A couple of Mayhemmers have recently blogged about their experiences of either The Artist's Way (Caroline's Morning Pages One Year In) or going on a reading fast (Joanna's Fasting Story.) Since I am currently working my way through The Artist's Way, part of which requires giving up reading for a week, I thought I'd share my own progress report.
Caroline's piece actually was the boost that got me back to the practices Julia Cameron writes about it her book, the subtitle of which is "A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity." Towards the latter part of 2016, I was in a complete creative funk--a lot of which I trace back to the election and its aftermath. Add to this that, after parting ways from my agent, I had been having no luck querying my latest novel (lots of full requests and nice rejections, things like "not for me, but I can see this being a smash hit with the right agent,") I was finding it hard to hang on.
Intellectually I knew that the sun would rise again tomorrow, but my creative child was really feeling the slings and arrows. I'd had a similar creative crisis in 1997, after the birth of my first child, and the knowledge that I was soon turning THIRTY-FREAKING-FIVE (!) and that my creative dream of being a published author was still in embryo. (Fast forward 20 years, and here I still am.)
My wise wife gave my a Christmas gift, paying for me to attend a 12-week course on The Artist's Way. There were about twenty of us, and we met weekly in the back room of a music store. Our facilitator was funny and down-to-earth, and soon we were engaged in all sorts of kooky things, like making collages, writing affirmations, and bidding farewell to negative messages.
Week 4 of the course, however, was tough. That was the week where we had to give up reading and watching of any sort for one whole week. (The internet wasn't ubiquitous then so, looking back, it was not so tough.) But I freaked out. The Winter Olympics were being held in Nagano, Japan, and I really wanted to see a couple of my favorite skaters--Elvis Stojko and Michelle Kwan--compete. But, being the rule-follower I am, I buckled down. I also kept my wife busy: she had to remove the newspaper off the front porch in the mornings so I wouldn't be tempted to read the headlines, and then she had to videotape the events for later viewing. (Yes, after Week 4's dastardly task was over, I did binge watch hours of the Olympics!)
Here we are in 2017, and I am older and maybe just a smidge wiser. Week 4 was hard yet again, not because of The Olympics, but because I had to come face to face with my social media obsessions. Although a late adapter of Facebook and the like, I find it's a little like a morphine drip for me--a squeeze here, a squeeze there throughout the day and whoops! Where did the time go? (Twitter's even worse.)
What did I discover with my week off from reading screens and magazines and other people's books? First, my worry-levels dropped dramatically. (The media-free week coincided with the Inauguration, and during that blackout I was as happy as a clam.) Also, since I wasn't losing myself in others' stories, some of my own started to emerge. I'm not quite back at my fighting weight yet, but I'm getting there.
The creative life ebbs and flows. We all have wounds and scars, but we also have champions and companions on the road. (My friends on this blog are part of this support.) Julia Cameron is also a firm believer in serendipity and the opening of doors when we are ready. And that is happening to me now too. A young, highly creative friend from church has invited me to write the script for an animation series he's creating. We're having a lot of fun brainstorming ideas together. As Julia Cameron says, "Artists like other artists."
I've got three more weeks to go on The Artist's Way. I've been religious about my Morning Pages, and have done Artist's Dates most of the time. (I've put links to Julian Cameron's website, where you can find explanations of what these two practices are.) I'm sitting with and pondering these words in Week Ten:
"In a creative life, droughts are a necessity. The time in the desert brings us clarity and charity. When you are in a drought, know that it is to a purpose. And keep writing morning pages."