Recovering a sense of power

Note: This post is part of a series I am doing on my progress through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way with a cadre of creative ladies. More info about this venture can be found in an earlier post and all of my related posts are under one category.)

As I’m reading through each chapter, I take little notes in my composition book. Reviewing those notes as I do my weekly check-in, it’s interesting to see what I find worth jotting down and how if plays out during my week, if at all. This week, my first note is from page 61 of my book:

Anger is a map. Anger shows us what our boundaries are.

I know I initially jotted this down because my mum talked a lot about the value of knowing your own boundaries, but in retrospect, this should have been a red flag: The whole first section of week three is about anger. While I am grateful for everything I’ve experienced and explored this week, I wasn’t comfortable sharing a lot of it publicly nor would all of it had made sense without an extensive personal history.

What was most interesting during this process was revisiting emotional and explosive moments in this heightened creative state brought about by having my own studio, hanging my art on a gallery wall, and going through The Artist’s Way with my cluster. While we often attribute creative endeavors and accomplishments a kind of head-in-the-clouds quality, I found that those things were instead quite grounding as I did this week’s tasks and exercises. I started thinking less about the specifics of my life in some instances and more about the underlying themes—moments of bliss in hours of darkness and how to take that joy and do something productive with it, what is secret versus what is shown—and ways to interpret those experiences creatively. In discussing my house sculpture at the gallery opening, I realized these were some of the things I was thinking through, but I would like to do so in a way that retains its personal resonance while being more universal. Exploring the themes rather than directly mining personal history.

Some of week three’s exercises/tasks follow, but I’ll try to share more of week four’s work:

Detective work, an exercise

  • The best movie I ever saw as a kid was either The Last Unicorn or The Neverending Story. The former probably gave me unnaturally mature ideas about the nature of regret and life experience, the latter’s special effects probably don’t hold up today, but really transported me to a different place back in the ’80s.
  • If I could lighten up a little, I’d let myself take Polka or Bollywood dancing classes.
  • If it didn’t sound so crazy, I’d make a book out of a suitcase. Oh, wait, I am going to do that crazy thing!

Five childhood accomplishments

  • I consistently had high grades and test scores and held my own in honors/advanced courses.
  • I won a state-level writer’s award and was invited to a young writer’s conference when I was around 12 years old.
  • When my family raised and bred sporting dogs, I was responsible for the complete training of two dogs (though I assisted with others) and got points on each—one in confirmation showing, the other in hunting trials.
  • Attending two pre-college summer programs—McMurray College in Illinois the summer before 8th grade, Washington + Lee in Virginia the summer before my senior year of high school—was a huge honor and really helped me visualize myself as a college student and meet some great people.
  • Putting on a school play my senior year of high school; though the school had a drama club we had never, in the time I attended the school, had a school play, which I thought was ridiculous. (Having just spent too much time on said high school’s terrible web site, I can’t tell if the play is still ongoing.)

Week-end check-in

Morning Pages: I did seven out of seven days, using them both to record the unusually vivid dreams I’ve been having this week and to rant about some issues I’m not yet prepared to deal with in person. I felt like they were extraordinarily useful this week and am starting to wonder when an appropriate time would be to review previous pages and review some of the ideas I’ve generated whilst writing them.

Artist’s Date: First, I spent half an hour on a local nature trail, just taking photos (forthcoming!) and exploring the various colors and patterns in Florida’s greenery. I came back quite inspired, even accounting for the heat and skeeters. That same night, I also pulled out a book a friend gifted me and taught myself a simple pamphlet stitch binding, making three small books. I feel this is the first week I’ve been 100% successful at the artist’s date and honestly appreciated the time to myself, with my own ideas.

Thanks for reading!

Published in artist's date, artist's way on Monday, June 30, 2008
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