Opening up, trying to more creative can feel dangerous at times.
My emotions are feeling very present. In week five of the The Artist’s Way programme we are trying to recover possibilities. I manage a few days of my Morning Pages – free writing three pages each day – and also an Artist’s Date around a Market in London. In amongst the lists of fun activities I could be trying, I am also thinking a lot about past me and I find it difficult to navigate without big emotions coming up to the surface.
In a The Artist’s Way is a self-help programme for your whole life not just your inner artist. It asks you to dig quite deep into your psyche to uncover what are your blocks. This means reviewing your childhood, your friendships and to stop the censoring of the negative narratives you have built up over the years. Asking also to identify your spiritual beliefs, giving over more to these to align with your flow.
And if this is not what you are used to it is bound to shock the system. Analysing the pay-off of your habits, having the blocks in place, is like living in a safer, duller space. The creative flow, that is part of who you are according to Julia Cameron, has an impact on life outside of trying to write. It effects my ability to stay calm. Outbursts of emotion, including anger for me, makes life more volatile.
But also, other things that are harder to reprimand myself for. Feeling bursts of energy. A child-like look at possibilities. Agreeing to run down the hill with my son. Then trying to wake him in the night to show him a partial eclipse. In my defence, he is usually awake late so it was extra frustrating that he didn’t get to see this. The moon is his big passion of the moment. Like days of old, I am not sure that I didn’t go a little mad or at least manic to see the eclipse. Not a bad omen, perhaps, but a portent of an unsettling new times.
The pay-off then that I have identified in Week Five’s exercises is to be pitted against the possibilities. The free association activities are particularly satisfying; who knew I fancied learning to can-can but hated gardening as much as the idea of a bungee jump. The exercises let you identify areas you wish you could explore and what you would avoid, what you would spend money on and what you want to be doing at 65. It seems to open up possibilities, give interesting new perspectives.
Making lists is fun, I can cope with that, but I think the exercise I found the hardest was writing from the perspective of my eight-year-old self. She was disappointed in me. She didn’t care so much about my academic prowess or what I was doing for a job, but she didn’t think I was being myself. Confronting the part of yourself that doesn’t feel you have met your potential is the ultimate imposter syndrome.
And so much in these lists and ideas you are tapping into your childhood. In an earlier chapter Cameron writes
“Shame is retriggered in us as adults because our internal artist is always a creative child. Because of this, making a piece of art may cause us to feel shame.”
The inner critic and even external critic of future work holds us back. But more than this, the raw emotions that may burst forth can also shame us. This side that can still identify with the playfulness and deafening imagination of me aged eight, it’s hard to reconcile with the person I present to the world.