Sunday, July 19, 2015

So retro....The Artist's Way

My '90's-era guide to finding my inner artist.
Even though I was born in the 1950's, I have always been a late-bloomer. When I sit in the dentist's chair and am given free reign on what satellite music station I want to listen to, I pick the '80s for the later music of Ambrosia, Stephen Bishop, Hall & Oates, Earth, Wind & Fire. It makes me think of boyfriends and beaches. Like I was born 10 years later than I actually was. Still slightly flakey.

So I grew up a little delayed and by the 90's - turning 40 and already having blown through a marriage and looking for my calling - I was needing a bit of introspection and direction and I came upon The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron at some point in the middle of that decade, a 12-week "recovery" program. Originally published in 1992, The Artist's Way is subtitled, "A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity." This was right up my middle-of-life-needing-to-find-myself-in-a-Jungian-kind-of-way alley.

In earnest about finding the meaning of life, Joseph Campbell did that blockbuster of a series, "The Power of Myth" with Bill Moyers for PBS in 1988 and I think I saw that at least five times on TV, then bought the videotape set. Lee, my husband bought his own set. (Must say: If you haven't seen it, do.)

I was hungry for insight and bliss and a path.

Then, at some point after 1996, the year I married Lee,  I found The Artist's Way. I bought it. I opened it. I inhaled it. I needed to recover my wounded artist.

I had kept a journal most of my life - especially during my 20's, writing almost daily mostly about life and love, with the occasional note about how I felt about my weight. The currency of beauty! Yuck. So writing was not foreign to me. But to do so in a focused, guided way felt like being taken over by angels who just tell you what to do.

Now, some 16 - 20 years later (depending on when I actually did it the first time) I am doing it again. With Lee. Which is just the greatest, sexiest, bonding love thing for me. I'm a total sap for artistic men. He's doing his writing. I'm doing mine.

The point of the book is that we have, for a potluck of reasons, abandoned our artistic, creative selves. Not like everyone wants to be artistic - or be an artist - but for those of us who do, there are so many lame excuses for why we can't pursue those dreams. The process is simple and brilliant and lasts for twelve weeks - more than enough time for that changing a habit idea to take root.

Step One: Write every single morning - three pages - just a brain dump if that's all you got.
Step Two: Take yourself on an artist date every single week. Like a child. Take it out for ice cream and a trip to Disney World. But, really, it doesn't have to be Disney World. It can be anything that makes your heart sing and takes you away from the battery of voices in your head that tell you why you can't be an artist.
Step Three: Do the weekly "tasks" - just guided writing.

For my Artist Dates, I have taken a walk to Loring Park, sat on a bench and looked at the summer flowers. I have spent the night looking at the stars over Lake Sylvia, the kind of stars I remembered from growing up on an Iowa farm - holy and present in a way they never are in a city.
Today, I decided "No work! No balancing checkbooks! No checking delivery dates for furniture!" to set free the right side of my brain. But, for this to happen, I had to leave my apartment. So I went to Northfield to visit my mother, eat deviled eggs and a salted, sliced tomato with her on her patio, then to the new bookstore, Content, on the main street in Northfield to browse the employee's recommended selections laid out on the displays. I bought five books, so happy was I to be in the presence of real words on real bound paper. Not a photo of a book cover on the Amazon website. I signed up for their reading program. I pulled out my debit card. I signed on the line. I did not "click" anything on a computer screen. It was mind-boggling to buy books while interacting with an intelligent, thoughtful human being.

Summer Reading.

Then I went across the street to get coffee at Blue Monday, the kind of coffee shop I wish we had in Minneapolis. Maybe one still exists...near the U? Anyone know? Most have been "done." Even the good ones. Lots of old barns torn down to make them look cool and not contrived. But, really, they end up looking contrived. Because....barns. Sure. Urban Minneapolis has lots of barns, right?

I diverge.

These "dates" and the writing are proving to be profound in their capacity to create a kind of emotional / ideological shift. Like an earthquake - or more to the point - a tectonic shift - a small one, ideas start popping out of the crevices, released from the movement of the work. Tonight, after writing for two full weeks, my mind is trying to catch the yard of fireflies of ideas zapping around me. It's both inspiring and overwhelming. Which one do you catch?

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