born. I had a fairly unremarkable childhood, though, my family wasn’t dysfunctional, and, truthfully, I don’t remember my childhood well, so the tasks in this chapter are not incredibly insightful. What traits did I have as a child? No idea. Accomplishments? ….
It does bother me that I don’t remember much from my childhood. Do other people remember more, or is my lack of memory normal? I have little snippets of memory, often still frames or six second video clips that flash through my head that aren’t even from my point of view (I see myself in them, rather than seeing through my eyes). Are these memories, or have I made them up? They certainly feel real, but there is such a tiny collection of them.
As I said, I don’t consider my family to be dysfunctional. In fact, I always rather felt we were a “normal” family. My parents weren’t unsupportive, but I also don’t remember them being super encouraging. I remember feeling like I was in the way, and trying not to be a bother – I rarely asked for things I wanted like tennis or swimming lessons. I spent most of my time in a corner with a book, silent and still. So although I didn’t grow up in a dysfunctional home, Cameron hits a nerve when she says, “Putting anything out for attention is a dangerous act.” (p.68) The difference, though, was that I wasn’t not putting something out there because I was afraid of shame or ridicule or punishment. It was more me not wanting direct attention for something I was unsure about. I still very much feel that way. I’m embarrassed – but why??
It’s an interesting realization, because many of the memories I do have from my childhood – the ones that are crystal clear – are the cringe-worthy embarrassing moments. Like the time my coat, slung oh-so-casually over my shoulders (I was so very cool and chic at 10 years old), knocked my teacher’s knickknacks off his desk. Or the time the teacher called roll the first day of class – I was 11 – but I didn’t realize she was calling roll and thought she was calling me out for something because mine was the first name she called, and I stood awkwardly and wondered what I had done wrong. These memories are so alive, so fresh in my head, that I cringe again every time I remember them, I am embarrassed again, I have those several minutes of self-hatred that I have to shake off.
I get angry at myself, both for the idiotic way I behaved in my childhood and for the fact that I’m still letting it bother me.
I am ashamed of myself, and I tell myself it doesn’t matter.
So if anger is supposed to be listened to, if it’s a map showing us where we need to go, what is this anger at my younger self, an anger over something that happened 30 years ago and cannot be changed, what is it trying to tell me? What am I supposed to do with it? If I say, in anger, “Man, I was such a stupid child, I can’t believe I did that,” then Anger, in its wisdom, is telling me…what, exactly? Well, I guess if I’m angry that it still affects me, I need to stop letting it affect me.
And the shame. According to Cameron, shame can lead to detachment. Sometimes a “surge of sudden disinterest (“It doesn’t matter”) is a routine coping device employed to deny pan and ward off vulnerability.” p.68 Boy howdy, hammer, meet nail. I have always been slightly detached, aloof, apathetic, about most things. It’s something I’ve struggled with for years. If I don’t get excited about something, I can’t make a fool of myself over it, and I can’t be ashamed or embarrassed. It’s why I have a hard time saying to anyone, even friends, “I’m a writer.”
Is it any wonder I’ve been blocked? I’ve tapped down all the joy my inner child might feel, told her not to embarrass herself, told her it doesn’t matter. And she’s believed me.
Of course, it’s not all me (although, yes, most of it is). I’ve always had an issue with the way writers are lumped in with others – or, more to the point, not lumped in. Most people agree that writers are “artists.” However, if you ask people to name artists, or if you go anywhere that categorically lists things and look under artists, you will not find writers. For example, head over to Pinterest and choose the category you think writing would fit under. Don’t do a keyword search – choose a category.
- Art. Subdivisions include drawings, street art, illustrations, character design (animation), dance, ceramics, folk art. Well, writers are none of those things. Let’s try another category.
- Film, Music, and Books. Books are written by writers, surely I’ll find some writing related things here! Subcategories: Movies, Music, TV Shows, Articles, Country Music, Rock Music, Independent Films, Musicians. Okay, not there, either (in fact, there are no Book subcategories at all!).
- Any other ideas?
This applies in many other places in the world. “Writing” doesn’t seem to exist in today’s categorical world. I miss the days of the Old Yahoo, when you could drill down into categories. I had luck finding things there, random things. Now all I can do is keyword search. The problem is, sometimes I don’t know what I’m looking for. That’s where keyword search fails us.
I’m getting off point. My point is, when people think of talent, they think of artists, and when people think of artists, they think of painting or dancing or singing. Writing is an artform, but any thoughts of art are geared more toward visual art. So maybe it’s not that my parents have shamed me, have said, “How dare you think of yourself as an artist?” It’s society, a society that doesn’t seem to have a high regard for writers. After all, “anyone can write.” Right? And if anyone can write, what makes me special, what makes me talented? “If a child has ever been made to feel foolish for believing himself or herself talented, the act of actually finishing a piece of art will be fraught with internal shaming.” p. 68
A few other notes from this week:
- Never look a gifthorse in the mouth, and (almost) always say Yes when offered something you didn’t even know you needed.
- Be kind to your inner child. Don’t shame her, don’t say “it doesn’t matter.” Compliment her, remind her of compliments you’ve received, tell her “you will heal.”
- Synchronicity is more about becoming aware, IMO. You’ve never really thought about something, but it’s always been around. Now that you’ve thought about it, you notice it. It’s not new. It’s just new to you. The problem is that there’s a lot we haven’t thought about. We should really start looking around more!
- Don’t ask whether you can do something. Say you are doing it. It will get done.
- While reading back through the basic principles, I had this thought: #1 is Life is energy: pure creative energy. If you think about how every thought you have, no matter who you are, is your own creation, you can really see this.
- I’m a fairly solitary person. Most days, I literally only see my husband and my child. Other days, I might talk to the grocery store clerk or the daycare ladies. I see a friend maybe once every two weeks. And I don’t do anything to have random acquaintances. Yes, I need to fix that. I can’t be offered help if there’s no one around, right? And I desperately need a writing friend, someone I can talk to about writing and the issues I’m having and who is supportive and understands. Working on it…
- I want to sit down and list out every memory I can think of, and add to it as I think of more.
6 for 7 on morning pages this week. There was one day where life just happened and it didn’t get done. I still don’t love them, I don’t feel like they’re changing my life, making me more creative or productive. They actually kind of stress me out, casting about for something to fill three pages.
Artist Date: I decided to paint my toenails and work on my bullet journal. Not nearly as satisfying as the previous two weeks. So that’s one thing I discovered – I need to get out of the house for my Artist Date!
No synchronicity that I can recall.
Any issues significant to recovery? When I first started writing the blog post for Week 3, I was convinced that I wasn’t into the book, that it was still doing nothing for me. Then I started writing and revising this post and I came to a few realizations, ones that might actually help with my writing issues. I feel like I’ve had more insight/breakthrough while blogging than while doing the exercises in the book. In fact, the exercises only made me feel bad. I have very few friends, and I don’t remember much from my childhood. (Feeling kind of like a loser, thanks so much Julia Cameron!) But I do think I figured something out that could be more significant to recovery: rehashing everything in my head. Of course I still plan on doing the tasks, but somehow throwing all my notes and thoughts about the chapter on the page and sculpting it into a readable post has helped me understand it all better.
What are your thoughts on Chapter 3? And please, I’m curious – are you only doing the tasks as they are set forth, or are you doing a more in depth examination of the meaning of the chapter? Are you finding that Cameron is bang on in the tasks, or, like me, are you finding more value in examining things closer?
I’d love to hear from you! Please leave me a comment below, let me know if you are reading or have read The Artist’s Way, what it’s done for you, what you think. Let me know I’m not the only one out there struggling to become a better writer!
Up next, The Artist’s Way Week 4: Recovering a Sense of Power.