What Holds You Back?

Everything in moderation, right? Some of our habits can become so important to us that they hold us back in our life and in our creativity.

Week ten of The Artist’s Way programme is about recovering your sense of self-protection. Julia Cameron uses examples in her essay of how we abuse things in our life to numb us from our experiences, that may be drugs, food or even workaholism.  It was a difficult week because she asks you to dig into what you use to stop you working.  This level of vulnerability in your pages, though just for your own eyes, can bring up some strong emotions. It asked you to analyse these deadlies -: drugs, food, sex, work, money, alcohol and family/friends – and see how they have held you back.

Even those that don’t seem relevant in your life you had to think about your resistance to that category, it is an interesting exercise of analysis. You may find you have deep-seated beliefs about why you are not safe around certain substances, for example. I think it is quite a difficult task to do and again I wonder whether the emotional toll of thinking about these difficult topics is a good thing to do alone. Issues around food, family these are really big topics and I can’t be the only one who found these exercises emotionally taxing. What is the point of facing the truth of what holds you back? To ask yourself: do your nurture your inner creativity?

If you are not nurturing your creativity, you may be stifling it. Other areas that she identifies as stifling it are the pursuit of fame and competition. The synchronicity bells were ringing again, I entered a writing competition, scrabbling around to rewrite the start of my novel to get it in for the deadline. I got nowhere with the competition. As a result, I am lurking on the edge of a writers’ forum, uncertain if I want to participate because I didn’t win. This petulance is a good marker that my ego was a little bruised by the whole process, and she sees that competition can also be harmful to our process.

“Instead of saying ‘that proves it can be done’ your fear will say ‘ He will achieve instead of me.”

Julie Cameron

If nothing else, her understanding of competition was salve for my ego. There are some benefits of course to get your fledgling writing assessed, but you also have to be careful how far you let it fly, lest it gets its wings clipped by the critique.

With the information you gather from assessing what is holding you back, she suggests you start to identify boundaries or “bottom lines.” So that you can carve out the space for work. This will also help you recognise when you are using something like food (or the deadly trash tv for me) to zone out rather than be there for your creativity. So, you set new rules about your work. I think not having the right boundaries can really stop you from working towards your dreams.

I do think there are some helpful activities in this week’s process. Seeing what is holding you back can help you take what you are doing creatively seriously, re-organising your priorities to push it to the front. But I also think it is really important to balance out uncovering what habits hold you back, with what nurtures you.

Think about all the things that can nurture the senses of your inner creative child and build these into your life. For me these were: grapefruit scent, gnarled tree bark, the sound of uplifting music, warm blankets and cushions. And though there are difficult things that do you hold you back, the one thing that combat all these difficult emotions is the sense of gratitude that there are so many simple things that can make us happy.

You can read more about my journey through the programme here:

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