Artist’s Way Week 3: Putting Yourself First Is Tricky

Mar 30, 2023 | Blog

As the days and weeks pass, more and more I’m remembering why I haven’t managed to get to the end of the twelve-week ‘path’ of The Artist’s Way. For most of this week my partner was away. This meant I had to do all the parenting of my five-year-old, as well as get up half an hour early to do my morning pages. As the week progressed, my enthusiasm for it lessened as my tiredness grew. Was it really making that much of a difference anyway? Did I really need to tire myself out in order to be more creative? So, I slipped. This week was the first week I missed two morning pages. It was hard not to fee like a failure.

The other problem is finding the time. One hour a day. It’s not much, is it? All I have to do is read through the exercises, think about myself, and take myself on a ‘date’ once a week. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but even so early in the process I find that my days are getting clogged up. I get to the evening, put my daughter to bed and realise that I haven’t done the exercises yet for that day. This is absolutely not a time when I want to be sitting down and thinking about things. I want to sit quietly, watch some TV, maybe drink some sleepy tea. So I rushed some of them, didn’t do as many as I’d hoped for and, again, felt like a failure.

It’s also difficult when ‘normal’ life changes. I had a friend over to stay for the weekend. Surely the things we did together (staying up late to finish a puzzle, getting a massage on a Monday afternoon) were, in themselves, things that would help my inner artist? But having her around meant I missed the ‘prescribed’ activities in the book. Once again, a sense of failure crept in.

Little changes are still changes. Let’s hope this plant is still around at the end of Week 12…

It’s interesting to note that a large part of the reading for Week 3 focuses on ‘shame.’ Julia Cameron talks about how this crippling emotion can surround any form of art. This could be from a childhood where your art was rubbished or you were told it was just a hobby, to how the very act of creation shines a light on yourself, on society, on the world around us. In any form, creating is an act of exposure. I’m sure that a lot of the reason we self-censor so often is to try and save ourselves from the eventual criticism we are sure will be waiting for us once we share our precious creations with the world.

Some of the activities this week were focused on thinking about myself as a child. What I was like, what I enjoyed, what my bedroom looked like. It’s reminded me of the ease I had as a young child – in myself, my clothes, my tastes, my abilities. My daughter has absolutely no problem looking at something she’s made and saying, ‘I did so well, I’m really good at drawing, aren’t I, mummy?’ Somewhere along the line, the fear of failure, of criticism, the shame at believing in yourself, infiltrates and insinuates until you can’t even finish the story you started because of all the ways it might turn out badly.

I wonder if finding a portion of time for myself each day or each week is hard because I’m just not used to it. Work, activities with my partner or my child, shopping, cooking, all of these things swallow up my day and are largely for other people. The idea of doing an activity, taking some time, going for a walk, or simply sitting and breathing for ten minutes, is so alien I’m finding that, once again, I feel like I’ve failed before I’ve really begun.

Baby me had far more creative confidence, even if she had a massive fringe.

Last time, I decided to set myself back by a few days. It’s ok, I said, I’ll just start the week’s reading and activities on a Wednesday instead of a Monday. Then Wednesday slipped to the following Monday, and before I knew it there had been eight weeks of time in the space I’d got to the end of Week 4 in the book. Because I hadn’t done it ‘properly,’ I decided I couldn’t do it all. Which eventually lead to me giving up.

So this time, I’m trying to acknowledge those feelings of failure. Recognise that missing a couple of days doesn’t negate the fact that I’ve done them every other day for three weeks. That doing a rushed job of thinking about who I am and what I want is better than not doing it at all. Recognising that a lot of this is all tangled up with my identity as an artist – the underlying shame at wanting to be recognised for something I create. That it’s connected to how I give up before something is finished because at least then it will never be exposed to the world and criticised.

Maybe the reason I’ve never completed this course is because I find it hard to put my needs and desires before everyone else in my life. Because making a sacrifice for other people is hard, but doing it for myself is even harder. While it feels like this week didn’t go very well, I actually worked on my WIP for the first time in months. I finished two of my ‘Making March’ projects and bought some new plants and glass paints while on my artist’s date. The steps may have been smaller and harder to take this week, but I’m still walking in the right direction.

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