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Big Magic: Parts V (Trust) and VI (Divinity)

Big Magic: Parts V (Trust) and VI (Divinity)

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

This is the fourth in a series of posts about Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Join the discussion, and read more with us at the Books on Writing Reading Program! 


Do I love writing?

Of course I do. I’ve been writing, sometimes more effortlessly than other times, for almost 30 years.

Does writing love me?

I think it does. I think it loves me like a parent loves their child. I think writing wants what’s best for me, and wants me to be happy. I think it’s disappointed in me when I don’t do as much as I can or should, or when I haven’t been trying my best. I certainly don’t think writing hates me.

I’ve never gone for the Tormented Artist thing myself. I tried writing drunk a couple of times, and all I got was illegible gibberish and a hangover. I’ve never wanted to do drugs or hurt myself. But, unlike Gilbert, I do feel like I write better, or perhaps more, when I’m unhappy. Not that I make myself unhappy in order to write, but that the times I’m unhappy I feel I’m looking for the escape writing provides.

I’ve written about this before, I know. I always did the most writing after a breakup, when I was sad and alone and desperately wanting a different life. When I was happy – Prince Charming, dream “job” – I couldn’t write for shit. (For the record, I’m still happy – I’ve just finally forced myself into craft, into the job of writing, rather than just writing when the stories came to me.)


I love the idea of combinatory play – “…the act of opening up one mental channel by dabbling in another….It quiets your ego and your fears by lowering the stakes (p. 253).” I’ve always heard occupying your hands will help loosen your mind. Knitting seems to be a popular pastime with a lot of writers I’ve read. I like cross stitch, myself, since I never learned to knit, but the latest coloring fad has also been great for me. It doesn’t matter what you do, just that you do something else.

On a forum I’m part of, a young woman was recently asking for advice. She had made it 16 chapters into writing her first book and was stuck. Many people told her to take a break – advice she adamantly refused to take. But that’s the advice you see time and again:  take a walk , go to a museum, get away from the problem long enough for the solution to come to you. “You might think it’s procrastination, but – with the right intention – it isn’t, it’s motion. And any motion whatsoever beats inertia, because inspiration will always be drawn to motion (p. 254).”


Just like with Part IV, this part didn’t resonate much with me. Maybe I need to reread it when I actually finish something and nothing happens – either it’s crap or it’s a failure. Maybe then this section will help. Right now I don’t need this sort of motivation/inspiration. But one day, I probably will.

This, though. This is going up on my bulletin board:

“You are worthy, dear one, regardless of the outcome. You will keep making your work, regardless of the outcome. You will keep sharing your work, regardless of the outcome. You were born to create, regardless of the outcome. You will never lose trust in the creative process, even when you don’t understand the outcome (p. 258-259).”


We’ll be taking a couple of months off, then I’ll be back in January to discuss a new Book on Writing. Stay tuned to find out which book!

Big Magic: Part IV (Persistence)

Big Magic: Part IV (Persistence)

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

This is the third in a series of posts about Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Join the discussion, and read more with us at the Books on Writing Reading Program! 


Overall, I struggled with this section.   I actually found it discouraging and rather pessimistic, despite Gilbert’s attempts at levity and her belief that good enough is fine.  Do people strive to be “good enough” at something?  I think people either try to be their best or they just work, without trying for anything, other than to get a pay check. “It doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be done” is great advice for a first draft.  But with each edit, with each advancement of the quality, it should get to good.  I feel like it should strive for something beyond good.  Not perfect, but certainly a final product you, the artist, is happy with, something you can set free in the world and happily claim, yes, I did that, and I’m proud of it.  I don’t know, maybe I am a perfectionist.

Reading about Gilbert’s devotion to the writing craft – going so far as taking vows – I couldn’t help but think, not for the first time, that maybe writing isn’t what I was meant to do.  I don’t feel entirely grateful, and I’ve certainly done my share of complaining.  I’ve never made a promise to writing, at least not in so many words.  If I had, I would have broken that promise a hundred times by now.  Maybe that’s the problem – maybe I should have made a promise.  But I know myself well enough to know that, yes, I would have broken the promise.  Which again makes me wonder if this is what I’m supposed to be doing.

I don’t love writing enough to get up at 5am.  I don’t love anything enough to get up at 5am.  Not even my husband.  When he’s leaving for a business trip early in the morning, I kiss him without opening my eyes and roll back over.  I worry that because I don’t want it bad enough to get up early, I don’t want it at all.  (I also don’t stay up late for it, usually.  I’m not a morning person or a night owl.  I’m more of an early-afternoon kind of person.  I can rock 1pm.)

When Gilbert says, “I went through a Hemingway stage (who didn’t?)…”  Well…I didn’t.  I didn’t even read Pride and Prejudice until about two years ago, and even now, I can’t figure out why it has such a rabid fan base.  I haven’t read a lot of classics, and there are ones I haven’t read that would make you gasp out loud.  No, seriously.  I read romance growing up.  Good old fashioned Harlequin romance.  My grandmother had one in her hand every evening, she’d go through 3-4 a week, and I would go through her book table and pick out ones to read myself.  That was the genesis of my love for reading.  My goal, early on, was never to practice the craft of writing.  I only wanted to get the stories in my head onto paper.  That may be is probably why I’ve never completed anything.  I got the story out of my head – by which I mean the bare bones screenplay of the movie playing inside my head.  The problem was, all I saw was a lot of beginning and the final product – all that stuff in the middle never played in my head, or it got summarized into CliffsNotes.

(You know, looking back, whatever did my grandmother do with all her books?  She didn’t have bookcases of them, just a stack inside an end table in the living room, maybe 50 at any given time…)

I feel like, based on this chapter, I don’t love writing enough to continue pursuing it.  I know that wasn’t Gilbert’s intention, but it’s my read.  And I’m feeling a bit depressed about it.


…mere completion is a rather honorable achievement in its own right (p 177).”

There are so many things I haven’t finished, even before you get to the pile of unfinished writing.  That’s why I’m trying so desperately to finish this one book.  I know, on some base level, that if I can finish this one book, I will be more likely to finish the next book.  Finishing will give me a sense of accomplishment that will stay with me enough to finish something else.  At least, that’s what I hope.

However, I don’t think I could finish a book I thought was terrible halfway through.  I wrote a manuscript for NaNo a few years ago, and I couldn’t stand it, I couldn’t stand the story.  I didn’t want to demoralize myself by continuing to slog through it, when there were other possible stories looming.

While I fully get what Gilbert is saying – you’ll think everything is crap at some point and want to stop, and you can’t stop every time – I don’t really agree with slogging through something you know is awful.  At some point you have to respect yourself and your time. There are better things worth doing.


There was one bright spot in this chapter for me.  “Through the mere act of creating something – anything – you might inadvertently produce work that is magnificent, eternal, or important (p 171).”  This, I feel, is what The Writing Promptcast is all about.  No plot, no character sketches, no outline and no plan.  Just write, just create something.  It may one day be magnificent.

What did you think of Part IV?  Did you find it more helpful than me?

Join me next Friday to discuss Big Magic, Part V (Trust) & VI (Divinity)

Big Magic: Part III (Permission)

Big Magic: Part III (Permission)

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

This is the second in a series of posts about Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Join the discussion, and read more with us at the Books on Writing Reading Program! 


…you will never be able to create anything interesting out of your life if you don’t believe that you’re entitled to at least try (p. 92).”

This reminds me of Cameron’s idea of audacity.  If I got nothing else out of The Artist’s Way, I got the idea that it is not the best writers who publish, it is the ones who have the audacity.  I’ve repeated this idea to no fewer than ten people since reading the book.  It’s an idea I can wrap my head around, and it’s a trait I’m trying to cultivate in myself.  I want to be audacious, to have the audacity to publish a book that I think is good enough to be published.

I’ve always had a problem answering the “What do you do?” question.  I hesitate on the word “writer,” afraid of the next questions:

  • “Oh, what do you write, have I read anything?”
  • Me:  “Well, I’m not published yet.”
  • Them: “Oh.  I see.  So you’re not really a writer.”

I dread this conversation, but I also refuse to call myself “aspiring” because, dammit, I am a writer.

I write.

And one day I will be audacious enough to be published.


I want to start a running tally of the times Gilbert brings up Eat, Pray, Love.  I get that she’s using it to make a point, but at some point I couldn’t help thinking, “Okay, I get it, you wrote that one book that everyone went on and on about for years.” (For the record, I read the book and enjoyed it immensely.)

I’ve actually thought of writing a memoir.  When I moved overseas, almost everyone asked if I would write the next Eat, Pray, Love, and I fully intended to do it.  I even have some of it written.  My working title is Welcome to My Sauna.  But my heart was never in it, and I never felt like there was that much to say, certainly nothing better than others had already said, much better than I ever could.  It goes back to Gilbert’s theme of not writing to help others, and authenticity (which my memoir didn’t really have), and I never felt like I truly needed to work through the experience by writing about it, even for my own benefit.  Maybe someday that will change, maybe I’ll still write it, but for now, the file is sitting in the cloud, untouched.


…the results of my work don’t have much to do with me.  I can only be in charge of producing the work itself….  I refuse to take on additional jobs, such as trying to police what anybody thinks about my work once it leaves my desk (p. 123).”

Granted, Gilbert is talking more about her critics than about interpretation, but I spend a lot of time thinking about “death of the author.”  I always hated English teachers talking about what the author meant – sometimes the curtains are just yellow, they don’t represent anything.  Or maybe they represent something to you, but something else to me.  Who’s to say who’s right and who’s wrong?  The author isn’t there telling us what he/she meant – they wrote it and set it free, allowing others to read into it what they will.

Gilbert even says, about a woman who had read her book, “…she had embroidered herself into my story and erased my actual narrative in the process.  Strange as it seems, I submit that it was her absolute right to do this.  I submit that this woman has the God-given right to misread my book however she wants to misread it.  Once my book entered her hands, after all, everything about it belonged to her, and never again to me (p. 125).”

I agree completely.  I write the story I write.  I read the story I read.  Everyone, everyone, puts their own life and experience into it, and the message is different for everyone.  That’s why reading is so rewarding.


Gilbert’s story about interviewing Tom Waits struck me, stuck with me:

“…Waits went on a whimsical rant about all the different forms that song ideas will take when they’re trying to be born.  Some songs, he said, will come to him with an almost absurd ease….  Other songs, though, he has to work hard for….  Still other songs are sticky and weird…while some songs are like wild birds that he must come at sideways, sneaking up on them gently so as not to scare them into flight (p. 131).”

I feel like different parts of each story are like this, or maybe different stages of writing.  Ideas tend to come to me pretty readily, it’s the working out of those ideas that get progressively more difficult.  Right now, in Memory Thieves, I’m in the potato digging phase.  Ann and Luke…sticky, definitely, and I’m sort of sneaking up on it.  I’ve tried being authoritative…that hasn’t worked….

I especially love the part about kids and “their total freedom of creative expression.”  “They never seemed to worry that the flow of ideas would dry up.  They never stressed about their creativity, and they never competed against themselves; they merely lived within their inspiration, comfortably and unquestioningly (p. 133).”

I love this.


I have no delusions that my writing will some day change someone’s life.  The world is not missing something because my book isn’t out there yet.  I can, however, hopefully give someone some diverting entertainment for a few hours.  That’s what I strive for.

What about you?  Have you given yourself Permission to be creative?  Have you thrown off your self-absorption and tried treating creativity like a child treats it?  How has it worked for you?  I’d love to hear from you!

Join me next Friday to discuss Big Magic, Part 4 (Persistence)

Big Magic, Parts 1 & 2

Big Magic, Parts 1 & 2

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

This is the first in a series of posts about Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Join the discussion, and read more with us at the Books on Writing Reading Program! 

 


“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner – -continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you – is a fine art, in and of itself (p 12).”

I feel like there’s a meme out there somewhere that illustrates this (although Gilbert’s book cover does a pretty good job of it). It’s like Dorothy leaving Kansas and entering Oz. Everything is dull and grey, and then suddenly it’s technicolor. That’s what creativity – of any sort – does to your world. Your senses are heightened, you notice more, you feel more alive. And it’s hard to go back from that.


“I believe that our planet is inhabited…by ideas. Ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us – albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest (p 34-35).”

This reminds me of Julia Cameron’s idea that the stories are out there, waiting for you to discover them. Gilbert tells the story of Ruth Stone, who would “take dictation, letting the words pour forth onto the page (p 64).” This is exactly what Cameron, in The Artist’s Way, is talking about when she says, “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 (The Artist’s Way, p 118).”

Gilbert goes on to say, “The idea will organize coincidences and portents to tumble across your path, to keep your interest keen – you will start to notice all sorts of signs pointing you toward the idea (p 36).” This sounds suspiciously like Cameron’s idea of synchronicity!


Gilbert talks about the book idea she had, Evelyn of the Amazon, and how she left it unattended for a long period of time, and when she got back to it the novel was gone. I worry about this with my WIP, Luke and Ann (working title). I love this book so much, but I’m so stuck, and I’ve been stuck for 4+ years. I’ve decided to take a break from it, and I’m scared it won’t be there when I get back to it. It still calls me, I still think of it often, and I still spin my wheels on it. Has the idea “grown tired of waiting” and left? I hope, since I’m still hearing the siren’s call, that’s not the case, but in the meantime, it’s slowly driving me insane.

But there’s still hope: “Sometimes they do wait. Some exceedingly patient ideas might wait years, or even decades, for your attention (p 48).” I can only hope my idea does. Still, I might need to remember this advice: “…the best you can hope for…is to let your old idea go and catch the next idea that comes around. And the best way for that to happen is to move on swiftly, with humility and grace. Don’t fall into a funk about the one that got away. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t rage at the gods above. All that is nothing but distraction, and the last thing you need is further distraction. Grieve if you must, but grieve efficiently. Better to just say goodbye to the lost idea with dignity and continue onward. Find something else to work on – anything, immediately – and get at it (p 48-49).”


This is not The Artist’s Way, although I do see a lot of similar thoughts echoed. Julia Cameron leads you along gently, coaxing, trying not to scare you, like luring an abused dog to trust you. Gilbert doesn’t have time for all that. Put on your big girl panties and let’s go. She writes in a friendly tone, almost as if you’re sitting across the table from her. You’ve just finished telling her how terrible everything is, and she says, yes, yes, I know, I’m so sorry. So what are you going to do about it? She’s the friend that drops truth bombs on you, the one that sees through all your bullshit and calls you on it. In the most loving, caring way possible, of course.

And sometimes, that’s just what you need.


What do you think so far of the book? Has anything touched you, sparked your interest, made you realize something about yourself or your writing? Do you have an idea that may have waited too long for you? Let me know in the comments below!

Join me next Friday to discuss Big Magic, Part 3 (Permisssion)

Next up: Big Magic

Next up: Big Magic

The Books on Writing Reading Program – I know, it’s a mouthful.  Not sure what else to call it, though.  What is it?  We read Books on Writing together!  I post, you post, we discuss.  Read more about it here.

Now that we’ve finished with The Artist’s Way, we’re going to start on Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I wanted something (hopefully) quick and inspirational before November and NaNoWriMo.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Here’s the schedule:

  • September 30th: Parts 1 (Courage) & 2 (Enchantment)
  • October 7th: Part 3 (Permission)
  • October 14th: Part 4 (Persistence)
  • October 21st: Parts 5 (Trust) & 6 (Divinity)
  • October 28th: Final Thoughts

Read along with me, share your thoughts, share what inspires you or doesn’t.  I’d love to hear from you.

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The Artist’s Way – Epilogue and Final Thoughts

The Artist’s Way – Epilogue and Final Thoughts

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

The first book of the Books on Writing Reading Program is complete. I hope you all enjoyed reading along with me and that you found something you could use in The Artist’s Way.

In the epilogue, Cameron talks of a spiral path going up a mountain representing The Artist’s Way. But spiral, to me, means going around the mountain time and again in ever-smaller circles as you get closer to the summit. I rarely see paths this way; instead, I see switchbacks, which actually seems more fitting to me. Back and forth, each switchback taking you higher while also exhausting you. We still see “the same views, over and over, at slightly different altitudes.” She even goes on to say that growth is “doubling back on itself, reassessing and regrouping.” Switchbacks are killers, but “while the occasional dazzling vista may grace us, it is really best to proceed one step at a time, focusing on the path beneath our feet as much as the heights still before us (p 203).”


As I’ve noted on more than one occasion, I have a really hard time with morning pages. After more than five months (I was actually doing them before I started doing The Artist’s Way) I STILL hate them. HATE. I struggle. I never get through a week straight of doing them. They are a task on my to-do list, a chore, one of my least favorites. I would rather (and have) clean toilets.

I kept searching for others who didn’t like them. Those haters are really hard to find. All over the internet I found raves about morning pages, how they changed lives, made people more clear-headed, made people write more and better.

Again and again, I wondered what I was missing. Again and again, I wondered what I was doing wrong. Again and again I hated myself because I didn’t get it.

Somehow I stumbled across this forum post on Barbarasher.com. A comment from engelein says, “Can’t stand them. You know, just because you’re a creative type doesn’t mean you have to do morning pages. If it doesn’t work for you then let it be and do something else.” Another comment from midlifemusing: “I hate morning pages too! A prescribed time, format, length, method, etc…please! I know they work for many people, but they are just a means to an end. There are many activities that can serve the same purpose as morning pages.” Alwen recommends “fallbacks,” having predetermined lists to write about, like wish lists or gratefulness lists, or description, “What I can see, what I can hear.” I’ve tried this in the past and it’s worked to some extent, but I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere with it.

The problem I have most with morning pages….well, there are multiple issues.

  1.  I am not a morning person
  2. With a 2 year old, I’d have to get up at 4am to make sure I have time to do them, because I never know when the kid will wake up.
  3. My mind is blank in the morning. I’m half falling asleep (I really think I’ve fallen asleep a couple of times while doing them).

I also found a post on thisoffbeatlife.com about “recovering” from The Artist’s Way. The author likens morning pages to Getting Things Done – I’ve noted some GTD similarities myself, since I’ve been reading both at the same time. She also recommends Cameron videos on youtube. In one video, Cameron says morning pages “prioritizes your day.” It’s never done this for me. I write it while half asleep and forget it before brushing my teeth. However, I do think it prioritizes my day when I don’t do them first thing. When I’m awake enough to get something out of them.

So I’ve started doing them in the afternoons, and I’ve seen a vast improvement. I get something out of them. They go faster, like take about half the time. I’m happier. About doing them, about what I’ve done.

So it’s Daily Pages – not Morning Pages – for me.


As with any book offering advice, guidance, self-help, there are parts of The Artist’s Way that resonate more with me than others. Other parts will resonate more with someone else. I admit that I am cynical, especially when confronted with the gentle tone Cameron uses. But in the end, I did feel like she really wanted to help others, that she wanted to see us succeed. The Artist’s Way will remain on my bookshelf for many years to come, and I will likely go back and read highlights regularly.

So now that we’re done with The Artist’s Way, what’s next for the Books on Writing Reading Program? Cameron’s Recommended Reading List includes Dorothea Brande, Natalie Goldberg, and Brenda Ueland, all of which I have read to some extent and are in the future of the Reading Program. But first, what will hopefully be a quick burst of inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ll post the reading schedule next week.

Coming in October:

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Artist’s Way Week 12 – Recovering a Sense of Faith

The Artist’s Way Week 12 – Recovering a Sense of Faith

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

This is the thirteenth 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


“Creativity requires faith.  Faith requires that we relinquish control (p 193).” 

“All too often, we try to push, pull, outline, and control our ideas instead of letting them grow organically.  The creative process is a process of surrender, not control (p 195).” 

Let’s talk pantsers vs. plotters.  If you’re not familiar with the terms, here’s the breakdown.

  • There are writers knows as Plotters.  They plot.  They outline.  They figure out each scene and what happens before they begin actually writing.  They know the story they want to write.
  • There are writers known as Pantsers.  They write “by the seat of their pants.”  They don’t know what the next scene or the next sentence will be.  They don’t know what their characters will say or do next.  Each scene is a surprise, even to them.  They may have a vague idea of where the story is going, but they let it unfold and let it surprise them.

Obviously, Cameron is an advocate of pantsing.  Which is okay by me – a pantser.  🙂


“As creative channels, we need to trust the darkness.  We need to learn to gently mull instead of churning away like a little engine…(p 195).”  

I spent a lot of time while living abroad wanting desperately to write, and not doing so.  I spent a lot of time stewing on my story, trying to follow threads to see if I liked a storyline.  I did a lot of mulling, and I felt really bad about it, because I had nothing to show for it.

But that’s one of the hidden parts of writing.  No matter how much you might hear, “Writers write,” writing isn’t just about the physical act of writing.  It includes that mulling process.  That puttering around while thinking.  That, what seems, fallow period.

We need to let go of the idea that creativity must necessarily produce something.  Sometimes creativity is that little puppet show going on inside your head.


“Mystery is at the heart of creativity.  That, and surprise (p 195).” 

This is what The Writing Promptcast is all about!  The mystery and surprise of where a single word can take the story.  It’s what I love about it.  You don’t have to know the story – just let it unfold in front of you.


Confession time:  I haven’t been doing my morning pages in over a week.  I just couldn’t stomach them anymore.  I needed a break.  Cameron would be so upset with me, I’m sure.  I am going to try them again next week, and I’ll see if I notice a difference.  Maybe I get more out of morning pages than I think I do.  We’ll see.

IMG_20160811_134937I did do my Artist Date, though.  I went to an exhibit on woodturning which was really interesting.  Many gorgeous pieces of wood, bowls, cups, vases, and more.  The thing about wood, though, is that it’s warm, and as such it calls out to be touched.  Unfortunately, no touching allowed for these pieces.  When I remarked to one man about this, he let me handle one of his pieces, and we got to talking.  I ended up buying a small bowl from him.  A little keepsake for my desk.


So, have you gotten through all 12 weeks of The Artist’s Way?  Do you feel more creative, more energetic, happier?  Next week, I’ll post about the Epilogue and Appendices, as well as recap the book and share some final thoughts.

The Artist’s Way Week 11 – Recovering a Sense of Autonomy

The Artist’s Way Week 11 – Recovering a Sense of Autonomy

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

This is the twelfth 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

 


…a moving meditation…. The goal is to connect to a world outside of us, to lose the obsessive self-focus of self-exploration and, simply, explore. One quickly notes that when the mind is focused on other , the self often comes into a far more accurate focus (p 185).” 

I’ve never been great at meditation. Sitting still in silence and emptying my mind is beyond me. I can’t do yoga on my own, I have to go to a class. Like Martha on p 187, “I am able to meditate more in motion than sitting still.” That being said, I’ve always hated walking. It bores me. Like with meditating or yoga, I can’t shut off my brain. I get so focused on what’s inside my head I start to go a little crazy.

Running, on the other hand, silences all those little voices in my head, calms me, let’s me relax. My mind goes blissfully blank, in a way I usually desperately need. Unfortunately, years ago, I hurt my knee, and I’ve been unable to keep running regularly. What happens is, I decide I want to run, I run several times fine, then my knee screams at me and I stop running again for another year. I’m currently in my “starting to run again” phase, two weeks in, actually. We’ll see how long it is until I get hurt.

What I really want to do is swim. I think swimming would be wonderful physical meditation. I love this: “Babitz swims in order to direct the traffic flow of her own overcrowded mind (p 186).” This is what I want, what I lust after. Focusing my monkey mind.

I’m working on getting access to some sort of pool…


In the tasks, Cameron asks us to inventory the ways we’ve changed since Week 4. The thing is, I’ve never really done that “It’s okay” thing, at least with myself. I don’t feel any different than I did in Week 4, or even Week 1. I don’t feel the morning pages have performed “spiritual chiropractic,” unless the goal was to get me bent out of shape having to do them. In fact, I had a break with the morning pages this week. I still hate them. Most days I get nothing out of them, although yes, some days I have. I have about a 5% success rate. All they do is piss me off. And I don’t think a 5% success rate is worth being pissed off 95% of the time. So this week, I just stopped. I’ll get back to it, finish out the course, but I just needed a break. And you know what? I feel okay. Not “okay,” but really okay.

I’ve always been true to myself. I know who I am, I know what I want to do. I’ve known all along. It’s just the doing it that’s hard these days. I don’t need help finding out who I am, I need help building a time machine so I can stop time and get everything accomplished in the day.


“Creativity is oxygen for our souls. Cutting off our creativity makes us savage. We react like we are being choked. There is a real rage that surfaces when we are interfered with… (p 181)” Having had a few days of rage just before reading this, I’m quite familiar with the rage, the feeling of being choked. It’s an accurate description.


How are you doing with the book? Have you changed since Week 4? What is your moving meditation? I’d love to hear from you!

Up Next, The Artist’s Way Week 12: Recovering a Sense of Faith

The Artist’s Way Week 10

The Artist’s Way Week 10

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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

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

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

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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)