Category Archives: The Artist's Way

Be A Channel

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I have had the song What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye in my head all day today. I recently say a playlist segment on Nightline with Smoky Robinson and he was talking about how when Marvin was recording this album, he told him that he wasn’t writing it, that God was. Smoky talked about how the music from this album is even more relevant today and I have to agree. Maybe Marvin was right. Maybe he was channeling something bigger than himself, something so universal that it would still be poignant all these years later.

Julia Cameron, who has written many wonderful books on creativity, speaks of being an open channel as an artist. Puccini felt that Madame Butterfly was dictated to him by God. Robert Jackson said of his music, “Once I realized it wasn’t ‘my music’, once I realized I was essentially a straw, I began to play very beautiful music – but it’s not ‘mine’ it’s God’s.”

Art opens the door to inspiration. Art open the door to the divine. The act of creating something is a spiritual act. Julia Cameron has a sign at her desk that reads, “Ok, Universe. You take care of the quality. I’ll take care of the quantity.” As she says, when she writes, she lets God or the Great Author work through her. She is a channel.

I have often had these channel experiences as a songwriter, but not in a really long time. For the first time in over a year – I was a channel again yesterday. It felt so good to be overcome by inspiration and know that I was being led to exact right words and the perfect phrase. The lyrics are universal and personal. I needed to express a piece of my soul, but didn’t know how. I was open to the images and words as they came through.

I have been wanting to break out of this block with my writing and I think focusing on being a channel will get my ego out of the way and let the divine step in. If it worked for Marvin Gaye and Julia Cameron, then it just might work for me too.

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A Room of One’s Own

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This is a photo of Virginia Woolf’s office. Virginia Woolf speaks in her essay/lecture A Room of One’s Own about the necessity for money and a room of your own as a woman and a writer. I have observed that many people agree with her.

I’ve been reading a book on writing by N. M. Kelby called The Constant Art of Being a Writer. She talks in the second chapter about setting up your practice as a writer and how setting up your office is so important. She also talks about the importance of writing in the same place at the same time every day. A writer should put in business hours just like any other profession.

There was a point in time when I agreed with this opinion wholeheartedly. Not anymore. Mind you, every writer is different and for some people a strict writing schedule and location is imperative to their success every day. But I berated myself for not sticking to this rigid schedule and inevitably didn’t work at all.

Julie Cameron is on the other side of the fence on this issue. She believes that setting too tight a rein on your creative life hinders that flow of ideas. She speaks of artists not tieing themselves to such rituals because she worries that they will only be able to work under those specific conditions. What do you do when life gets in the way.

Julia does talk about using a gentle schedule called a grid to map out time for your creative priorities. I have learned that as a writer, myself, I must have some more freedom in order to work well. For instance my grid shows twenty minutes a day of writing time, but I don’t say when that twenty minutes has to happen. Or even where those twenty minutes happen. Last week I wrote for ten minutes at school during my lunch and for ten minutes in the car while I waited to meet a friend for dinner. The important thing was that I wrote. If I had set up my practice to only write at my desk in my room, that day’s writing wouldn’t have happened.

I think Virginia Woolf was onto something about having a room of one’s own, but I’m not sure I believe that room has to be a physical location per say. Maybe it could be a state of mind – a committment to guarding your own time and making writing a priority. I’ve decided that that’s all I need to set up my practice.

Naming the Inner Critic

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I started reading the new Julia Cameron book, The Creative Life: True Tales of Inspiration and I’ve been thinking a lot about my own creative life as well. Julia writes candidly about her inner critic, a gay designer named Nigel who skillfully and cruelly cuts her down to size even after four decades of successful writing. I think we all have an inner critic, whether we pursue a creative life or not.

My Inner critic is called The Voice. The Voice is a shape-shifter. The Voice is essentially genderless, but it takes the form of various monsters depending on the situation or the source of its disappointment with my life or choices. The Voice sometimes sounds like my mother with her disdainful and cutting remarks – vetoing my outfit, abusing me for my weight, or scolding my utter inability to do anything right. How could I possibly be so dim to think I could be successful.

Sometimes The Voice takes the form of a former friend who betrayed me years ago. In this shape he belittles me, always making me aware that I don’t quite belong.  The Voice is extremely skilled at cutting me off at the knees and driving a stake through my already shattered heart. In romantic matters, The Voice morphs into the image of a stereotypical popular girl from my high school. She is tall and slender with a model’s cheek bones and an amazing ability to make me feel like a hunchback, “Who would love you?” she asks with a cruel cackle.

It’s difficult to stand tall under The Voice’s judgemental glare. The Voice is usually standing behind me, arms crossed with a sneer of disgust, no matter what I’m trying to accomplish.

It helps to name the inner critic. You’d think that naming it would give it more power to hurt you, but it actually gives you an opportunity to see the inner critic for what it really is – a useless bully. It helps to air the wounds from the inner critic with trusted friends who will look you in the eye and tell you the truth. The truth that The Voice is an idiot. The Voice shouldn’t  get any attention or merit, no matter how insistent it can be about my lack of talent or worth.

It also  helps to read that Julia Cameron, a writer/creator that I admire still struggles with Nigel, her inner critic. It makes me feel better to know that the inner critic doesn’t just try to wreck my self-esteem, it exists in all of us. The Voice doesn’t have the right to kill my spirit any longer. The Voice has been silenced…for now.

It’s unrealistic to believe that The Voice will be quiet forever. I know that it will reveal itself again. However, I now choose to look it in the eyes, tell it to F off. then I can get back to work.

Dog Days of Summer

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I finished my super difficult special education law class on Monday and I’m glad to be half-way done with my other summer school class. The second class is an integrated Science/Social studies class. I am really enjoying parts of the class. However, we meet from 9 – 4:30 twice a week and the quick turn around of a whole semester in a month makes it a little intense. Summer school will be over in two weeks, then I’ll a week at most to rest before my internship starts again.

I’ve been connecting to The Lost on a new level lately, especially in the past week. I’ve written a different amount everyday, but I’ve written something every day. That hasn’t happened in a while.  After three days my protagonist came out to play. I was worried that she was gone because her voice had been hard to grasp for months and months. Ken, had a very distinctive view of the world and I thought I had lost her. I hadn’t met her at the page for months. I hadn’t held up my end of the bargain. I had abandoned her, like so many others. Yet…she came back to me and I won’t let her go again until her story is told.

Even though it’s only been a couple of days, I feel much more grounded. Julia Cameron said that she could do everything else in her life better, if she had put in her daily dose. I finally understand what she means.

I’ve also been getting my ducks in line for the 2nd season of TCC. The clouds are clearing that have obscured my view recently… big things have suddenly opened up  and I’m excited to get my hands dirty in the trenches again.

I went to the midnight showing of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice with my dad yesterday and I’m definitely turning into a pumpkin…time for bed boys and girls. Sweet dreams.

Evolution Of A Flower

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And then the day came
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
it took
to Blossom.

Anais Nin

I’ve always loved this quote. I found it in the classic book by Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way. I remember how it made me cry because the quote described exactly how I felt. I typed it up in a fancy font and put it on my cubicle so I could remember that I was not a corporate robot – I was an artist.

It still amazes me that even though I first read it almost seven years ago, it still applies. The thing is, I’m still growing as an artist. I am so much further than I was sitting in that cubicle, yet I’m still blossoming. I hope to be blossoming for a long time.

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately. I’m always researching…trying to learn more. Learning about other writers and their experiences shows me that I’m not alone. There are others out there…somewhere. It must be my inner Sociologist. I observe and apply what I can. I connect the dots and step back to see the picture.

Doing what you love is risky business. You need a thick skin and practice at mending broken hearts. I remember how scared I was to submit to agents. It’s still scary, but each submission is a battle wound. Eventually, the scar tissue builds up enough that I can put the envelope in the mail or send the email without feeling nauseous. Even though rejections are never welcome, you learn from them. You get better. Even if it isn’t obvious from the outside, you grow and shift and evolve. I know that every day, every word, every action leads me in the right direction. Even if I can only manage to write a sentence, it still counts.

It’s unlikely that writing and being an artist will ever be a walk in the park. The blossoming process won’t ever be easy. You finally finish your book and you manage to find a publisher, then your world shifts and you have to work through months of edits. Or you have to battle your stage fright to go on  a book tour and find your audience. You have the perfect idea, but every time you sit down to write the words refuse to come. You write the best story of your life and the critique group rips it apart. There are challenges at every turn.

The sky will darken and the wind will blow. You might not see how you’ll ever survive. But you commit to the process and trust that you’ll eventually bloom again and have your moment in the sun. The truth is once you start to blossom it’s hard to go back to a bud – no matter how much you wish you could. You might as well keep growing and see what happens.