Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Casting Out and Persevering

Chapter 12 - Uncovering a Sense of Perseverance, starts with this, "We are stronger than we know." I want to ring that sentence out to each of you like a mantra or send it out on a long fishing rod through this page, so that you take it in, breathe it in. And it's not just that each of us, individually, are stronger than we realize (which we are), but also as a group. Powerful things happen in communities, whether they be in a neighborhood, a family, a workplace, a knitting group, or a gathering of creative bloggers. All of our creative energies bounce around and off one another in amazing and unseen ways which tip the dominoes of our life in wild, unexpected directions. I don't know how to explain the phenomenon of group energy, but I feel it and it's exciting. Over the last twelve weeks, the shifts for you may have been tiny or large, but they will continue to ripple out as if in a huge lake, having an effect on the road you are headed down. I remember I had that experience with The Artist's Way, I was still feeling the effects for months and months after, as I took many creative leaps. So, keep an eye out for continued shifts.

The Divining Rod that asks us to look at what has changed over the last 12 weeks in this chapter (p260) and the one in the last chapter, were really helpful for me in seeing the shifts that have taken place. Sometimes shifts are so subtle that I don't recognize them. Through asking those questions I realized my sense of color has shifted, I'm doing better at seeking out connections with others, and in trusting myself. It's good to reflect, so if you haven't already, take some time to look back and see what shifts may have happened for you.

I've been resisting writing about the final chapter as I struggle a bit with endings. I know, every ending is a beginning though, and I'm ready to launch. The last chapter is loaded with good reminders, almost a gift bag of tools for the road. We are reminded to be consistent (whether we feel like it or not), to show up (often the hardest part), to self-nurture, to find inspiration everywhere and treat ourselves to experiences that fill our well, to give ourselves credit for what we have done, give ourselves permission to make art (writing, music, food, whatever) badly, to play regularly, and to enlist the support of others in our goals and dreams.

What I've learned through this twelve weeks, is that I feel much better when I'm working at my art, when I'm taking those next small steps, one bit at a time. It sounds so simple, so obvious, but sometimes I need to be reminded. By doing morning pages, I feel a sense of accomplishment, my head is cleared and I already feel productive, self-esteem increases and I am ready to work. I've sensed something new in my art. Cameron touched on it when she wrote, "When artists are working regularly, they are spiritually centered. The act of making art is a spiritual act and our daily exposure to this realm does have an impact on our personality. It does not matter what language we use to describe it..." Sometimes I have trouble relating to the form in which Cameron speaks about this connection. I think of it as spirituality, the Universe, intuition. But she's right, it doesn't matter what you call it. I do feel more centered. And when I'm away from creating, I feel less so. That's so good for me to recognize.

If you did not finish the book, if you got stalled along the way, don't let it get you down. Focus on what you did do and give yourself credit. There's no one perfect way to do this kind of work. Sometimes it's hard to contain everything you want in a week, sometimes the timing is off. Feel free to go back to chapters and exercises that you missed. Some people in the group started a little later and haven't quite finished, so feel free to keep checking in. I've met so many wonderful people through this group and I hope to stay in touch. I plan on continuing with my morning pages, artist dates and walks and soon my journey will continue as I lead an in person group through The Artist's Way this summer at the Wish Studio! I'm so excited for this opportunity to stand in as a guide and watch as others explore and expand their own creativity. I've worked through The Artist's Way numerous times now and have also gone through Walking in this World. The good thing about these books is that they are good to return to from time to time as there are always new insights to grasp as we are always at a new place on our path. It seems I've been on this path for a very long time and I'm always learning from others and from myself.

The chapter ends with Cameron writing about how she and her friends egg eachother on. I made a goal for the week with a friend of mine who is thinking of starting her own business. Just knowing I'm going to talk about it with her this week has me energized and focused. "We cannot make art by committee," Cameron writes, "but we can enlist eachother's support. We may work alone, but we are in it together." So, in this ending which is also a beginning, I want to encourage you to use the tools that have worked for you, keep taking that next small step, and reach out to eachother. We have such an amazing group of creative women surrounding us, if we just set out in the water with our wading boots or our little rowboats and cast our rods and go fishing! I can't wait to see all that you come up with!

Much luck and love on your creative journeys.
Creative EveryDay

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Week 11: Uncovering a Sense of Discipline

Hello Everyone!

Well, we are hereby half-way through Week 11 of Finding Water. Can you believe it?!

Last night I finally got a chance to sit down and read. I usually like to read the whole chapter at the beginning of the FW week, but I must admit that even though I was late in getting around to the reading, my timing couldn't have been better. Last night I had to unplug my computer because of a thunder storm. I had been sitting at my desk all day long trying to write an essay and, well, my levels of frustrated exhaustion were getting dangerously high. I think I needed the storm. Since all of my work is on the computer, I was forced to call it quits for the night.

With my long night of work thwarted, I instead headed upstairs to the bedroom with a cup of chamomile tea and my book. I lit candles and then nestled into our freshly laundered bed. Several windows were open--just enough to let the sound of the rain and a sweet, soft breeze fill the room. If there is one thing I love, it is rain. And even more? Spring rain.

Maybe it was the perfect reading conditions or the tea or the fact that I was just so relieved to be giving my project a short break for the night--but I really enjoyed this chapter. It felt good to read. And that is one of the things that I am going to miss at the end of this Finding Water journey: the time I spend each week to simply be. I don't know about you, but there are just too many facets of my life that are attached to a goal or an end result. But I don't feel that way with Finding Water. Sure, there is a goal and hopefully there will be an end result--but, I've been approaching this book (and our group) with a different attitude. Bettering ourselves is ongoing. There is no finish line. Like many of you, I think that some chapters of the book have been better than others--but each time I sit down to read, Cameron's words remind me that whatever the state of our mind, our schedule, our situation: we must persevere.

This week's chapter, "Uncovering a Sense of Discipline," spoke with special clarity to me. I'm sure that we all have our "favorite" chapters. I think it's pretty safe to say that the chapters that speak to us the most are the ones that best reflect the issues we are facing in our lives. In this chapter, there are several places that I've underlined, not once, but twice.

These days I am attempting to piece the dangling threads of my thesis together. It has been an extremely long road, but finally I think I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have questioned and re-questioned myself a hundred-thousand times. Julia writes:

The courage to create is a courage to make something out of what we are feeling. Out of of the swirl of emotions comes some cogent form of expression. It may be a daub of paint. It may be a poem. It may be a few measures of music. Whatever it is, it is the distillate of our humane personality. We seek to express what it is that wants to be expressed through us. (232)
Whatever your art, creating from the heart takes great courage. You become vulnerable and this, at times, causes fear to rear its ugly head. I don't know about you, but fear makes me doubt myself. It makes me want to run for the hills. Starting over begins to sound like an easy solution--but, as Julia points out, even though starting over can be an option, sometimes it is more important that we try to trust. That is, after all, what perseverance is.

I think that the most important lesson that I am taking away from this week's reading is learning to trust. This is scary to me. I mean, what if everything that I am doing is crap? What if I'm just wasting my time? But better: What if everything I am doing is good? What if I just asked my ego to stand aside for a minute? What if I simply believed in myself and my project?

Of course, keeping up a constant stream of belief can be difficult (if not impossible)--and that is where discipline steps in. If I ask myself to sit down for just twenty minutes a day or an hour or whatever I can give myself--then I will move forward. It is inevitable. With forward movement comes belief and with belief comes trust. The more I trust, the more I accomplish. This is the positive cycle that I am trying to learn. And, through this book, I think it is the positive cycle that we are all trying to learn.

These days I feel like I am like the butterfly museum employee that Julia writes about in "Cycles" (240-243). I work in a quaint little garden shop and a truly magical children's bookstore. I don't make much money, but I am surrounded by beauty on a daily basis. I don't feel like I will stay at either of these jobs forever--but what these jobs offer me right now is a gentle cocoon in which to let the beauty of my own wings take shape.

We are all butterflies. And, as Julia reminds us: "Art is transformational."

On page 243 there is a Divining Rod that I invite all of you to spend some time with. Julia asks that you simply witness your own transformation. She's included a handful of questions to get you started, but don't hesitate to take it in your own direction. In sitting down to write this, I am beginning to realize just how transformative these past several months of blogging The Art of Perseverance have been. Many of the changes have been so subtle that I haven't noticed them at first. If you decide to do this divining rod on your blog, please leave a link in the comments. I think that this is an important exercise. It asks us to take a step back and acknowledge the progress we've made, even the little growth spurts and subtle changes that weren't obvious at first.

At the moment, I am looking out a window into the woods across the street. In just a matter of days my whole world has changed from brown to green. It is a welcome site. And after last night's rain my world has turned even more vibrant. As I write these words, there is a small white butterfly flitting around in the small clearing that acts as a doorway into miles of forest and trails. The sun dances on her pure white wings.

I want to be that butterfly. And, in a way, I am. I believe that we all are.

"Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark." ~Agnes de Mille