The first week of The Artist's Way course was about Recovering a Sense of Safety.
Despite my earnest (initial) commitment, I was still fairly skeptical about it all. That's just me though; I'm cynical to a fault about most things. You can see as much from this extract of my morning pages:
"So apparently I have to disentangle all the damaging, negative, unhelpful and malicious things that've been said to me. Why? Aren't you supposed to be building/growing a thick skin, thus the whole acceptance of criticism is part and parcel? It could very well be, but not if it crushes you. Not if it paralyses you, although it would be too easy to blame my reaction on other people and say “that creative writing course paralyzed me, so it did” when in reality I'm responsible for when and how I write and who can paralyze me or not. The statement shouldn't be that “they paralyzed me” but “I let them paralyze me”.
I react positively to hurtful comments for a little while. I get a burst of defiance and a productivity spike but it's not enough. That's because I'm using the wrong things to propel me and fuel my writing.
I have to admit, I found the morning pages difficult. I've written many a morning page in my time, and am fully aware of the benefits of it, but it didn't feel like my usual trippy nonsense. It felt more like the unclogging of accumulated whiney bile. I was quietly hopeful it would improve over the coming weeks.
Week 1 was about uncovering my Core Negative Beliefs. In my notebook, I wrote "I can't be a successful, prolific, creative artist because..." then let it rip.
It wasn't pretty.
Among my fears:
- I would undoubtedly descend into madness
- I had no decent, unique ideas
- I would die an unfulfilled writer
- I even started berating myself for not having material aspirations... yeah I don't know where that one came from either.
I, Catherine Noble, am a brilliant and prolific writer.
I tell ye, if you're ever struggling to figure out where your negativity stems from, DO THIS EXERCISE.
Don't get me wrong, the usual suspects were there: nasty, personal attacks and the opinions of pretentious arsehole writers sometimes known to pollute my beloved Radio 4 podcasts, but I was astonished to hear the words of people who matter most to me, or who I look up to in the big ol' writersphere. Even my own (well-meaning) advice to other writers cropped up, to my intense shame.
I had to create my own personal affirmations. I'm not a fan of the Law of Attraction theory, but I do appreciate gratitude and positive thinking. Some of my affirmations felt more resonant than others depending on my mood when I read them. This is why it's good for me to have a varied list. Reading them is like a lovely soothing balm. I would recommend it, if you're a bitter lemon like myself.
Apparently I'm what Julia Cameron would call a 'shadow artist': someone who doesn't have the balls to be a fully fledged, uninhibited artist, so surrounds themselves with creative types, joins the writing groups, attends the writerly events, in the hope they'll be inspired to create.
Does that sound familiar to you, too?
This was my favourite quote in The Artist's Way so far. "Very often audacity, not talent, makes one person an artist and another a shadow artist".
So, my main priority for Week 1 was get some gall. Risk affrontery. Take myself seriously, but not too seriously...
Every week, you're supposed to take yourself on an Artist Date. For this, I set aside a couple of hours to work on my Vision Board. I do one every year; it's always a surprise to see how much my goals and attitudes change over time. Pinterest is a fantastic way to get inspired for creating a vision board, but be warned: it's not good for the old discipline. It's a cruel temptress.
And that concludes Week 1. Have you participated in the Artist's Way? I'd love to hear your experiences.
Catherine x ◦