Since I’ve been retired for a whole four months now, I’ve been taking a few classes. One is “The Artist’s Way”, which is taught at my church.
If you’re not familiar with this work, it’s a book written by Julia Cameron that is billed as “A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self.” It’s designed to help us let go of our self-doubt and pursue creative activity as a necessary part of life.
The course requires that I begin each day writing “Morning Pages”, which is basically just scrawling anything I want on three pages. Sometimes this process taps into something unexpected: an insight, an unresolved feeling from childhood, or a beautiful bit of writing. Sometimes, it’s just word vomit.
When the class meets, we do different creative exercises, like making a collage, or experimenting with acrylic flow paint. This has been a great opportunity for me to show off my artistic skills. Sadly, I have none, so most of my projects look like they were done by the kindergartner who missed his morning dose of Adderall. Here’s one of my works. I call it “Very Bad Hangover”:
Despite my lack of talent, I have fun, and my fellow classmates are REAL ARTISTS so it’s interesting to see what they create. (One delightful aspect of the class is the “no judgment” theme, so they look at my work and smile, as though it wasn’t done by a monkey with a paint brush.) This one went a little bit better. I call it: “My Neurons When I Try to do Math”:
We also read the book and do exercises that end each chapter. Some of these have also been revelatory. The section on jealousy asked that I complete a “jealous map” that listed who I envied, why, and actions I can take to cure the jealousy.
Well…. that opened some doors I’d rather stay shut. And locked. And maybe blocked by a heavy bookcase. Turns out, I’m jealous of a few writer friends who are more successful than I. Ouch. I don’t want that bit of ugliness in myself.
But it is there. It’s not that I don’t love them—I do—so where does the jealousy come from? Cameron says, “My jealousy had actually been a mask for my fear of doing something I really wanted to do but was not yet brave enough to take action forward.” That resonated. My very successful writer friends are amazing at marketing themselves and their work. They are full-time writers with incredible determination who have invested in their careers in every way possible.
I am not enough like them to have the results they have. But I can work harder to finish my current projects and submit them. If—no, when—I find a place for my work, I’ll commit to a greater marketing effort. I don’t have the pesky daytime job now, so this is doable. Marketing is my least favorite part of the getting-published gig, as it is for many writers, but I will make a stronger effort. I can DO THIS!
Cameron also offers this little nougat: “Treating myself like a precious object will make me strong.” The theme of self-love is a key piece of her work and it’s something we all need to work on. I would say the same thing about our writing. Each project is a precious object, even in its flawed early stages. We must protect it, by giving ourselves time and space to write and by shooing away the monster of self-doubt. Making our creative efforts a necessary and important aspect of our lives will strengthen us as writers.
Have you ever taken “The Artist’s Way” class or read the book? Are you ever attacked by the self-doubt monster?