I continue this series on The Artist’s Way with a look at “Chapter 2: Recovering a Sense of Identity.”
As we open ourselves up to reclaiming our identity as an artist, we are often bombarded with self-attacks. These little voices of self-doubt can easily slide into self-sabotage. I have definitely been experiencing this:
“You’re not spending enough time working on this stuff.”
“You have no dedication.”
“You’re not actually brave enough to really go out on a limb.”
“You should just quit now.”
This week’s chapter also covered external attacks ― people in our lives that can block your path to reclaiming creativity in your life.
First, there are the “poisonous playmates”, people who question your new creative pursuits, planting seeds of self-doubt. Funny enough, these are often people who are still creatively blocked and threatened by your own recovery. Here was a quote from this section that particularly resonated with me:
“Often, creativity is blocked by our falling in with other people’s plans for us. We want to set aside time for our creative work, but we feel we should do something else instead.”
I’ve talked many times about the fact that, before going on this sabbatical, I made my career decisions mostly based on what others would think ― “other people’s plans for us.” And even now, as my sabbatical has gone on a little longer than I originally planned, I am constantly doubting my on-going exploration and question whether or not I should just get another full-time job again ― “we feel we should do something else.”
The chapter also discussed “crazymakers”, people who take over your life with their problems and drama; just when an opportunity arises, you are interrupted by needing to fix some drama in this person’s life.
As I read this section, I was relieved to know that I don’t really have people like that in my life, or at least, I don’t let anybody’s drama get in my way. But then I had a horrifying thought ― I may very well be someone else’s crazymaker.
“They are often charismatic, frequently charming, highly inventive, and powerfully persuasive … If they can swing it, they are the star. Everyone around them functions as supporting cast, picking up their cues, their entrances and exits, from the crazymaker’s (crazy) whims.”
It made me really reflect on my own behavior as I deal with my struggles. Of course, I want to be able to go to people I am closest to for their support. But I need to make sure I’m not taking them away from their own progress.
In general, through internal doubts or external questioning, recovering creatives will be bombarded with skepticism throughout this phase. It’s important to push against those pessimistic voices.
So much goes in the confines of our minds. Doubts about our abilities. Fantasies about what should be. But Cameron cautions that if we get too stuck in our head, we’ll get stuck altogether. Her solution: attention. Get out of your head and pay attention to the world around you.
I liked this rule: “Remember that it is my job to do the work, not judge the work.”
There were actually no exercises in this chapter, only the tasks. I started the week off great by dedicating time early on to start the tasks.
I did a task where I chose three affirmations from Week 1 that I felt strongest about and I wrote each one five times in my morning pages. It’s funny (and sad) how persistent doubt can be. I found myself scoffing at these affirmations, questioning their truth.
There was also another ‘imaginary lives’ task, where I had to think of five additional paths that I would take. And once again, the challenge was to try to live one of those. I sort of accomplished this. One of the paths was that of a writer, and I finally got down on the page a little something that has been floating around in my head.
There was a task to list ten things that completed the sentence “I would like to ______.” They could be big or small. It was interesting to see what came to mind for me. There was a follow-up task to choose one of the smaller to-dos and actually complete it. I chose one that seemed doable but didn’t find (or make) the time to complete it.
And that’s where the work on my tasks ended. This week was the opposite as the previous one. I tackled the tasks on the very first day but then abandoned them for the rest of the week.
So in that way, Week 2 was very similar to Week 1. I still didn’t carve out enough time. In fact for this week, I had dedicated so little time and thought to the work, that I forgot what the chapter was even about by the end of the week!
I successfully completed my morning pages six out of the seven days. Though, as I’m writing this, I realized I forgot to do them this morning!
The morning pages continue to bring to the surface some pretty intense feelings. They are thoughts that have been swarming around my mind for a long time, but finally putting them down on the page brings on a tidal wave of emotion.
Something about writing down my thoughts make them more definitive and clear. I have often found myself crying while doing my morning pages. It’s one thing for resentment to be simmering in the back of my mind, but to actually see it in black and white, see the evidence of how much it has been plaguing me … it’s a lot to be confronted with.
I managed to do my artist’s date … sort of. I walked down to Lake Merritt Park all by myself. However, it was easy for this to feel like just another walk since it’s a walk I do often. Also, I talked with my mom on the phone for part of the walk. Habit, I guess. It’s hard to adjust to just spending time with yourself.
This week, I want to try to do something completely new and to really cut myself off from others during this time.
Reading this chapter, I do want to be careful about the people I allow to have influence in my life. I can see how easily other’s opinions can guide my own decisions or feelings about my path.
I continue to beat myself up about how much (or rather, little) time I am dedicating to the work on this program. But if I can give even just a little more time and attention to it each week, that is something to be proud of.