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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

World Enough, and Time

The Artist's Way:  Creativity, Self-Sabotage, and Withdrawal

We are starting Week 4 of the Artist's Way program.

Let me backtrack a little.  "The Artist's Way" is a book by Julia Cameron about "getting in touch with your inner artist."  Her theory is that each of us builds walls between our personalities and our creative selves.  We place subconscious limits on our creativity when we listen to negative criticism ("Why do you bother writing that garbage?  You're never going to get published anyway.")  We sabotage ourselves by finding reasons and excuses for not writing ("I really do not have the time this week...maybe I can squeeze in a few minutes next week...").

We find ways to shut off that flow of creativity.

Julia has developed a twelve-week program for opening that spigot again.  It involves standing up to those negative thoughts and breaking down those walls--and shooting down excuses.

The biggest piece of the program is "Morning Pages."  Every morning, before doing anything else, grab a pen and pour three pages of stream-of-consciousness ramblings out onto paper.  Don't go back and read it; don't even think about what's being written.  She compares this to a brain dump, flushing out all of the mental garbage that will come between you and your creativity for the rest of the day.

Second is the Artist's Date.  This is time you set aside for you and your creativity.  Get out of the house.  Go for a long walk.  Stop and smell the flowers.  And look for something that connects you to your creativity--notice how that dead, twisted tree makes you wonder about what twisted spirits may live under it.

Each week has a different exercise designed to help you recognize your own set of self-imposed limitations and self-sabotage strategies.  

And that brings us to week 4.

Now, I'm an information junkie.  When I get to work, I hit my favorite sites, open every link that I may find interesting into a new tab, and then minimize the browser.  It's not uncommon for me to open twenty or thirty tabs when I sit down at my desk.  Later in the day, when a particular program is not responding appropriately to my tweaking, troubleshooting, and mumbled-under-the-breath obscenities, I use those tabs as a distraction--flush my brain, veg out with an article about something that interests me, get away from it all--even if it's only for three minutes, it's enough for me to catch my breath and come back to the problem with a new focus.

Week 4's challenge, unfortunately, is to stop reading for the week.  No magazines, no television, blogs, articles, essays, whatever.  Disconnect.  Cold turkey information junkie withdrawal.

Writers live for words.  You might almost say that writers are addicted to words.  Julia's view of this week's exercise is to stop being addicted to other people's words--and in the big, cavernous echo chamber that remains when you shut off those words, just maybe, you'll hear the tiny call of your own words piping up out of the darkness...

...hopefully before the withdrawal shakes kick in too badly...


Allan Davis is a writer, photographer, programmer, and completely unrepentant information junkie, currently sweltering in the sun-baked middle of the US of A.
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