Saturday, March 29, 2008

This time it's personal!

On my bookshelf there sits a battered copy of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way that came to me sometime back in the distant past (otherwise known as 1992). Over the years I have tried multiple times to work my way along its "path to higher creativity", hoping to emerge a bona fide artist at the end of the journey. And every time I have crashed and burned somewhere around chapter five.

I've started the program enough times to be pretty familiar with morning pages and the artist's dates. Despite the pop, new agey tone to the book (inner artist, my bad mannered, bad ass inner child wants to beat you up and steal your lunch money!) the book contains some useful tools. I understand that in the twelve million sequels that make up the Artist franchise, Cameron has expanded the exercises to include walks, which is smart, because a walk is almost always a good way to think, let your mind wander, and even play.

If there's one thing that is useful in any creative endeavor, it is a willingness to play and explore. If there's another thing, it is discipline. Discipline is my downfall. That is why having an assignment is useful, and that is why I have decided to give the Way another try. I need to find a way to get back in the habit of writing daily.

This all comes to mind because a friend and I recently decided to have a once a month mini writing group of two. While it sounds like a simple thing, it is actually has my emotional pendulum schizophrenically swinging back and forth between excitement and nervousness. In theory, I think it is a great idea. It will be good for me, because it will force me to WORK. This is a friend I've known forever. I know it's safe. I know she is gracious. Her crazy and mine are like twin freak shows, so what better partner in crime could there be?

And, yet, it's scary to say "I am serious about this," because that suddenly makes more pressure that the output actually have value. In practice, it scares the crap out of me to share work that is not written off the cuff with little revision. There is always this fear in the back of my mind that goes something like: "What if I work really hard on this, and it SUCKS?"

So, I am easing my way in. Our first meeting is in a month. I'm still not sure what my project will be, but maybe with Julia Cameron cheering me along and babying me through my foray into creativity, I will come up with an idea. Meanwhile, I keep reminding myself that sometimes the things that are best for us do involve a bit of discomfort. People always look at discomfort as a bad thing, but the truth is that we all need positive pressure. Without it, I know that I always seem peter out somewhere around chapter five...


Marc Acito said...

The Artist's Way was one of the most influential books in my life. I even wrote about it for

Every writer knows exactly what you're going through so keep going. Good luck.

Jen said...

aww, twin freak shows! I think something that I will definitely be holding in mind (I hope, if I go crazy(er) please remind me that I said this) is that there is value in just DOING it and actually SHOWING it to another human being. It doesn't have to be brilliant right off the bat. It's not a "be brilliant now or fail forever" dichotomy. We can start with flashes of brilliance or at least promise, and chase them down from there! (rah rah rah! Can you tell I am currently at the excitement end of the spectrum? Warning: as the month draws to an end I will probably leave a panicked backpedalling comment).

p.s. we are totally going to have fun

Martina said...

Marc: Thanks for the encouragement! (And how cool is it that you commented? I really enjoyed "How I Paid for College" and recommend it often.)

Jen: I am sure we'll have fun - I'm just a little anxious. The good thing is that by the time you're anxious I'll have cycled back to cheerleader (cause that's how we crazy people roll!).