Ink-Stained Scribe

Three Months to New Creativity: The Artist's Way

When I was 21, I lived alone for the first time. I was overweight, depressed, and coming out of a stale relationship that left me emotionally and creatively drained. I headed into my final year with an advanced case of Senioritis and a death grip on the goals that have always been my lifeline.

Suddenly it was just me in a refinished basement with cinderblock walls and not enough windows, and I had to face the truth: I'd forgotten how to be alone. I'd sacrificed so much of my energy and time in that relationship, tamped myself down for so long, I didn't know how to use time I wasn't stealing between classes. I couldn't write. I couldn't sing. I couldn't draw. I had no "self" anymore.

A sphere expanded around me, a protective bubble so much like the shield my character Alukale casts when the pressures of the world become too much. It didn't feel safe to let anyone in, because what had happened hurt so deeply it felt like someone had uprooted my heart and ripped out the veins. Cold, empty spaces tunneled inside me and I didn't even want to fill them.

I went to the local second-hand bookstore to sell some of my books (to get extra cash for coffee; if that sounds glamorously bohemian, it really wasn't) and I got store credit instead of cash for a few things. I went looking for books and a familiar cover caught my eye: The Artist's Way.

It went something like this:

The Artist's Way

That suave, simple, unequivocally-directed-at-me "Hello" from the universe. (And, I mean, who wouldn't take that home?)

I knew The Artist's Way. It changed my mother's life and set her on the path to a career she loves. When I was 17, she had this plan that involved a total lifestyle overhaul for her, my dad, and me: The Artist's Way, a diet, and a Pilates. Simultaneously. It was too much too fast, and we juggled those three balls for about a month before the inevitable burn-out.

This time, however, it was just me. And I had nothing at all left to lose. No novel. No energy. No plan.

Over the next three months, I went through the Artist's Way and it was the equivalent of cleaning out my spiritual/creative gutters. Finally, i had the tools to clear away years of accumulated negativity, and rediscover some beautiful moments of encouragement. I was able to address and let go of many of my core negative beliefs. Yeah, some of the terminology and ideas are a little hokey (Artist Child? Positive Affirmations? The Great Creator? I'll start practicing kumbaya on my mandolin; I'll even try not to talk about Gullah socio-linguistics.) but it worked anyway.

It helps that the author, Julia Cameron, is up front: "You don't have to believe it. Do the work, and the results will follow." I had nothing to lose at that point, so I did the work. Results followed.

It's been a little over five years, and I'm in an entirely new situation. I'm supporting myself now, in an economy that sucks and a job that, at worst, makes the insomnia and anxiety and fatigue come back, and which I'm not even close to enthusiastic about. I've made a lot of headway on my career path of being a writer, but still haven't quite "made it" yet.

Last week, a friend in my writing/arts club was having a really crappy week. Her uncertain situation and difficulty with her art and transition left her blocked and frustrated. I recognized the words coming out of her mouth--the unspoken need to break out of the self-imposed cages of fear, expectation, and uncertainty.

The Artist's Way was on the shelf right behind her.

I shoved it into her hands and started babbling at my group in a way that probably would have accorded a few discreet phone calls in any normal circle. I badgered and cajoled and convinced them all to start it with me. I bought the last three copies at B&N and chucked it at their heads. So we got copies, purchased pens and notebooks, and started the basic tools: morning pages and the Artist Date.

One of the reasons I wanted my group to do AW was that I desperately need to do it myself. I've been improving my craft an my business sense, my networking and my platform, but I've been feeling unfulfilled and trapped in my own life for a while now, despite huge leaps in podcasting and writing. I think the self-discovery tools of AW will help me yet again to recover what I've cut myself off from.

Already, I've been struck by synchronicity. I was just complaining in my morning pages that I have no credentials to back up my experience in podcasting and social media beyond the Parsec Finalist (which is awesome, but admittedly a niche award). And then my friend and fellow podcaster, Abbie Hilton, sent me an email inviting me and a few others to join her as a speaker/panelist at the 2013 New Media Expo in Las Vegas.


Same day turnaround. Okay then. If I was having doubts about whether it would work for me this time--and I was--I'm feeling a bit more reassured now.

So. Leap and the net will appear.

Let's go.