Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Artist's Way by Carla Damron

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?



Debra H. Goldstein said...

Great blog...and so true. Every excuse, every self-doubt I share with you. Same about when I can write full time, I'll be more productive; where should I write to be more productive.....and the solution seems so simple, but then I doubt it. Here's to joy and happiness for you in retirement.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

self-doubt? Every day. Love your paintings!

KM Rockwood said...

Haven't read it, but it sounds well worth a look.

If you don't have any self-doubt (and the introspection that comes with it) you will probably spend a lot of your time flailing around instead of being content (and probably more productive.)

E. B. Davis said...

Oh my, Carla--your blog struck a nerve with me. That course sounds like a great beginning--a new beginning! I have great self-doubt without half the success you've had. Am I jealous--nah, not my thing, but I wish there were two of me. One who could sit in the chair and do the job while my real self runs around doing real-world boring stuff.
I liked your "neuron" picture! Congratulations on your retirement. Yay!

carla said...

Self-doubt is a monster. Sometimes it just means I’m floundering
And need to explore more. Sometimes it tells me to take up stamp
Collecting. I wish none of us struggled with it.

Grace Topping said...

Each time I finish a book and have to start another one, I have doubts about whether I can do it again.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Carla, this is so interesting. I say this, regarding your retired and writing life as a precious thing, even though I have to admit a little jealousy that you now have time to take this class. But, you are most deserving. Hope you continue to enjoy and thrive!