After giving myself a buy week to focus on promoting a story I entered in a contest, I went back into The Artist’s Way with gusto.  I continued the morning pages during my week “off,” and that helped maintain continuity for me.

  • Week 5 Theme: “Recovering a Sense of Possibility.”  This chapter forces us to examine our limiting thoughts and all the ways in which we sabotage ourselves and our art.  We often want to stay within the safety of appearing good to the outside world as opposed to being our authentic selves.  The ways we sabotage ourselves include never taking time alone, sacrificing creative time to meet the needs of others, scarcity thinking (i.e. if so and so gets a book deal, that’s one less chance for me), discounting possibilities and undermining success.
  • Morning Pages: I did the morning pages every day except Christmas.  When the kids wake you up at the crack of dawn bursting with excitement, just try asking them to wait while you write!  And no, I don’t consider that an example of self-sabotage. 🙂
  • Artist Date:  Given that the whole family is home for to the holidays, there isn’t much solitude.  However, on Monday I did have a few hours to myself.  I used those to write, read and exercise.  Normally I would have convinced myself to work, clean, cook or plan.  Instead I allowed myself to do only enjoyable things.  I supplemented that by waking up early on Tuesday morning to write through some of the questions and tasks from Chapter 5.

Any “Aha” Moments? 

  • There is a section in Chapter 5 called “The Virtue Trap” that nearly brought me to tears because I recognized so much of myself there.  Solitude, it says, is mandatory for creatives.  We need it as we need air to breathe.  I have blogged about the importance of solitude before – here and here.  When this chapter asked the question, “Are you self-destructive?” I figured I could say no because I do take time for myself to “fill the well” so to speak.  But what I realize now is that the question is much more nuanced, and my answer is not simple.
  • I am good about carving out blocks of time for solitude at least once or twice a year, but I must admit that I have always felt at best strange and at worst terribly selfish about asking for and taking alone time.  The need to be alone doesn’t fit the world’s perception of a good person.  Giving to others always comes before giving to self.  As such, I kept waiting for Cameron to come forward with the section about balance.  That section never came.  This lady does not pull any punches.  She tells you like it is.  If you want to produce art, you need to nurture your creativity.  To nurture your creativity you need time alone.  Every time you sacrifice that need on the altar of other people’s expectations, you die a little inside.  Period.  The End.
  • I struggled with this question all week. On the one hand, I felt such relief at seeing another person admit to sharing a need that is so strong within myself.  On the other hand, I still have serious questions about how to take the necessary time while still sharing myself with others.  I know Cameron is not suggesting that all artists go out, be hermits and cut all ties to outside world. I think she is saying is that when we don’t meet our artistic needs, we sabotage ourselves and become more puppet-person than real person.  In so doing, nobody benefits.  I think she is also saying that if we stop sabotaging our true selves, we become closer to others and experience the world more fully.  We might find that the world bends around our need to be alone so that it is not an either/or choice.
  • THAT has always been my problem – viewing it as either/or.  My aha moment was realizing that I feel divided most of the time into the “real world” person who functions as everyone expects her to and the “inside” person who rages with creative desire so potent that it tugs at me almost continuously.  I don’t know how to bring these two together, so I’m hoping more answers will emerge as I continue the program.  Obviously my family and friends are just as important to me as my creativity, so I do need to find a way to merge these beings, or at least get them to live in harmony with one another.  For the moment, when I take time for creativity, I feel bad for my family and/or friends.  When I take time for family, friends, or other activities, I feel I am neglecting my artist-writer.  So I need to move from “no-win” to “all-win” situations.  Somehow.

A few favorite quotes from the Week 5 chapter:

“An artist must have downtime, time to do nothing.  Defending our right to such time takes courage, conviction, and resiliency… For an artist, withdrawal is necessary.  Without it, the artist in us feels vexed, angry, out of sorts.  If such deprivation continues, our artist becomes sullen, depressed, hostile..”

“We strive to be good, to be nice, to be helpful, to be un-selfish.  We want to be generous, of service, of the world.  But what we really want is to be left alone.  When we can’t get others to leave us alone, we eventually abandon ourselves.  To others, we may look like we’re there.  We may act like we’re there.  But our true self has gone to ground… Afraid to appear selfish, we lose our self.”

“Many people, caught in the virtue trap, do not appear to be self-destructive to the casual eye.  Bent on being good husbands, fathers, mothers, wives, teachers, whatevers, they have constructed a false self that looks good to the world and meets with a lot of worldly approval…  The true self is a disturbing character, healthy and occasionally anarchistic, who knows how to play, how to say no to others and “yes” to itself.”

Are YOU self-destructive?  Do you sacrifice your creative desire in order to tend to the needs of others?

Week 4 Check-In

Week 3 Check-In

Week 2 Check-In

Week 1 Check-In

The Artist’s Way

Categories: Creativity, Family, Spirituality, The Artist's Way, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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35 Comments

  1. Yep you could say I do that. Though now I make time for myself and am lucky enough to be able to spend some hours on my own most weeks. This is thought provoking post… thanks Julie.

  2. I do feel like I’m sometimes surrounded by people when I really want to be surrounded by myself. I try to view these times as creative in their own way. Seeing a nuance, hearing a voice, noticing a quirk – that may serve me in my work. It all becomes part of the process, and makes me appreciate the solitude more intensely and use it more wisely.

  3. Julie, this is something I struggle with too. I am coming to realize I will still be just as good a mom — in fact, better — if I take the time to nurture my creative side. Wouldn’t you rather have a parent who is creative and happy than one who is strung-out and bitter?

    The hard part now is implementing it, since I have thus far raised my four kids to expect me to be their cook and housekeeper.

    • Julie,

      Yes, I agree that the kids (and everyone) are better off if the mother isn’t, as you put it, strung-out and bitter.

      For me it’s not so much training my kids as my husband. That just because I need/want to be alone doesn’t mean I DON’T want to be with him. It goes back to not making it a binary choice.

  4. Julie, your struggle is, painfully, my own.

    It is not only my heart’s desire and *my job* to be the best mother I can be to our children, the most caring wife to my husband, the most responsible and dedicated woman to all of my family’s needs, but it is also to be true to my *truest* self. The artist in me.

    Somehow the two don’t seem to equate in real life. In order to do one effectively, it feels as if the other must suffer. Which, of course, means in the end, that we ALL suffer. It is SO true that, when I deny one of my selves, I am no good to anyone.

    It has taken me years (and I do mean Years!) to come to some compromise with myself and my family. The words, “I need to write!”, now seem to hold some understanding with those who know me. I suppose they have seen and felt enough of my insanity when I deny myself, that they back off a little quicker these days. Of course, it helps that my kids are now all of age to have other interests, than the desire to have a side of *Mommy 24/7*.

    I have come recently to the conclusion, that the “virtue trap” is of my own making. There was my “aha” moment! (You mean, sanity was always an option?!) For most of my adult life, I thought *the struggle* was inevitable, necessary for growth, blah..blah..blah. Well, it seems perhaps that part was right on. It was simply finding balance, in my world full of crazy, that needed tweaking.

    Awesome post! Thank you for the reminder!

    Love! And happy writing.

    • Great comment Scarlett! We convince ourselves it’s virtuous to deny ourselves for the sake of others, trying to box our creative time into the little spaces that are left over. But would we want our children to grow up and do that? I sure wouldn’t. So now I think it’s more about teaching them to care for every part of themselves, including that part that needs solitude.

      • Julie, you are absolutely right!

        Setting a good example is often thought of as those more selfless acts we want to rub off on our kids. Who’da thunk that sometimes it’s those, seemingly, *selfish* acts (such as, making time for our own growth as the individuals that we are) that also serve to raise our children into healthy adults in body, mind and spirit. Kind of like scheduling regular check ups with doctors and dentists and therapists (wink)!

        So-o-o-o… *One* can perhaps now equate *Mommy’s special alone time* with *Mommy’s and her Little Monster’s special alone time*!

        I can just hear myself in, oh, let’s say ten years or so, “It was for your own good, kid.”

        *Big Smile*

  5. It helps to know I am not alone! Thanks for this post, Julie.

  6. This is a very important point for me too at this time with two excited children, hubby home on holiday and my in-laws here. I have to sneak off for a few precious moments here and there for my sanity. I am thankful for some precious reading time and I hope it fills the well. Well done for doing The Artist’s Way 🙂

    • Catherine,

      What’s helped me is to simply surrender to all the company right now and plan for solitude in the near future. My kids only have school for a couple of days the first week of January, so I am going to stay at the ski rental through that week and get my thoughts together for the New year while my husband brings the kids home.

      In exchange, he got to do lots of work during the holidays. So it evens out, and I don’t feel stressed because I know a block of alone time is coming!

  7. Wow, another heavy-duty week. Cameron certainly doesn’t pull her punches, does she? I no longer have family that needs attention, but I certainly struggle with saying “I need to write” to friends and responsibilities. I think too often I run from the opportunities to write– what if I do all this work and no one wants to read it? I need to think about that.

    • Beth – that’s actually one of the issues Cameron addresses in this chapter. I didn’t address it in the post, but she also asks the question, “What do you get in return for staying blocked? What’s your payoff?”

      For many (myself included), it might be never having to face the fear of creating, of rejection, of changing our lives. She asserts that there is always some sort of payoff – conscious or not – to remaining blocked and sabotaging ourselves.

  8. ummmm — all the time. I’ve always known I need lots and lots of solitude. Just to close the door and stay inside while the world is happening outside is a wonderful thing for me. I have friends who are the opposite, though, and I’ve always sort of envied them. They love parties and crowds and need to have people around constantly. Wonder what that would be like for a person who thrives on it?

    • I, too, know people who constantly crave the company of others, but I often wonder if it is because they are not comfortable with themselves. No way to know, really. Perhaps I think that way because it is hard for me to imagine.

      I enjoy crowds and socializing too, but I go bonkers if it’s not balanced with quiet solitude.

  9. Every time you post about The Artist’s Way it brings me back… Love it! What an appropriate theme on the cusp of the New Year. Happy to hear that you used your alone time for you rather than chores (and others), and that you took Christmas morning off. Sounds like the worthy option!

    • It was amazing how much pleasure I derived from those few hours. Enough to keep me going for the rest of the busy break. So yes, I’d say it was the worthy option. 🙂

  10. Oh Julie, I have sacrificed a lot of the ME time. One of my sons was born with a rare brain disorder. He’s fine (thanking God), but I spend a lot of time with him. I have learned that when I take my laptop into his room, I get an extravagant amount of writing done. That said, I do need more just me time. Hubby got me a glorious camera for Christmas. I’ll be taking walks around our farm snapping away. Thanks for helping me realize I need more time to myself. I clicked on the linkage. It looks really interesting! *waving* Happy New Year!

    • Robyn,

      I can totally understand your need and desire to spend so much time with your son. I love the fact that you are now bringing your laptop into his room! I’ve started doing that too – taking a notebook and my iPad with me everywhere. Basketball practice? No problem. I’ll draft my next blog post. Play rehearsal? I might revise a few lines of my WIP. Sometimes I just free write in my journal. All those little snippets of time add up and help me keep my sanity.

  11. I used to be a yes-person and give all my time away. I used to do thinks like cooking and baking to impress others, not because I actually liked it. When I took a step back and figured out what I actually want to do, writing came out on top and a lot of things dropped off the list. I make time to be with the people in my life, but in ways that work for me, too. It’s now not about what I can do for everyone else. It’s just about time together.

    • I love that phrase – “It’s now not about what I can do for everyone else. It’s just about time together.”

      I think that is the perfect sentiment for bringing the two sets of needs together. Thanks!

  12. Excellent post for everyone to read. Enjoyed reading all of the responses. We all are guilty of sabotaging our quiet/creative time. I have to have quiet in order to navigate my life, due to an injury. So I learned 7 years I had to create the quiet out of necessity — don’t wish that on anyone. It’s important to honor yourself and find the time. Learn to say no. It’s hard when you have a career and a family. But, creating what you need will benefit all around you. For me, it has also boils down to enjoying being with myself in the quiet.

    • Patricia – I think that is an issue for some – being able to enjoy your own company. That is the difference between being alone and being lonely.

  13. It has taken me years to find the courage to demand my own time and space. Those who do not pursue creative endeavors do not understand this need. We must educate them and if they still do not understand, then we must find the strength within our selves to take what we need. Harsh, too harsh, but oh so necessary.

    Great post, Julie. So very timely with the approach of a new year.

  14. You will have more time to create when the kids return to school after the holidays. For now, enjoy some lovely family time! 😀

  15. Emma wrote my reply. I did everything for everyone, whether they wanted it or not. but time and desire finally forced me to stop. It took a long time and it wasn’t easy, but a wise woman said to me “Live your life 100% selfishly.” I promptly retorted “I can’t do that. It’s not nice.”

    she chuckled. and explained: “My dear, when you believe you are being totally selfish, you are getting close to the middle of the pendulum+ and no farther. what you think of as selfish is what others think of as generous with their time and energy. You know what? She was right. but it took so long for me to get there. progress not perfection on this one.

    • Wow, what an amazing thing for someone to say to you! I felt a little of my own burden and guilt chip off with that. THANK YOU for sharing that story!

  16. Reading this and all the comments has been a bit of an aha moment for me. Thank you all.

  17. Wow, this post definitely hit a hot button for many of us. Can I just say how grateful I am that you have all shared your challenges in this area too? I was nervous about posting this because I thought, “Everyone is either going to think I am in fact selfish or that I’m off my rocker.”

    It is comforting to me to know that I am not the only one who struggles with this need for solitude, and I’m even more grateful that by sharing with each other, it will become easier for us all.

    So THANK YOU! Once again I learn more from your responses than my original post! 🙂

  18. Good for you for keeping up with this! 🙂

    Sometimes my job gets in the way. Teaching is a job that goes way beyond the dismissal bell. I’m constantly having to remind myself to stop teaching, so I can start writing for the day.

  19. I must do The Artist’s Way–and this post of yours made me realize it. Thanks, Julie.

  20. Oh, my gosh, Julie. I have to tell you that my tag line is “Of Martians and Marshmallows” in large part because of this very issue! I have felt like a Martian most of my life because of that need for ‘alone’ time and creativity. There are people who look at me as if I’m a Martian when I say I spent hours by myself in my office. My husband, an artist, has been instrumental in teaching me that alone time is not only okay but an absolute necessity.

    It’s really hard when you have small children (hey, I only had one and it was hard!).

    Hmm, I started to say it gets easier the older they get, but that’s not entirely true. I just got more okay with honoring my needs first when he was older.

    Lesson five. Good for you!

  21. LOL! As I’m writing this, my eleven-month-old is emptying the dishwasher. Finding balance is always a struggle for me. There are weeks/years when I can’t write much. Heck, I can’t even go to the bathroom by myself. BUT I still carve out moments. Taking the long term view helps. I lose battles almost every day, but I like to think I’m still winning the war. Eternal optimist or stupid non-realist? Maybe I’m both. Thanks for your posts. 🙂

  22. Julie, this is a very thoughtful post. Your words ring true for me. I crave my alone time so that I can write, read, paint, or partake in other creative activities. When I can’t have that alone time I start to feel like a caged animal. I’m no hermit, but I do understand your frustration and what the author is saying in this chapter. When I was a bit younger and had more opportunities to travel, I so enjoyed discovering new places alone and journaling about them. When you are alone, all of your senses are heightened-there are no distractions, and you are living in the “now” taking in all the sights and smells and images that you might have missed had you been with a companion. I have been feeling the urge to travel like this again to give my creativity a chance to flourish in a new setting. Maybe some place not too far, just different!

  23. I can really relate to this internal struggle you’re talking about Julie. I think as writers and mothers/wives/people who have other jobs as well there is so much competition for our time, and like you, I feel terribly selfish taking time for myself. I am nearly unable to do it. I constantly put the needs of my loved ones ahead of my own. I don’t mind. I feel better for taking care of them. But it does get in the way of writing a lot, and I’d love to figure out a better balance!

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