It happened again! Somehow I am writing this three months after finishing week 7. Despite all my best intentions, I completely fell off The Artist’s Way wagon. My creative recovery most definitely stalled. Interestingly enough, it turns out that the last time I attempted to get through it I stopped at…Week 8. So what was it about this week that put me off from continuing? Why is it so hard to stick at something every day for three months?
First I’d like to officially say that I am re-committing myself to this project. 2023 will be the year I finish this book! I’ve already done some morning pages, finished off the exercises from Week 8 and gave myself a little trip to the bakery yesterday as a date. Not an enormous treat, but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere.
Being on holiday in Madagascar may have had something to do with my lapse…
In the reading for Week 8, Julia Cameron talks about ‘gain disguised as loss.’ She puts forward the interesting idea that you can ask the question ‘what is necessary next?’ in the face of failure, rather than ‘why me?’ Rejection is always a tricky one during creative recovery. I’m not sure I completely buy into the idea that you need to get a thick skin. For that, it feels like you would need to care a lot less about what you’re writing. For me, anyway, it’s been more about getting used to it, rather than it getting easier. About little tricks to get through the rejection, rather than embracing it as something on the road to success.
Firstly, I make sure I have at least two submissions out at a time, so at least if one comes back with a negative response I know that there’s something else out there in the ether that has a chance. I also changed the framing of it. Instead of sending out a submission thinking ‘is this good enough?’ I try to think ‘is this the right fit?’ That way, a rejection is not necessarily a sign that I am rubbish at what I do, more that it hasn’t yet found the right home.
I don’t think fear of rejection is what stopped me climbing that tree
But was a focus on rejection the reason why I stopped at this point? I don’t think so. The larger part of the reading for Week 8 focuses on two ideas: how age and product hold us back, and the idea of ‘filling in the form.’ For the first, she talks about how it’s easy to give up on something before you’ve even started because you’re too old/don’t have enough experience/aren’t Greek/insert excuse here. Or that we focus far too much on the finished product, the end goal, rather than the hard slog it takes to get there.
When she talks about ‘filling in the form,’ she means actually going and doing the thing that you’re talking about doing. One of the activities at the end is to break down your ‘dream’ into parts, so the ambition to be a brilliant author/artist/director is broken down into tiny steps you can do today, tomorrow, and next week.
Now this is where I think the problem lies. Like many aspiring artists trying to recover their creativity, I find it far easier to talk about the thing I want to do, or moan about how hard it is, or complain about the state of the publishing industry, than actually take action. It’s almost as if some weird self-sabotage steps into place to stop us from achieving what we really want. Maybe because we think we don’t deserve it, or we’re embarrassed about wanting it, whoever is grumbling away in our subconscious, it can be a powerful way of holding yourself back.
To the tiniest chameleon in the world, every step gets you just a little bit closer…
It was also interesting to find that I didn’t want to just put down that I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to include singer and actress on there, old dreams from childhood me that clearly don’t want to be shrugged off quite yet. So, in the spirit of thinking big, I gave them a little space on the page too. Why not?
In keeping with the idea that actions speak louder than words, I have once again turned my energy to my memoir about travelling with a young baby. I submitted it before and was not successful, probably part of the reason I’ve been putting it off ever since. But, since then, I’ve been on workshops, I’ve read lots of books, I’ve redrafted. I have, as Julia would say, filled in the form. So instead of moaning about how hard the memoir market is without really testing the water, I am resuming my enquiries with a brand-new proposal and some newly polished chapters to try and impress people with. After all, even if I do get a rejection, it’s just a sign it hasn’t found the right home!
My Failed Gardening as metaphor – growing even one tiny potato is better than growing none at all
The title of the next week is all about compassion. Which I think is a good note to end on. Rather than beat myself up about all the pages, dates and artistic progress missed in the last few months, I will instead think about all the ways I probably grew without noticing it, and accept that it wasn’t the right time, for whatever reason. Here’s to you embracing your failures as a chance to learn, and taking the time to make all those tiny little steps that lead to enormous change. Good luck with it!