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Monday, August 24, 2009

Thanks for visiting. I am no longer updating Notes to Self. I hope you'll join me on my current website, PlantingDandelions.com

Push

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When I get to the end of writing this book, I could probably write another on the process alone. I am having to draw on every tool I have to manage the pressure, the self-doubt, the self-criticism, the infinite self-made distractions, and every other challenge my internal saboteur can conjure. Maybe I'll develop a quest-style video game: So You Think You Can Write.

A teacher of mine used to say self-awareness happens in a spiral. You think you've dealt with an issue, only to find you've got to work on it all over again at the next level. I must have heard it, and preached it, a hundred times. And still, I've been so surprised to meet enemies of creativity I thought I'd vanquished a long time ago. They've gotten much sneakier while they've been laying low.

It's taking everything I've got to keep moving past them: deep breathing, white noise, a lot of caffeine, a little alcohol, chocolate, and a whole lot of prayer. It's barely enough. But maybe the prayers leveraged some kind of cosmic cheat code. Last week, I came across this thoughtfully written piece, drawing on some of the principles of The Artist's Way. I've written about my recovery from creative jealousy myself, and if you've hung around here for a while, you've probably come across my big prescription pad that is preprinted with that title. I recommend it liberally to everyone. I whipped that pad out again as I shared the envy post on Kirtsy and Facebook, so glad to be cured, myself.

Some people get the sudden epiphany, the burning bush. I don't, and even if I did, I'd probably be all, "Do you smell something burning?" and walk right past it. I mean, it takes me a while to realize that the finger is not just held out for me to sniff, but is actually pointing somewhere. I linked to that post in three places before it occurred to me to ask myself what I have been envious of recently. Like I said, the enemy gets sneakier. It's easy to identify envy in the form of covetousness. Contempt and cynicism (addendum: let's throw in cleverness) are its more sophisticated guises, and unfortunately, they blend in perfectly with the zeitgeist.

Of what or whom I was envious is beside the point. What it pointed to, as the Artist's Way teaches and as the blog post reminded me, is that I have been depriving myself of two very powerful and very basic tools of creative life: play and kinship. AW calls them "the artist's date" and "sacred circle." I have a really hard time with phrases like that, the way my cousin Erika refuses to order gimmicky menu items by name. And that's okay, as long as neither of us starves over it. A little irony is good ballast for flights of imagination. But you don't want so much that you can't budge.

I could stand to cut a sandbag or two loose. I take time to relax and socialize, but how often do I really play? I have wonderful people in my life, but how much do I let myself lean? Not often. Not much. Not lately. I would like to learn to do more of both.

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9 Comments:

Blogger Neil said...

I did think of your old post after I read Word Cellar's post last week. I still haven't gotten around to The Artist's Way. Kinda scares me.

5:37 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

First, I'm selfishly excited that your book is nearing completion.

Second, but should be first, you deserve to dance and play, with friends. When your work is complete, play, play, play. You can learn while you're doing it. :-)

6:43 PM  
Blogger S.E. Sward said...

It's funny how the universe can speak through God winks and synchronicity ... about four weeks ago I attended a workshop on jump-starting creativity, and The Artist's Way was highly recommended. I went to Barnes & Noble to look at it, but I didn't buy it, even though I respect the opinion of the writer who gave the workshop. I just ... wasn't there yet. But it feels like your post is another nudge from the universe, telling me I need to get myself a copy ...

For years, I've said I want to be a writer when I 'grow up,' and I even finished writing my first novel a year ago and started my own blog (Black Holes & Macrame) in February of this year. I want to be able to focus on my writing full-time, but unfortunately, I have to eat and help keep a roof over my family's head ... I know you know where I'm coming from. I discovered your blog through your article "Staying Thick in Thin Times" in Good Housekeeping.

Thanks for sharing your journey and doubts and epiphanies with the rest of us.

1:39 PM  
Blogger Rowena said...

I so understand your post here. I've been seeing the Lovebomb all over the place and I WANT IT SO BAD and I wonder why that can't be me (and in fact it once was me in a different pre-kids life) and then the jealousy... but then I remember this is my life and I have power to make it into what I want to be, even if I can't do it right this second.

You are right about the jealousy pointing to the love and the love pointing to what we should be doing.

And by the way, I would love to hear about how you deal with revising. I get stopped in revising my book every single time and I don't know where the block is.

2:20 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

This so resonates with me. I bought "The Artist's Way" two years ago, flipped through it, and let it collect dust.

Earlier last week, I took out my fancy-expensive journal (also covered in dust) and wrote immediately of how jealous I've felt lately, "appalled at my jealousy" is how I put it. And then I picked up "The Artist's Way" a day later, and read that part about jealousy. Huh.

And now, you. Methinks I have my own fingers pointing out something big for me. It's scary, and your description of the process even deep into the work scares me. But damm, something's gotta give.

12:25 AM  
Blogger Amy B. said...

I have nothing deep to say here. I simply offer myself at the altar of playtime.

You know I'm always good for a little reflection time followed by uncontrolled idiocy fueled by ballin' mojitos.

7:08 PM  
Blogger frances said...

I'm so glad you're writing a book. I haven't been to this blog in a long time so I wasn't aware that you were. You're a great writer and I can't wait to read it.

5:11 PM  
Blogger jena strong said...

I just made one of those Daring Big Dream lists you wrote about recently - and playing is on it. Learning how to loosen my grasp.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Dana said...

I have a copy of the Artist's Way given to me by someone who believes in my talent (whatever it might be) more than I do.

I have dabbled here & there but never gone very far as I have had a hard time turning off the echos of comments made in the past, but you are not a real artist, one good photo does not a photographer make....

In the past year I have made some unexpected discoveries about my creative self and I am feeling the pull of the book again.

And your words, from a past blog post, sit above my computer screen, written in my hand as a reminder to be true to myself and what moves me. Every day as I sit down I read, "Creative jealously is a poison I can't afford to drink.", and every day i am grateful for the reminder.

Thank you for your thoughtfulness and wisdom!

1:19 AM  

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