January: a Sense of Safety

At last, the long-awaited (by me at least) post about What I Did This Month. (Last month.) With the Artist’s Way, that is.

Since I didn’t have my Good Idea until January was well onto its downhill run, there was not much time in which to work through Chapter One: Recovering a Sense of Safety.

The fundamental push of this chapter is to give you back the childlike feeling of being able to puddle about and create things without the terror that Mrs Danvers (or Col. Gaddafi) will leap out of the woodwork shouting “how dare you make such a repulsive mess, you miserable miscreant?!” (although really, I don’t think either of them had quite that kind of vocabulary).

In order to accomplish this, you confront the nasty critical voices of your past, and face them down with all the nice positive things you have heard, gleaned or discovered about your artist-self – or, if you have had a particularly hard go of it in that respect, the simple, stubbornly defiant statement that you have the right to create.

So nyah nyah to you.

Fortunately for the tight time-frame, I had gone through most of the exercises before. Naturally, some of the results of my exercising are not fit for public consumption (I know who lurks in the shadows of this blog) but I thought I’d share a few snippets.

I am fortunate that I have had relatively few harsh words come my way (hiding your light under a bushel works well, if you don’t mind the smoke getting in your eyes) and a few quite nice ones. But there is still the self-sabotaging voice of the internal Resistance echoing round my cranium.

I don’t think discouragement needs to take the form of words to make us doubt ourselves. So maybe we need to consider things which are not words, though they are harder to pin down and rebut. Thought In Progress.

I confess, exercise six warmed the cockles of my heart – gathering together every scrap of positive reinforcement of my validity as a writer. Took nearly a whole page of my A5 repurposed diary.

I went on an artist date, too – I went to the shop at the corner and dropped my shiny gold coin into a slot. I turned the handle, and boing, boing, boing, out came my multi-hued bouncy ball. And of course, one cannot have a bouncy ball without bouncing it.

As C. S. Lewis so aptly said (or rather wrote), “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” My hero.

The ‘alternate lives’ exercise was another bundle of fun – I’ve always wanted to be one of these:
but I don’t know of any courts that are hiring.

I really struggled with the affirmations – not the basic mechanics of it, but the meaning it. New Zealand is not one of the societies where blowing one’s own trumpet is encouraged, or even tolerated. Self-deprecation is the order of the day.

So in order to say something like “I am a channel for God’s creativity, and my work comes to good” without a trace of sarcasm is a feat which more or less requires the wearing of a funny hat with bells on.

I should make me one.

My favourite affirmation (of the ones I came up with myself) said simply this: I am meant to be a dreamer.

Next week month – that is, this month (already a quarter gone!) I shall look at recovering a sense of identity. (Who, me?)

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