“Remember, your artist is a child. Find and protect that child.” Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way, p.29.
I wish I could remember how I wrote when I first started writing. Did I write at a desk in my room, or on the bed or floor? I remember being 13 and going out to the living room to ask my parents if it was proper grammar to say “that” twice, as in “it was in that that she felt most comfortable.” That was my first bit of writing that I remember, and I’m not sure what made me want to write. Did I just decide to write one day? Was it a daydream, one of many I had at that age, that I felt compelled to write down? Was there a teacher that perhaps nudged me in that direction?
Honestly, I didn’t have any problems with the creative part of writing until I was in my 30s. I blocked out my life in decades as Cameron suggests on p 35, and really I can’t think of anything until then. My parents were supportive, or at least not against. I had good creative writing teachers.
So who are my Monsters?
Wanting to become a better writer, I subscribed to a bunch of writing blogs. They were helpful at first, pounding plot points and adverb evil and scene structure into my head. But when I went to apply what I’d learned, I became even more stuck than I had been before. I went in circles, reading more about writing and in turn doing less writing. I tried to find my way out of it and it seemed everywhere I turned, I was told “Just do it.” Writers write. Butt in chair, hands on keyboard. It’s not writers block, it’s laziness. So there I was looking for help, and essentially being told that I obviously didn’t want it bad enough, I wasn’t good enough. And my lack of understanding made me question my intelligence in general, not just my writing ability. So it spilled over into other things – my personal blog, even emails.
It was in reading about how to write, reading about how to craft a story, that I became burdened with this dislike for the craft.
My whole life I wrote by feel. When I could see, I stumbled. I’d always written from the hip, the heart, stream of consciousness, movie in my head. I wrote in the same way I knew grammar – I couldn’t diagram a sentence, but I knew what was right and what was wrong. I simply told a story – the elements are there, I’m sure of it, I just can’t identify them.
But reading these blogs, again and again I was told that a writer does X or Y, knows A, B, and C. And since I didn’t do or know those things, surely I wasn’t a writer. And since I couldn’t grasp the concepts, I had no hope.
I became so wrapped up in writing a book that could be published, I couldn’t write the book I had in me.
Then there’s the either/or reasoning. I can be a good wife and mother, or I can write.
I’ve read about how other SAHMs get writing time in. They bemoan the fact that they park their kid in front of the TV or have “quiet coloring time.” My son isn’t old enough for that. The TV occupies him for five or ten minutes. Coloring lasts maybe two minutes. As long as I’m paying attention to him, he’s fine, but if I try to get anything else done – writing, cooking, cleaning, look up something online, read a book, go to the bathroom – he’s In My Face. I’m sure as he gets older this will get better, but currently, if he’s home, the only time I have is nap time, a two hour window to get EVERYTHING done that needs to be done, including some hardcore cleaning, podcast, and, oh, right, writing, somewhere in that little span of time. I look forward to the day when I can say, “office door closed = don’t disturb mommy unless you’re bleeding.”
And I’m supposed to exercise at some point, right?
One of my blurts is that I’m useless, unproductive, lazy. All those tasks on my to-do list that aren’t crossed off are proof of how little I get done. But the truth is, I get a lot done, I am busy most of the day, it’s just not stuff that I can show off. I did two loads of dishes, and look, there’s more on the counter. I cleaned the bathroom, and look, there are spots on the mirror. I played with my kid, but he acts like he’s starved for attention because, oh right, all two year olds are starved for attention….
Can a person do it all? Can I be a wife and a mom and a podcaster and a writer and a volunteer and a friend, and keep the house somewhat clean and food on our plates for dinner and work out? There are working moms that get all this done, surely I can.
A couple of other notes from reading this chapter:
- I love the idea that a lot of published artists aren’t (necessarily) better than me, they just have more audacity. It’s something I definitely lack, and have decided I need to have more of.
- I like to think of the creative spirit as Joy from Inside Out, a light source concerned only with your happiness.
- Let your child play. Let her experiment, discover. Expect less than stellar results, and be patient. She’s learning. I think of my two year old. Every experience is new. Explore.
- 7 for 7 on morning pages. They’re getting easier, but I’m still not in love with them, and they don’t necessarily happen first thing in the morning. Life happens.
- Artists Date: I went to a large Antique Mall and roamed around for a while. Just like with Morning Pages, I wasn’t sure I was doing The Artist Date right until about halfway through my roam around the mall. Cameron specifically says it: Doing the artist date you are RECEIVING – opening yourself to insight, inspiration, guidance. I overheard conversations. I imagined who had owned these antiques in the past. I spent ten minutes rifling through old photographs, wondering who those people were. I smelled food from the cafe. I get it now, the idea of “receiving” she mentions in the intro. Opening your senses and being receptive.
- Other issues significant to recovery: I want to do better, feel better about my productivity. I came up with a plan of attack: office hours, job description. And letting some stuff go.
So what did you think of Week 1? Did you gain anything from it? Who’s your Champion? Mine is a friend who read a story I wrote and months later came back and asked how it ended, because she had been thinking about it and wanted to know the end. I want to finish that story for her.
Up next, The Artist’s Way Week 2: Recovering a Sense of Identity