The Censor

Chapter One of The Artist’s Way deals with “Recovering a Sense of Safety”.

One of the concepts Cameron introduces – or perhaps, more aptly, puts a name to – is the Censor. This is the voice in your head that tells you you’re a no-good talentless hack and it would be best for the literate world if you gave up right now and never strung two words together again.

Or something like that.

For some people, that voice belongs to a particular person in their past – or, God help them, their present – who is continually running them down and pissing on their dreams.

For others of us, it’s just the voice we all have in our heads – not that little helpful one which tells you when you’re about to do something really stupid, the other one. The vitriolic one.

But it can still help to put a face to the foe. If you have any artistic ability, you can render one yourself; the rest of us have to go hunting for one.

And when I tried to put a face to my nasty little voice, this is approximately what I found:

Muammar al-Gaddafi at the AU summit

Yup. That’s what the voice in my head looks like.

I don’t know what that says about me (any budding psycho*ists want to chip in?) but there it is.

It’s a good face to sneer back at (yes! we sneer in the face of destructive criticism!) but for some reason the person who had this face doesn’t seem attached to it in my mind. No ‘oh yes, and where’s your loyal populace then?’ retorts seem pertinent (although they could definitely be construed as impertinent).

The fruity dress sense? Well, that’s a different kettle of medals.

To be honest, I have still to work through all of the 10 exercises attached to the chapter. This time I think I’ll have a stab at some of the ones I didn’t try first time round.

I have til Thursday before I run out of month.

But I’m not weaselling.

Weasel Poupette


The Artist's Way

How many of you have worked through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way?

How many of you have started it and never finished? Judging by that modern confessional, the Internet, quite a few. Well, far be it from me to judge – I only made two weeks.

I didn’t intend to abandon it, but Life Intervened (as it does) and though I carried on with the Morning Pages for a while, eventually I decided I needed the sleep more.

Please understand: giving up half an hour’s sleep of a morning is no laughing matter for a night-owl. This was Sacrifice, and when the fire failed to fall from on high, I hauled my sacrifice back off the altar and went on with life.

Elijah never moaned about the early mornings.
But just recently, I had a Good Idea.

(At least, I hope it will turn out to be a Good Idea. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, after all.)

There are twelve weeks in the course of the Artist’s Way.
There are twelve months in the year.

Why not spread out the exercises and so forth over a month, instead of over a week? That way, if Life Intervening causes you to miss one or two Morning Page sessions, well, it’s not the end of the world.

Plus you have more time to think up (and enact) some really epic Artist Dates, should you wish.

The only downside to this plan is the fact that January is mostly dead and gone. (Much longer and I’ll be going through its pockets for loose change.)

But to change perspective: I’ve got just as much time as I would if I was doing it by weeks.

In any case, I’d better get on with it.
Stay tuned for developments – don’t let me weasel out of it again!

Weasel Poupette
The Weasel weaselling out. Don’t be swayed by the pleading little eyes!

We have met the enemy

and he is us.

Or more accurately, he is our procrastination.

There is so much we could do – so much we want to do, that we never get around to. Like the apostle Paul, we don’t do what we do want to do, and we do what we don’t.

St. Paul Escape from Damascus

Housework, for example. How much housework — expressed as a proportion of the whole — is done annually by people who are only doing it to avoid doing something else?

Of course, some of this procrastination is necessary development time for ideas, but sooner or later the idea is sufficiently ripe and must be harvested, or it never becomes anything more.

We want to write.

We love having written.

Sometimes we even enjoy the process of writing, but the actual sitting-down-to, the sacrificing of all the other things we could be doing (no matter how unpleasant) doesn’t appeal. Not close up. From a distance, the allure is strong enough, but by the time opportunity finally arrives, it has palled.

And so we put it off. There’s always another day.

The other enemy (or so we tell ourselves) is time. There simply isn’t enough of it to go around.

In fact, unless you are one of the modern madwomen who attempt to work full time, raise children, keep the house in order, have a social life and a creative life all in the twenty-four hours per day allotted to us ordinary mortals, you probably do have some time. Possibly not much, but some.

Carnaval (52) - 03Feb08, Paris (France)

If you are one of those women, you have my respect — for your industriousness, if not your sense — but you will never have from me that sincerest form of flattery: imitation.

Ergo, I have some time in my day(s) which I am not using for writing, because I am: using it for something else, wasting it on nothing much, sleeping through it (a popular option) or – and this is the part I have yet to understand – just not writing in it.

Wastage can be minimized, priorities can be rearranged, sleep can be (grudgingly) foregone – but how do you fight the absence of something? How do you fight not-doing? How, in short, do we defeat our own procrastination?

There are multifarious theories as to why we procrastinate, most of which seem to centre around our fear of a) discovering we are enormously talented or b) discovering we aren’t.

So is courage the missing ingredient? Or a ego-defying absence of investment in whether what we do is any good? Or (as with so many things) is it simply a lack of self-discipline that lets us weasel out of sitting down to a task that we may not, at that precise moment, enjoy?

To be honest with you, I am not so much concerned with the psychology of it as with finding out how to beat it.

To that end, this blog; a form of accountability if you will – and only if you will, because as the Caped Gooseberry pointed out, accountability does not work if there is no-one to be accountable to.

In return, I hope to offer you entertainment, encouragement, and whatever I may learn along the way. And should you also be tired of procrastination’s clammy embrace, then by all means, sharpen your pen.