No Pain, No Gain
This week’s chapter of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way was very good. It made me take a deep breath, grumble and groan, but it was good. I had to face the many ways in which I block myself from writing. I say so many negative things to myself in my head, but actually writing them down and thinking about what they were was painful. Painful, but necessary – as they say, “No pain, no gain”. Ouch.
Instead of trying to summarize this week’s chapter, I will share with you Cameron’s Rules of the Road that she outlines and describes in this chapter:
The Rules of the Road
By Julia Cameron:
- Show up at the page. Use the page to rest, to dream, to try.
- Fill the well by caring for my artist [sortof like the inner child concept].
- Set small and gentle goals, and meet them.
- Pray for guidance, courage, and humility.
- Remember that it is far harder and more painful to be a blocked artist than it is to do the work.
- Be alert, always, for the presence of the Great Creator leading and helping my artist.
- Choose companions who encourage me to do the work, not just talk about doing the work or why I am not doing the work.
- Remember that the Great Creator loves creativity.
- Remember that it is my job to do the work, not judge the work.
- Place this sign in my workplace: “Great Creator, I will take care of the quantity. You take care of the quality.”
We have daily conversations with ourselves, silently, inside our heads. A lot of this chapter was about our daily inner conversations regarding our art (in my case, my chosen art is writing). We may say a lot of negative things about making our daily word count, why don’t we write enough, why can’t we write like so-and-so, why aren’t we published yet, why can’t our current book be as good as our last, etc. All of this talk is self-defeating and is full of self-doubt.
Cameron gives nice anecdotes and analogies in this chapter about the evil of self-doubt. For example, we keep all of our good, wilder ideas glowing, outside of a room full of things we find comfortable. When we encounter one of those bright ideas and, instead of seeing its delight we are afraid, we shut the door on it. Slam!
The most helpful detail amidst the anecdotes and analogies that stabbed into me was: Pay attention. One can only be delighted in life if we pay attention. Deadening ourselves with doubtful self-talk is a demon of inattentiveness.
They say, “Smell the roses”, and this is the basic idea: Pay attention to the world, and you will find delight and happiness, instead of darkness. Pay attention, Cameron says, and self-doubt will not persuade you to its side.
She does not just leave it at that, though. She gives a list of tasks at the end of the chapter, which include listing 20 things you like, choosing 2 for that week, and then actually doing them. She covers why and how to cut toxic people out of your life, comparing non-active creatives to a group of alcoholic friends that want their newly non-alcoholic friend to return to the familiar fold. Tempting and easy as it may be, Cameron cautions her readers and students against such a move, saying the only way to progress, in a way, is pain.
Paying attention is painful. Growing as a person is painful. Growing as a writer is painful. This is what Cameron communicates in the second week of her book.
Battling My Dragon
This week was tough for me; I’m a little behind, and still doing some my tasks that were at the end of this chapter. I brought myself on a little shopping trip and let myself get some useful but fun items I had been really wanting. I have yet to bake, which was one item on my list that I enjoy doing but always find excuses not to do.
As for the writing itself, well…my goal today is to just finish one page, that’s how deadened I am inside, how wonder-less, how pained. Right now it hurts to write, because I’ve spent too much time talking to the self-doubt in my head. But I’m just going to go through the pain, and write that page.
A sweet thing about this chapter is that continuing to read The Artist’s Way gave me the bravery to look at my book more objectively – as I revise it – and consider rearranging the first few chapters in various ways, to see what events needs to happen first. It’s very exciting and scary! I’ll let you know how it goes, once I’ve decided on an arrangement. After that, I’m moving on past chapter 9 to further revision and rewriting.
I hope that all of you are doing well in writing, doing whatever it is that makes you feel successful in it, whether that be researching, revising, drafting, doodling…but if you aren’t feeling good about it right now, take heart. I’m in the same spot as you. You’re not alone. And the pain you’re feeling right now, you CAN work through it, and you won’t be despondent or unproductive forever. Remember that.
And maybe pick up your own copy of The Artist’s Way!
Until next week,