A Sense of Connection

With chapter seven, we pass the halfway point on The Artist’s Way journey. I should say the halfway point of the book, because the journey will continue long after we have completed the reading, tasks, and exercises. Morning Pages, for many, become a lifetime practice.

So we come to Recovering a Sense of Connection. Connection to what? The creative energies that live all around and within us. By learning to listen, we find that art is more a matter of getting something down than thinking something up.

Artists are the conduits of creative ideas

Artists are the conduits of creative ideas

 

In other words, “we are more the conduit than the creator of what we express.” (p.118) A conduit can take many shapes and forms, even colors, just as artists are able to receive an idea and shape it by their own personality, adding the color of their own voice.

Make listening a part of your artistic practice. Meditate, go for a walk, or turn off the television as you go about your daily chores. Give those creative ideas a chance to find their way through all the noise.

I think my favorite topic of this chapter, and perhaps the whole book, is that of perfectionism. I have often heard people say with pride, “I am a perfectionist.” But is perfectionism more of a hindrance than a help in the life of an artist? Cameron proposes that, “Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough.” (p. 120)

Don't confuse excellence with perfection

Don’t confuse excellence with perfection

The fear of not doing something perfectly can prevent someone from ever trying in the first place. I used to be so hobbled by this, that I could stare at a blank page for hours, waiting for that perfect first sentence to take shape in my mind. National Novel Writing Month cured me of that for the most part, as it taught me the value of a first draft, though I still struggle at times.

Don’t confuse excellence with perfection. We can always strive for excellence. Perfection belongs to a higher realm.

 

I hope these posts have encouraged and inspired you on your creative path. What are some methods you use to listen for that creative voice? Does perfectionism prevent you form pursuing those ideas?

A Sense of Abundance

I am a bit behind in my series on The Artist’s Way. I have a tendency to be easily derailed, one of the faults I am attempting to remedy through this process.

In the sixth week on the “Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,” The Artist’s Way delves into our attitudes toward money. What does money have to do with creativity? Often what prevents us from pursuing a passion for art, in whatever form it takes, is a fear that we can’t make any money at it. We have to pay our bills, after all. We need something to “fall back on,” so we put all of our time and energy into a “practical” career, often smothering the creative passion within.

The chapter on Recovering A Sense of Abundance is designed to unearth those attitudes that hold us back, attitudes that are often rooted in our belief system. Is your god stingy or generous? A god of punishment or pleasure? Whether you believe in one omniscient, omnipotent being or a collective of higher forces–angels, ancestors, and animal guides–or in Star Wars terms “The Force”–do you believe he/she/they will support your dreams?

baby-stepsIf so, should you take a leap of faith, quit your job and move into your parents’ attic to write that best selling novel? Probably not. But you can start with small steps. Set your alarm an hour early and write before work. Keep a sketch pad in your car and stop on your way home to capture a scene that strikes your fancy.

 

Leo Tolstoy said, “True life is lived when tiny changes occur.” Here are some ways our Artist’s Way Cluster members are making “tiny changes” to reignite their creative passions:

Image 6

It is so exciting to watch people bloom!

Kathy, an artist working as a graphic designer, is experimenting with new painting techniques and selling her work.

Nick, a technical writer, is writing a novel for National Novel Writing Month.

Sharon has returned to her love of photography and carries her camera everywhere she goes.

Dani has entered her artwork in an exhibit.

Yvonne is visiting art studios and craft shows, allowing herself to explore multiple creative outlets to discover what she loves best.

(For more inspiration, read this excellent article on taking baby steps to our goals: http://mariashriver.com/blog/2013/04/hundreds-of-baby-steps-kristy-campbell/)

So how do those baby steps lead to abundance? First, I believe nurturing creativity and indulging a passion for art, literature, music, dance, brings a richness into our lives that has nothing to do with money.

I also believe talent, skill, and perseverance deserve monetary compensation. A friend recently asked on Facebook, “If I wrote an autobiography, would anyone read it?” Another responded, “Is it free?”

Why are artists expected to give away what costs them time, money, and often a lot of angst? John Milton said, “A good book is the precious life blood of a master spirit.”

Where is the line between giving away a talent and skill for the purpose of gaining experience or mentoring someone, and valuing that skill enough to put a price on it?

I leave this question open ended, because I don’t have an answer for myself yet. How about you?

Memories of Paris

I hope my readers will forgive the interruption in the The Artist’s Way series and allow me a moment’s reflection on Paris.

champs_1996539c

Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe

In no way do I want to diminish the horror of terror attacks in other countries but, perhaps selfishly, this one hit me especially hard. I worked for a French company (here in the U.S.) for fifteen years and have many friends and fond memories from that time of my life. I had the opportunity to travel to Paris once on a business trip and was able to take an extra personal day to explore the city. Memories of that trip have been flooding back to me these last few days, and I wanted to share those recollections here.

I wandered the streets of Paris alone for hours, and I felt safe. I paused in my wanderings at one of the city’s ubiquitous street-side cafés, ordered a “van blanc, sil vous plais,” and gazed out at the Pont Neuf over the Seine. I am sure my self-satisfied grin marked me as the tourist I was. It was one of those rare moments in my life when I felt completely in the moment as I contemplated my impressions of the City of Love:

— Paris is a city of more than 2.5 million people, but it feels like a small town.
— It vibrates with a joyous energy–Joie de vivre?
— It is easy to get around, even for a neophyte like me.
— The people were friendly and patient with my bumbling use of the few French words I know.

Notre Dame

Cathedral of Notre Dame

The most profound impression I recall from my brief sojourn in Paris came when I walked through the doors of Notre Dame Cathedral. I approached it purely as a tourist attraction and was caught off guard by what I encountered there. It is not the grandeur of this 12th century church, or the religion that it represents, that had a lasting effect. What impacted me most was the sense of connection I felt with the generations of souls, centuries of prayers that seemed to linger within that sacred space. Here is a place that, like it’s people, has survived wars, famine, plague, and persecution–a people who I’m sure at times thought the world was coming to an end. And I thought, “We’re still here.”

We are still here. It gave me hope then as it still gives me hope today.

Vive la France!