Friday, May 17, 2013

Self Leveling

and this guy's a friggin' senator now!

I've been on a bit of a self improvement kick lately. I am continuing the whole electronics management side of things, and it is going well, if not perfectly. Pulling the phone chargers out of the bedroom has been especially helpful, and setting email check times at work along with writing down which projects I am going to work on in my Outlook calendar has helped my productivity quite a bit.

One of the big side-effects of spending less time plugged in is that I find myself with a lot more time to read. I recently picked up my copy of Julia Cameron's The Artists' Way for the third or fourth time. The book provides a road map for revitalizing your inner artist in whatever form it may take. I have several artistically successful friends who have used it book to good effect to kickstart their creative lives. I, however, have tried a number of times to get into it but have never lasted much beyond the first week or two.

Cameron's advice is on the Stuart Smalley side. Lots of self affirmation and artistic pampering. The method is also big on an exercise called morning papers--writing three pages of stream-of-consciousness first thing every morning to clear your brain of all the garbage rattling around. It's one of the first exercises you start, and I have never managed to get rolling on it.

I've always had a hard time keeping a journal, and morning papers feels much like journaling to me. I kept tons of sketchbooks as a kid, but I just couldn't write for fun. I would occasionally pop out a short story or attempt and fail to write something longer, but I didn't do the bad poetry and dear diary thing as a kid much less as an adult. Plus, Cameron insists that you do it in the morning. First thing. Every day. I have a hard enough time getting out of bed fifteen minutes before I need to be out the door.

This time, I also realized something else: Cameron is a really redundant, ham-handed writer. She provides three or four long-winded, often metaphor heavy examples to illustrate the why for each exercise in the process. I know she must be a beautiful, thriving artist, but I get really annoyed when people write or talk like a being that is Artist, or Actor. It feels phony. It bugs. Maybe that's part of my problem.

Despite all of my issues with this book, I keep feeling myself drawn back to it every few years, and I keep dabbling for a few days or weeks before letting it fall aside. The fundamental principles seem sound--clear your mind; set aside time for your creative self; let yourself fail; improvement takes time. They're just wrapped in saccharine schlock that is a chore to get through.

I'm back at one of those points. I really want to get my artist going again. I've had some success of late with the maps and mini painting and a couple other drawings. My creative juices are flowing. I just don't have a whole lot of direction. I crave structure and continue to lack follow-through. There is the book... staring at me on the shelf, full of all its artsy messages about being an extension of God's expression in the world. Snowflake. Butterfly. Barf.

Yet... successful friends... need for a plan. I go back.

Any of you lovely readers had success with The Artist's Way? What do you do when you are feeling energized but unfocused?

1 comment:

  1. I've never read the "The Artists Way." And it doesn't sound like I'd I want to read it. Yes, writing can be transcendental, but its also work.

    Yeah, Julie Cameron's been around for 30+ years, but when I look on Amazon, it looks like most of her books are about inspiring people to be artists--but where's her novels? where's her actual works?

    You crave structure? Then pick a time, every day, to sit down and do your work. Make it a habit.

    I've read lots of books on self-help, writing, and so on. And they can be helpful but they also can turn into a distraction in their own right.


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