A Sense of Self-Protection

Chapter ten–almost through the twelve-week Artist’s Way recovery course–is where we learn about recovering a sense of self-protection. We all need to learn to protect ourselves from the crazymakers in our lives (see chapter two) and when to say “no” to infringements on our creative time and space.

But I took a different twist on this chapter. Cameron writes about the “dangers of the trail.”  When creative energy starts to flow and you’re not sure where it’s leading, you might feel shaky and out of control. Where is this path taking me? You slam your foot on the brakes; your artist child sits down in the middle of the road and refuses to take another step. This, in a sense, is another form of self-protection: we protect ourselves from fear of the unknown.

As a writer, I have heard and read, written, and spoken a lot about writer’s block, but I am only recently beginning to understand that there is only one thing responsible for writer’s block: ME. Wether we realize it or not, we all have our favorite ways to block creativity (because, you know, that Muse can be a scary bitch).

My go-to blocks are sleep, daydreaming, reading, television, and Facebook. And sometimes food. I need a muffin. Now.

For some, alcohol, drugs, or destructive relationships might be the chosen blocks. Others escape into busyness–work, work, work to numb out those nerve-wracking creative ideas.

How to stop reaching for blocks? Make friends with creativity-induced anxiety. Allow yourself to feel the anxiety and use it to fuel your imagination. Put on some calming music, or whatever music motivates you and helps you focus. Exercise. A simple twenty minute walk can calm nervous energy, un-jumble anxious thoughts, and bring clarity to your path forward.

I don’t mean to over simplify what can sometimes be a crippling issue, but here is another situation where small steps can bring about big changes. If you recognize that your artistic blocks might be self-induced, that can be the first step to overcoming them.

o-CALIFORNIA-DROUGHT-facebookIt is easy to confuse a block with a time of drought. While blocks are often self-induced, droughts “appear from nowhere and stretch to the horizon like a Death Valley vista.” (p.169).


A creative block is when the Muse is speaking, but we are not listening. In a drought, she is silent. “A drought is a tearless time of grief. We are between dreams.” (p. 170) I am learning to appreciate these periods as a time of gestation. A new dream is being implanted.

But how can anything grow in that parched landscape? Think of your morning pages as rain. To continue the practice of writing, stream of consciousness, three pages every morning when you feel it is an empty exercise–that is an act of faith. It will water the tiny seed that you may not be aware of yet and eventually, it will bloom and the drought will end.bloom-where-planted

What do you do when you feel creative energy carrying you along at a faster pace than you want to go, or you’re not sure what direction it’s leading you? Do you go with the flow or do you go into self-protection mode and reach for one of your favorite blocking devices to slow things down? Are you even aware that is what you are doing?

Have you experienced a creative drought? Are you in one now? Hang in there. Keep writing morning pages, and a path will emerge.

A Sense of Compassion

Before delving in to chapter nine of The Artist’s Way, I want to pause to thank you, my readers. Without your loyalty and encouragement there wouldn’t be much point in continuing to write this blog. I hope you are benefitting as much from reading it as I am from writing it.

Discipline vs. Enthusiasm
Week nine on the path to higher creativity leads us to recovering a sense of compassion. Compassion for whom? For yourself–your inner artist, the child who’s afraid to come out and play. If you are anything like me, you may beat yourself up for not working more, not having more discipline. That’s why when I read, “being an artist requires enthusiasm more than discipline,” (p. 153) it was a liberating concept for me.

“Enthusiasm (from the Greek, ‘filled with God’) is an ongoing energy supply tapped into the flow of life itself. Enthusiasm is grounded in play, not work.” (p. 153) More on that thought in a minute.

Creative U-turns

Do you take creative U-turns?

Do you take creative U-turns?

I have found that, when I allow myself to dream and start to nourish those dreams by taking steps to fulfill them, dreams tend to grow. My imagination takes flight and the dream gets bigger than me. And I get scared. “I can’t do that!” My mind balks at the prospect looming before me, and I take a creative U-turn.

Often what causes me to turn back from the path I’m on, or to back away from a project is looking too far ahead, trying to comprehend the complete picture. In other words, getting ahead of myself. Remember the concepts of taking baby steps and filling in the form?

I am learning, though, that by narrowing my focus to take that next little step, to complete the next task on the “to do” list, I can slowly make my way into the bigger picture. Creative U-turns may be a necessary part of growing as an artist, but remember, two U-turns make a complete 360 and put you back on the right path.

So don’t beat yourself up if you feel the need to back off and turn around. Show yourself some compassion. Gather strength, buck up your courage, but most of all, find the joy again. What made you enthusiastic for that project in the first place? Go back to that point, pick up the missing piece, turn around and start walking again.


Enthusiasm breeds discipline. It creates “the irresistible surge of will.” Find the passion, the fire. Discipline will follow, and U-turns will become a thing of the past.

What stops you in your tracks and makes you want to turn around? How do you maintain the enthusiasm to stay on your creative path?

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.


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….

Facing Fear

My home page boldly proclaims that my philosophy as a writer is “Just Write.” Don’t listen to that inner editor that puts a choke hold on your voice as you try to write. Well, folks, I have a secret: I’m a fraud. When it comes to writing a simple blog, I am beset with anxiety and insecurity and a powerful urge to run and hide. Is there such a thing as cyber agoraphobia?

John Milton said, “A good book is the precious life blood of a master spirit.” I don’t know that I’m a master spirit, but I do pour myself into my writing. Even a simple blog leaves a pinprick of blood on the page. Which probably explains the fear of sending those pieces of me out into the universe for anyone and everyone to see and judge.

My friend, Myra, always says, “You have to face your fears!”

And so, here goes…I created this website to introduce myself to the world as a writer and to connect with readers and fellow writers. Conventional wisdom says that you have to create a “brand,” but I don’t want to be a brand; I just want to be me.

So I will blog about writing, and teaching, and overeating, and cats. Fears and frustrations; triumphs and truths. And I hope that my words will reach out and strike a spark in you to face your fears and Just Write.

And yet, blogging is so pervasive these days that I wonder if I’m alone in my trepidation. Do you blog? Do you struggle with it as I do, or does it come easily to you?