A Sense of Power

I have to report a major victory this week. About two months ago, I announced to my writing group that I would finish a short story and submit it to the Writer’s Digest popular fiction contest. I made my intentions public in order to have some accountability. When the September 15th early bird deadline whistled past my ear, I got mad at myself for, once again, missing a goal.

In Chapter three of The Artist’s Way, Recovering a Sense of Power, Julia Cameron writes about anger. For most of us nice people our typical reaction to anger is to suppress it, tamp it down, swallow it. But anger, Cameron says, is a map. It shows us boundaries, and if we listen to it, anger can show us where we want to go.

Anger can point the way

Anger can point the way

My anger at missing yet another deadline told me it’s time to get serious about my writing goals.

I wrote an affirmation on my mirror: “I finish what I start.” I read it out loud every day, and as the October 15th final deadline approached, I got serious. I made a commitment, and I was determined to keep it. Clicking that “submit” button gave me a sense of power.

I did it!

I did it!

I had wrestled my doubts, set boundaries on my writing time, fought perfectionism, procrastinated away my procrastination.

I finish what I start. It is an empowering step in the direction of another of my affirmations: “I am a brilliant and prolific writer.” (Yes, I cringe to call myself brilliant.) Maybe I should switch those two adjectives. Isn’t “prolific” the path to “brilliant”? Practice, practice, practice.

Do you get mad at yourself for falling short of your goals, or at someone else for being more successful? Don’t ignore or deny or bury it. Anger turned inward can morph into depression. Translate that anger. Read the map. Where is it leading you?

Sense of Identity

As I gather my thoughts for this next post, I realize that I am tired of writing about fears and doubts, and that means I’m making progress. After all, getting past all that is what The Artist’s Way is all about. Recognizing the source of those roadblocks is the first step to getting past them.

I am reminded of an incident that happened several years ago while tentatively taking my first steps back to my passion for writing. A well-known local author asked me what I was writing, and I responded with mumbling uncertainty. Instead of encouraging me, he treated

Dismissive – feeling or showing that something is unworthy of consideration.

Dismissive – feeling or showing that something is unworthy of consideration.

me in a dismissive and, I felt, arrogant way. I felt small, unwelcome, and unworthy. I have never returned to that writing group, thus limiting my network of fellow writers and mentors.

A gentleman in our Artist’s Way cluster related a story from years back when someone told him he couldn’t sing. This budding musician laid down his guitar and gave up his dream.

Another woman told of her sisters dismissing her creativity and never being interested in what she had to say.

The world is rife with these stories of artistic injuries. Sometimes well-meaning, sometimes intentionally hurtful, they diminish our self-identity as writers, musicians, artists and cause us to bury those passions.

So, how do we recover that identity? Face down the old hurts and turn those negative thoughts around. I started calling myself a writer before I believed I’d earned the right to do so. I found a more nurturing group of writers and eventually created my own group to nurture others. (See Just Write.)

My musician friend has picked up his guitar again and started taking voice lessons. The artist is allowing herself to explore colors and textures again.

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What keeps you from indulging your creativity? Seek out those old injuries and tell yourself you deserve to nurture that part of yourself. Say it: “I am a writer.” “I am an artist.” “I am a musician.” It will feel false and weird at first. When I read the affirmation scrawled on my mirror, “I am a brilliant and prolific writer,” I still hear the evil laughter in the back of my mind. But someday….

A Sense of Safety

I’m back with my second post in a week. That’s progress, folks!

As promised, I’m blogging my way through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and this week I’ll cover the first two chapters, Basic Tools and Recovering a Sense of Safety (which is actually chapter one). That’s a lot of material, so I’ll touch on the highlights.

Morning Pages
What are the basic tools for “Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self”? The first tool espoused by Cameron is a practice called Morning Pages–three pages of stream-of-consciousess, longhand writing done first thing in the morning.

Write Morning Pages

Write Morning Pages

The purpose, basically, is to dump the brain sludge onto the page and write your way to some clear thinking. And it’s not just for writers. Everyone–and I think creative people especially–suffers from the inner critic and negative self talk. If you’ve read my previous posts you know this is a recurring theme with me.

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Don’t share your Morning Pages

Morning Pages, or MP3’s, as my friend Jan calls them, are not meant to be read by anyone, even you.

So what’s the point? In between the “blah, blah, blah” new ideas will surface. Ideas for changing your circumstances or plans for a new story or art project. You won’t be able to stay stuck. As Cameron puts it, “It is very difficult to complain about a situation morning after morning, month after month, without being moved to constructive action.” (p. 15)

Artist’s Dates
The artist within us needs nurturing and something many people find frightening–alone time. An artist date is a block of time set aside for yourself and your creative inner child. It might be a walk at sunset or it might be a visit to an art museum. This week I went to a craft store and bought all kinds of fun stuff to experiment with.

Morning pages are for sending–dissatisfactions, hopes, dreams. Artist’s dates are for receiving inspiration, guidance, insight.

Negative Self Talk and Affirmations
When those critical thoughts raise their ugly heads, bat them down with a positive statement about yourself, even though it doesn’t feel true at the time. 
positivethoughts

I have to admit, this is the hard part for me. Oh, not the negative part, I’m really good at that. But turning those negative thoughts around to say something positive about myself, that makes me uncomfortable.

Another woman in our group is great at it. She gave me a paint pen to write affirmations on my mirror, but I haven’t done it yet. That will be one of my goals for next week.

Cat-Lion-Mirror

Perception is everything

I will let you know if affirmations really work. Have you tried them? Did it work for you?

Oh and P.S.–I have decided to tie my weight loss goals to this creative journey. One pound per week will have that lion in the mirror looking a bit more slender and feeling healthier. One down, eleven to go!