Tag Archives: Julia Cameron

yada

index

Writing: I haven’t written for a couple of weeks as I planned a research trip, got ready for a class, and did some family babysitting in my role as grandmother. So the story feels far away. It’s like climbing back on a wild horse to write at it again. Horse is out there in the corral bucking and snorting, and I’m sitting on the fence looking at it and thinking, I can’t ride that. Can and will. Have before, but it never gets any easier.

Teaching: Leading an Artist’s Way. Not doing it the length Ms. Cameron suggests, but Rice U. makes the rules. We’ll be at it six weeks. Everyone is so eager and interested. I’m in love with them all. Morning Pages I will do. It’s the Artist’s Date that’s hard for me. As Ms. Cameron says, “We hunger for what might be called creative living—an expanded sense of creativity in our business lives, in sharing with our children, our spouse, our friends.” Don’t you?

Me: I’m taking a watercolor class. Have told myself for years I wanted to. Finally got around to it. Have no art or drawing background or preparation, which means I don’t get near the end result I want. zinnaBut I love it…….l….o….v….e……it. It’s a great stretch and good play. I don’t play enough. Do you? It also challenges me. To be bad, a beginner, at something.

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care4

So more about the care and feeding of your writer……morning pages. They are the creation of Dorothea Brande to help her writing students learn discipline, and Julia Cameron included them in her Artist’s Way as a tool. You wake up in the morning and you write, long hand, three pages. Morning pages can be used to help you begin writing, they can be used when you’re in a stall, and they can be used to calm down fear. The idea is that you just pour whatever is inside onto the pages. Some say it drains away the negativity. (Much of morning pages is whining.) Some say ideas began to crop up now and then. Some say if you go back to the pages after a period of weeks, you can find a little gold, evidence of your talent or an idea for a story.

I once took a creativity course in which we had to do morning pages for six weeks. At some point near the end, we sat down with our pages and reread them. We had notecards on which to write anything interesting. There was a lot of drivel in mine, but also some really descriptive touches that pleased me very much and helped me later write about the death of my sister. The late Ray Bradbury used the idea of morning pages as a leaping off place. He woke with dreams still in his head and wrote the images, which became the seeds of stories. He learned to trust that not-quite awake state as a place to mine his imagination.

If you’re stalled, I can see stopping the work for a time, but doing morning pages faithfully. You’ll be writing, likely about your stall, and you may actually write past your complaints and fears back into the story you’re working on. And if you’re not disciplined, begin with morning pages. Do them every morning for six to eight weeks, then step back and see that you have been disciplined. And there will likely be a little gold to encourage you onward.

Care3

Here’s more on the care and feeding of your writer…..writers empty, particularly on long projects, like novels. Or they empty as they try to balance making a living at something else along with writing. Or they empty as they don’t ever finish a writing project. Or they empty as they mean to but don’t write. Or they empty as they don’t sell or get published. They get dry and used-up feelings. They get flat. They get sad and disheartened.

The artist’s date, a concept created by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, is an excellent way to make the curious, light- hearted child of your writer remember its smile. It’s a once a week date with yourself, and yourself only, to explore play, old dreams, forgotten curiosities. It a way to fill up the well. You can begin by listing 20 things you used to do that you don’t any more. Or by playing with your alter egos: what would you be if you could have five other lives: a dancer, a baker, a musician, a priest, a father? So you take out skates and go ice skating again or you go to a cathedral and listen to evensong or you sit in a park and watch young children play. You fill, and refilling is a slow process. It’s a correction of what has probably been years of neglect.

You pay attention again to an inner self. You take tiny pieces of forgotten dreams, tiny pieces of forgotten interests, and you do only that tiny piece: walk through art galleries soaking in color; ride the city bus to a place you haven’t explored but always looked interesting from the window; buy crayons and color blank pages or chalk up the sidewalk in front of your house. Paint a room red. Forgotten or long-for hobbies, classes you’d like to take if you had time, silly things you’d do if you dared, these are the closed boxes holding interest and curiosity, two things your writer needs to feel alive.  You recharge your  most tender and creative self with artist’s dates. You show respect when it feels like no one else in the world is.

It’s a daring act to make a continuing play date with your writer. It reopens longing, regret, curiosity, risk. And worst of all, maybe fun.

fresh

The new year can be a time of fresh starts, and one way is journaling. Julia Cameron of The Artist’s Way recommends writing three pages long-hand before you’re fully awake in the morning.

Why? Because you dump irritation, bad feelings, complaints onto the pages usually, and then you begin your day, and a lot of what would have muddied the hours is on those pages, rather than carried outward with you. It’s as if you’ve been heard. And writing three pages every morning creates discipline. (And more, but you’ll have to find out about that by going to her website.)

A lot of people are doing gratitude journals. A blog I read recently spoke to this topic with words from Nicoletta Baumeister:  “Gratefulness thoughts in the morning light are about the setting of the daily lens. What will we take in, what will we seek and what is today’s sense of self? Feeling grateful puts my feet on solid ground, able to work out the next step; whereas, asking what I don’t have sets my day on a frantic course.” She ends her day in an interesting way, too: “A poem, haiku or a small drawing at night has the effect of driving all other thoughts away. The narrowed focus and purity of intent creates a sense of calm after a day of supersaturated activity. It also affords feelings of satisfaction, job well done, if only in the tiniest work, so that I slip seamlessly into excellent sleep. Too many people out there have insomnia!”

Another way to journal is from wonderful Dr. Rachel Naomi Ramen, who counseled a successful but burned-out doctor in one of my favorite books, Kitchen Table Wisdom, to find again these three things in his days: what inspired him, what surprised him, what touched him. I’ve done this one for a long time, and it has transformed journal entries from junior high whining to memory rushes with sweetness.

And that, my dears, is what I want to take forward into this long day’s journey into night, into this particular new year in the journey, into aging, the only way forward in the journey: sweetness. What do you want?

hiccups

I had a haiku hiccup Friday. I was sitting outside; it was morning; I was in pajamas and drinking tea. Wind was high; fall is here–my favorite time of year in Houston. I was attempting to give myself daydream time, nothing specific, just mind rambles, which I think I don’t do often enough. It’s part of an experiment I’m doing around enhancing creativity in a gentle way. (Another part of the experiment is artist’s dates.) As I sat there, I saw a monarch butterfly sail in quietly and land on the green of my jasmine. The monarch didn’t move, not even her wings, once she landed. My mind rambled: she looks like a sailboat, is she tired, sailboats tack, is she dying. And the next thing I knew I had that wonderful urge to write a haiku; only my garden and its small dramas seem to inspire me. So here are my attempts:

off-course a monarch

settles wearily too close—

wind chimes call—dying……………………..

#2

a winter monarch

sails into the yard—off course—

it’s come home to die…………….

Can you make it better? I bet you can. I didn’t play much with sails or tacking nor the monarch’s color nor rest……..but what fun! My haiku hiccup. I need them more often, but I have to be in a receptive, relaxed state; i.e., I must create the opportunity for such states. What feeds your writing soul? Find something and do it often!

magpies

I’ve been given the ultimate artist’s date. I’m on a three month writing residency in Taos, New Mexico.  All around me is meadow, and yet town is just four or five blocks away. Clover and dandelions march right up to my small front porch. Some kind of wild berry is advancing toward the side window. Towering over me are cottonwoods and Dutch elms. Apple and wild plums are everywhere, and they’re blooming. Soft petals float through the air. Birds dart here and there like they own the place. Today I watched magpies (I think) build a nest. No loose sticks on the ground for them, but a deliberate pulling of twigs from trees all around. I just peeked at the nest. It’s magnificent. The road to my house is dirt. If I look west I see mountains, some peaks still covered with snow. If I go into town, I see gallery after gallery, shop after shop offering the best and finest of crafted things. The first day I arrived I sat outside in a chair and let the crystal clear air fill me up. It felt like cells were filling, too. I have to bring the outside world in. There is no television. No internet. Some of this is frightening. It’s so much easier to distract than it is to feel. An artist’s date is an hour a week you give yourself to fill back up, to feed that within you which creates. Already it’s occurred to me that I don’t take what I do…the writing….seriously enough. By that I don’t mean ego pounding on the chest. I mean more a nurturing and feeding of it. A respecting it. An asking what it needs. There are challenges in this all, the solitude, the inner critic, the making of a day when I am the day…..

Questions I ask….How do you nurture and feed yourself? Or better yet, a question I once read that stopped me in my tracks: what feeds your soul and makes you glad to be alive?

Earlier today as I sat in a chair, deep into the revisions of the novel, a hummingbird came to the window, making that special tweet they do, and hung suspended just long enough for me to look up and see…..that fed my soul…