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!

Mining Nightmares

When I was younger, I suffered from nightmares.

Not unusual, you might think, but this was Every Night. At first I escaped by the simple method of forcing my eyelids to open. Of course, it was only a matter of time before my subconscious caught on to this, and I ‘woke’ into another layer of dream which rapidly became nightmare.

So I came up with a new, sure-fire way of waking myself up: screaming. Of course, this had the side-effect of waking up everyone else in the house (and, at peak lung capacity, neighbouring houses) but at least I wasn’t trapped in my nightmare any more.

But as they say:


what has been seen cannot be unseen.

And once I was past the age where my screams would summon a soothing parent (i.e. into double digits), I would spend what seemed like the rest of the night either too scared to close my eyes or too scared to get my head out from under the bedding. Or both.

But then I had an epiphany. (Or it could have been the lack of oxygen under the blankets. Hard to tell.)

What terrified me could be useful fodder for writing – after all, how much more primal and high-stakes could you get?

It still took forever to get back to sleep, but at least now I woke screaming “pen and paper!!!” and not just “aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrgggggghh!!!” Sometimes I even tried to get back into the dream if I couldn’t figure out what happened next.

I haven’t gone as far as Sheridan Le Fanu, mind you – he used to intentionally eat foods that would make for disturbed sleep and then weave his nightmare into his draft on waking. (This may be partly because my nightmares aren’t due to eating lobster: they are due to going to sleep.)

Admittedly, this also works for dreams that do not qualify as nightmares, but they are harder to harvest as they are less likely to wake you up suddenly – and I have yet to acquire the talent of taking notes while still dreaming. Even the notes I have taken shortly after waking are mostly illegible, except possibly as a pigeon tap-dancing sequence.

Some of the dream-nuggets I’ve mined over the years include alien royalty being abducted from a fashionable restaurant, a Questing Aunt getting stuck on an enchanted stone bed, and the gut-dropping moment before the ‘reveal’ when you realise the ‘stunt’ lava tank the apprentice has been lowered into is real – and the stage magician knows.

Eventually it dawned on me that my sub-conscious is actually a much better writer than I am, and after a while I got over being jealous and came to terms with it.

Now I will even go to sleep thinking about my story problems in the hope that my sub-conscious will sort it out for me while I sleep. It used to work (Form Three?) but once again my sub-conscious has wised up to me and will derail my train of thought with the sudden appearance of a gytrash to swallow me whole.

I’d be interested to know if anyone else finds inspiration in their sleep – and what they pull up on the long-line of their dreams.

But one word of caution: when falling, always wake up before you hit earth.
If necessary, scream.