A number of years ago, I suddenly lost a job. It was devastating and, not having close friends in that town, I ended up at a walk-in mental health clinic to talk to someone. After a while, the counsellor said, “You need to read The Artist’s Way.”
I left rather peeved. I was bawling about how I wasn’t sure how I’d eat and pay the bills and this woman was telling me to go read a self-help book. ARG! I didn’t listen to her. I found another job the next day and carried on.
However, the title stuck in my head and probably a year later I was in a book store and I wanted to buy something, remembered that title so went in search of it to finally see what it was about.
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is a workbook for writers and creatives. I worked through it all that summer and it was amazing. More than anything it led me back to myself. I realized the dreams I had for myself as a kid were actually still the ones I had as an adult but I’d gotten sidetracked.
I suppose I owe that counsellor some credit for having figured out within one hour of listening to my blubbering that my anxiety over losing the job wasn’t so much about the job itself as I was struggling to find my place in a boxy world that I didn’t fit into.
Cameron instructs people to write for one hour a day, as I recall, and it’s simply free flow writing with no goal or structure and then you’re supposed to shove whatever you come up with into an envelope you’ve decorated (that’s one of the creative exercises) and not look at it again.
Well, right there, that was one rule too many for me. Sorry. Geez. I’m really not oppositional. I just kind of do things my own way. To paraphrase something my mom said about me once in exasperation,
She not only marches to a different drummer but she has to pick a different drum beat too.
Anyway, I’ve repeated aspects of the workbook over the years and adapted Ms. Cameron’s suggestions. Starting in November, I wrote every day and then taped whatever I came up with on my gloriously blank, wood panel kitchen wall. Then, every few weeks I took down material that seemed out of place or unimportant and shoved it in an envelope that I never took time to decorate and kept things that still resonated with me up a bit longer. Then I slowly started to search for recurring themes or words or ideas in the pieces and tried to figure out where they were coming from or leading me.
It helped me to begin to break down the greater goal of wanting to write outside of the technical stuff I often do at work into smaller goals that seem achievable. Starting this blog was on one of those lists. Talking to the local children’s author was another.
I have stopped taping my writing to the kitchen wall now and am going to use this blog and other ways to carry on the process. For now the only thing left on my gloriously blank wood panel kitchen wall is this Christmas card from my 5-year-old niece. I love that she spelled the “V” sideways the first time and took another crack at it so I actually get TWO loves and hearts on my card. She told her Kindergarten teacher, “This is my Auntie with the crazy hair.”