Recovering a sense of safety

(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 the artist’s way category.)

This first week focuses on the monsters and champions of our creativity and was difficult because I didn’t really have anyone, let a lone a list of people, to point the finger at for squashing or attempting to stifle my creativity. Didn’t that mean I got to slack and take the week off? Not even slightly! Instead, I had to wrap my head around the idea that I am often my worst critic/enemy/saboteur—but also that some part of me keeps the faith and takes any safe opportunity to whisper, “Go ahead! Try! Do!”

Similarly, even friends who intend to be supportive have made me feel like my interests or the things I make are silly or goofy. Instead of deliberate sabotage, I think what I am seeing instead is how much we lack a vocabulary and a means to support people’s creativity. I thought about this a lot Saturday as I watched and encouraged many young children color and draw at the gallery’s table during a local festival, where I was a volunteer. I never said, “Is that a turtle?” to have a child then say in a discouraged or confused tone, “No, it’s a hat!” Instead, I said to the kids, “Do you like how that is looking?” or “I really like how you are using many different colors.” I looked at the things they were coloring, but focused more on how the activity made them feel and less on judging their output.

It’s hard then, to feel safe in your creativity if even you and those who mean to be supportive can thwart or diminish your efforts. There’s risk in creativity, and we each need not only champions and records of their words (recollecting and writing these were two of this week’s tasks), but also a reservoir of bravery to do the work and to share it with others. Some of my bravery as of late comes from this cluster; from remembering those people who, intentionally or not, have inspired me; from knowing that we generally let the little voice in our heads get away with much more negativity than positivity and only consciousness can correct this; and from being open to the experience of synchronicity, just making myself available for opportunities.

Week One Check-in
1. How many days this week did you do your morning pages and how was the experience?
I did six out of seven days this week and am sooo frustrated I blanked on doing them Sunday morning. I really love doing the morning pages and am a bit embarrassed I didn’t start doing them again sooner, with or without the rest of the book and its tasks. They’re just a great way to pour out the contents of your brain. My favorite thing about them as a tool is that on the days you think you have nothing to write about, mid-way down page three, there’s almost always this epiphany that could knock your socks off!

2. Did you do your artist date this week? What did you do? How did it feel?

I did a few things this week that, cobbled together, I’m calling my artist date. Because of a kinda panic situation at work, I had to walk six miles roundtrip to a local shopping plaza. While the events surrounding this hike were not of my choosing, I enjoyed how aware I felt of little things as I walked a long–everything from really noticing the different shapes of leaves of trees to finding funky objects on the ground. Also, I got to finally stop and look in at this large flock of birds living behind our bookstore. The next day, as I noted above, I volunteered at my local art gallery and helped run their table at a street festival. While not a solo event, I was introduced several times as an artist and encouraged a gaggle of children to be creative. Even prior to joining the gallery, I had intended to volunteer there (shadow artist intentions, anyone?), and it felt really good to finally get around to doing this. Finally, tonight I spent some time in the studio trying out a new technique and really just playing with paint with no expectations.

All of these activities were little adventures and really made me feel good about myself.

3. Other odds & ends

  • I made a copy of the Basic Principles and have them hanging on my bathroom mirror, an easy reminder to read them daily. You can download a PDF of the principles in this format, too.
  • I added the following paragraph at the end of my Artist’s Way contract: “I also commit to respecting and encouraging the creativity and experiences of Christiane, Di, and Cassidy. I will be generous and supportive of them throughout this work.”
  • None of Julia Cameron’s descriptions of the Censor—those nasty thoughts attempting to stifle and diminish our creativity—really worked for me. Know what I see in my head when I think of my Censor? Either of these two guys:

Whammy guy from Press Your Luck Laughing dog from Duck Hunt video game

They both perfectly encapsulate the kind of mockery I feel best describes my Censor’s modus operandi!

Week two details will be forthcoming later today.

Thanks for reading!

Published in artist's date, artist's way on Monday, June 16, 2008
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  1. Monday, June 16, 2008, at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Awesome! I’m so using that .pdf! :) Thank you so much…

    I was really touched by your anecdote about working with the kids… we often verbalize things without any thought or consideration to the effects of it, and being so cognizant of that with them is really pretty powerful.

    PS: I don’t feel so bad now about not having achieved morning pages daily…

  2. Monday, June 16, 2008, at 10:30 am | Permalink

    oops… wrong link to my blog! sorry, it’s new… hehe

  3. Monday, June 16, 2008, at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the pdf! Also, for the commitment to all of us. I pledge to offer you the same consideration and support.

  4. Monday, June 16, 2008, at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Your support has been so incredible – I was noting today that without my cluster, this journey would be much more difficult for me. Knowing that we’re all in this together, even as we travel our own roads of revelation, really helps me stay on track. That’s a gift I’ll always remember!
    I’m also thrilled with your experience in encouraging young artists. So inspiring!

One Trackback

  1. By ...what's a xiane? on Monday, June 16, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    the artist’s way – i plant the seeds – June 16, 2008…

    Welcome to the June 16, 2008 edition of the artist’s way – i plant the seeds.

    Xiane presents I plant the seeds: week one posted at …what’s a xiane?, saying, “This is a complete list of the goals and work fo…

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