This week tackles another major creative block: time. You will explore the ways in which you have used your perception of time to preclude taking creative risks. You will identify immediate and practical changes you can make in your current life. You will excavate the early conditioning that may have encourage you to settle for far less than you desire creatively.
Reading this week’s synopsis, my thinking was this week will focus on time management. In fact, I led myself to believe that if that was the case, then I could perhaps ease off a bit. That was not the case. As you can see, this week’s post has been two weeks in the making and my perception of week 8’s exercises were misguided. It’s also fitting and appropriate for the current events in my life. For some time now, I’ve been considering re-entry into my previous life as a techie. I was in search of an opportunity to feed both my intellectual and spiritual creativity. I did find such an opportunity and although in this first phase of development, it takes a majority of my time; in the long run it affords me freedom to create. These two weeks, I had to look within to discover my excuses. The life dramas I create to impede my creative journey.
And that is what brought week 8’s lesson to me: taking action steps — no matter, small or big. Take action steps towards my dream and the path will make itself clear. I’ve been practicing taking small action steps since January and yet this week those small action steps seemed so distant from my end goal as a professional artist. Am I making the correct steps? Am I doing enough? I can go on and on with that questioning. It all ends with a creative block. I was reminded by friends and several life whispers “to do what I love and the rest will follow.” It’s true. Life’s pursuit of one’s joys lead to a happy full-filled life. Hence, my pursuit for intellectual creativity as well as a spiritual one. Art is my spiritual Zen dojo in which I practice unleashing my emotions & sense of purpose onto canvas. In the process of searching for that purpose, it donned on me that happiness is a choice and that choice was mine. So I jumped at the opportunity to fill both areas of my life. In the end, it is my attitude that defines what I currently am. And right now, I am happy. I continue to pursue my life as an artist and this time around I also attach to my pursuit, my life as an intellectually-driven, creatively-solving tech-head!
This past week, the snow-covered hilltop decided to stay a bit longer so opportunities for two-man sledding (on my snowboard) and small aerial feats were at hand. My friend Cory, Sarah and I decided to trek up the hill and discover fun times with a snowboard and snow shovel. Didn’t have the video camera on for the hilariously failed attempts at snow shovel sledding. Too bad! Here’s a hint: you need a scoop shovel to pull off the sledding, otherwise there are a lot of face-plants in your future. As in pursuing life’s purpose, pursuing life’s pleasures start with small steps. In this case, step after step uphill to get your moment of flight downhill.
We turn this week to the practice of right attitudes for creativity. The emphasis is on your receptive as well as active skills. The essays, exercises, and tasks aim at excavating areas of genuine creative interests as you connect with your personal dreams.
The weather provided great inspiration for week 7. A later winter snow storm dumped a foot and a half of dry powder on the hillside. It made for a beautiful scene and filled me with excitement & thoughts of adventure. I love the snow and that is one of the reasons I enjoy living where I live. In the winter, we get small blankets of powdery snow — enough to have some fun for a few days. That’s exactly what this week brought as I excavated my areas of creative interests.
Along with excavating my office to uncover my desk and workspace, I took some time to play in the snow. Beautiful sunny weather and the cold brisk air provided great times. I’m finding more and more that enjoying the day benefits my creative soul. It’s fun to engross myself in a painting and yet ignoring the possibility for play when the opportunity presents itself is also not beneficial for my overall artist health. Deadlines come and go, yet missed opportunities are that—missed! That’s why its important to clue in on my environment and not get caught up in the task. With that said, having an organized work space, not only lessens the clutter in the environment — it clears up my mind to focus.
And thus the excavating of the office. After clearing some physical and mental space, I proceeded to follow through with the week’s exercises. That meant identifying the inspirations and actions that put a smile on my face. This week I put together a collection of heroes, inspirers and outrageous imagery that combine who I am and what I want to be. I enjoy looking at that visual reminder. The “I Am Lestar” contains part of that and I share it here. The entire image is on my desktop. If anything it gives me a cause for mental pause when I need a break from my laptop or day. Afterward, it was another hike out in my backcountry and go for a little jump of fun.
This week you tackle a major creative block—money. You are asked to really look at your own ideas around God, money, and creative abundance. The essays will explore the ways in which your attitudes limit abundance and luxury in your current life. You will be introduced to counting, a block-busting tool for charity and right use of funds. This week may feel volatile.
This week raised new levels of understanding for me. Personal value and self-worth came up — not in the my world is over, kind of way — more in the manner of this is WHY I do what I do. The big WHY! One question that people ask often and may not have an answer for — What is my purpose? I create art because it brings me joy. I get a kick out of creating something from a blank canvas. The joy is in the creative process. The end result is art. As Seth Godin answered in his blog, ‘Art is what we call…, “It’s in the soul of the artist.” Yes, I whole-heartedly agree! Art is in the soul of the artist and as an artist, I unleash that onto the blank canvas. That is one belief that makes it challenging when putting a dollar value on the finished product. I’ve talked to professional artists, budding artists & closet artists during my continuing adventure in the art realm and this challenge often times is in the forefront. Seth Godin in his blog indicates that art is something risky. I’ve learned to take that risk over and over and over again with each new painting. The first time was the riskiest for myself and each time it got easier. Much easier. It’s like practicing a new martial arts scissor kick. The first time, my feet are barely off the ground. Each progression of kick after kick after kick gets me higher and higher. Each kick trains my body. Each risk trains my soul to continue forward.
Continuing in the journey is what it’s all about for me. I’ve always claimed that “Art is my passion” and to continue towards that goal is worth the risk of putting a price tag on my soul. What ever the outcome, I feel happy knowing that the canvas which was once barren is now full of life — colorful, vibrant & textured life. Stepping out in the cold mountain air onto a snow-filled morning, reminds me to take it all in stride. Life is beautiful, especially when I’m not fighting myself. I love to look at our snow-covered front yard and imagine each snowflake a brushstroke being applied onto the canopy of leaves and the surrounding ground. Life is full of natural art — creating beautiful somethings. The risk is stopping one’s self to admire it every so often.
This week you are being asked to examine your payoffs in remaining stuck. You will explore how you curtail your own possibilities by placing limits on the good you can receive. You will examine the cost of settling for appearing good instead of being authentic. You may find yourself thinking about radical changes, no longer ruling out your growth by making others the cause of your constriction.
This past week was my most productive week, thus far. Whether it was due to this week’s exercises of identifying how I limit myself or because the light at the end of the tunnel is shining brightly, I’m not able to say at this time. I do know that this week was much easier for me. Like escaping from a self-imposed box, one has to wrench and push on through to break free. Because most often times that self-imposed box was made way toosmall. While in the box, that doesn’t seem like the case. I can say that the box is getting much bigger and bigger as I’m seeing my creative channels flow easier and easier.
This week I’ve come to the realization that somehow along my journey of becoming an artist, I’ve let setbacks guide me from my passion. The lack of inspiration created a blockade and I no longer saw the horizon ahead. I started pushing way too hard and too much in an attempt to be that Artist. The fun was escaping. What’s been driving me this past week and from what I’ve been realizing through The Artist’s Way is do the fun things in my life and the rest will follow. It sounds quite easy. It is, really! Yet, the simple answer is often times hidden in plain sight. So that was the secret to my week. I based my activities on the question, “Will this activity make me happy and is it fun?” Adding discipline and desire to my week also catapulted my productivity. Creating a daily time chunk for art was essential. Call it an appointment with my creativity. A set time interval each day that allows me to create. It makes things in the horizon much easier to see. Suddenly the tension of “I need to paint” versus “I need to finish this web project” eased with time chunking. Balance is attainable through discipline and allowing myself the flexibility for changes. Yeah, possibilities are looming ahead — right across the horizon.
The Artist’s Way, Week 4
“This week may find you grappling with changing self-definition. The essays, tasks, and exercises are designed to catapult you into productive introspection and integration of new self-awareness. This may be both be very difficult and extremely exciting for you. Warning: Do not skip the tool of reading deprivation!”
Okay, so what exactly happens when a warning label is presented? Well,… this past week’s experience would say “do the exact opposite.” Because that’s what happened! Early in the week, I went on reading my yahoo and google news, caught up with the happenings of my favorite sport teams and the occasional blogs. No reading was to be done, except for the week’s exercises. Having filled my brain with reading, I started questioning why my artistic productivity was not quite where I expected for the week. Then I reread the chapter and found the warning. Wow, how I missed that section altogether! I read further and the deprivation was to allow my creative self to flourish and find “other creative ways” to occupy my time. This made sense to me.
At the highest peak of my creativity, during my time both as a software developer and artist, I held off on occupying my time with non-essential stimuli, such as the news. I focused on the current issue and allowed my creativity to meander through the maze of possibilities to find the perfect solutions. The same can be said for artistic challenges. Creativity needs a maze (sorta-speak) to express itself on the canvas. I NEEDED the maze to explore—to have fun and find off-placed items that lead to many opportune adventures. Creative exploration!
So after coming to this realization, the week came together for me. I discovered more discipline was required — in the area of my artistic endeavors. The rest of my life will have to benefit after week 12. This has been a great week of surprises and change. I continued the re-organization in my studio and it followed me at the Saturday McMinnville Public Market, where I sell my paintings on Saturdays and meet with great locals. I moved booth spaces and that allowed me to create a different set up.
It was a bright and sunny day today. It was a great opportunity to break from my studio to stretch out my legs and get some sunshine. I’ve been practicing martial arts for the past year now and I’ve learned some great techniques/forms that one can utilize for stress reduction, as well as strengthening the body. If “art” is in the name of the activity, I’m pretty much in!
Here’s a demo of one of my favorite forms.
The Artist’s Way—Week 2
This week addresses self-definition as a major component of creative recovery. You may find yourself drawing new boundaries and staking out new territories as your personal needs, desires and interests announce themselves. The essays and tools are aimed at moving you into your personal identity, a self-defined you.
This week’s journey was a long hike up a zig-zag dirt path through a thick forest with the end of the trail out of sight. That’s what it felt. Early in the week, I had the high from the previous week’s painting outburst. Will I continue with the energy and flow right into week 2? It didn’t quite happen like that. Instead, upon doing some of the exercises, I found myself re-evaluating my daily habits. That line of questioning led to self-denial about my lack of discipline towards my own self-care. Laying myself on the couch for a quick nap and slowly becoming a sleep-filled afternoon, Sarah’s out stretched hand and words woke me into alertness. “You said you wanted to finish some paintings today. I’m here to help you achieve that. Let’s go!” That may not have been her exact words, yet it sounded an alarm in my mind and told me to accept her hand and move towards my easel. Sleeping as a way of procrastination was not going to win today.
Often I have succumbed to “I’m tired” and “I’m sleepy” to forego my plans for the day, like finishing a painting. It has to do with self-care. When I’m in the thick of my worry-filled mind, I will put aside activities that give me joy and bring fun to my life. When the exact opposite is required. I take myself too seriously at times and that is a detriment to my creativity. It came to a head later in the week when watching a movie with friends. It was one of those situations where every scene reminded me of some scene in my life and I could not join in the laughter—that my friends so easily were bursting out loud. Why should I laugh at my failures or the so called eccentric artist self-absorbed in his own reality? Well doh!!!! It dawned on me that I was self-absorbing and had to laugh at that absurdity. Quite ridiculous! I started to enjoy the movie and found great humor in both the sequences of events leading to that moment and the movie’s message to me. “Have some FUN!”
That was the plan for the rest of the week. Enjoy life. Share the moments with people I love and have some fun. Making home-made gluten free pizza and dancing sure helps put life into perspective. That made finishing 3 more paintings for the week quite gratifying. It turns out that the zig-zag path does lead out of the thick forest and one can enjoy the journey regardless.
“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast—you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.” — Eddie Cantor
The Artist’s Way, Week 1
“This week initiates your creative recovery. You may feel both giddy and defiant, hopeful and skeptical. The readings, tasks, and exercises aim at allowing you to establish a sense of safety, which will enable you to explore your creativity with less fear.”
That was the short description of week 1’s objective. The focus was to identify core negative beliefs that creep out from the confines of my mind. Because they are creeps! They’re quite spontaneous and often times very subtle. Without proper attention to them, I could spend the rest of my day wallowing in fear, regret and/or downright frustration. In the past, I would be replaying the overwhelming, screeching voice in my head. “You are a failure!” “You’re not good enough!” This time, these voices were an old friend – an old boyhood chum, who’d run the playground with you in holed sneakers and dirt stained shirts through pouring rain. His voice was a sly whisper in my ear making off-the-mark comments, instigating the fear — “that wasn’t what we wanted.” “We weren’t meant for that kind of life.” “Who needs that crap!” “Who cares!” Oh, the talks. Different voice, same message. So sweet to the ear with only thing as its prime objective—to build a blockade to full creativity.
Julia Cameron has a great way of explaining her concepts with her personal story. She’s been there and she’s successfully unleashed her creativity. One of the items I’m finding helpful and really appreciating is her idea of Morning Pages. Each day I wake up and write 3 pages of whatever comes to mind. The mundane to the frustrated ego to the affirming thoughts of possibility to the universe. These are private pages to help unleash my self-absorbed mind. Late last month in December, I started jotting my dreams each morning. This exercise allowed me to build on that dream journaling and turn into a mental release. I don’t reread them, nor do I share them. That’s one of the covenants that Julia recommends. It creates a safe place for “my creative self” to be free and explore. I’ve found myself experiencing that little kid, growing up and being told “you’re too small” or “you’re too skinny”. My family didn’t mean to disparage my ego with these statements. The statements were true. I was smaller than my brothers and much skinnier. My younger brother was at my height throughout our youth. The constant messages molded in my mind that I was too small to do anything—not big enough for the tasks. There it is “I’m not enough.” That was my core negative belief. Once identified, then Julia makes the point to replace that negative belief with a positive affirmation. It’s helping, it’s supporting my recovery. I repeat it to myself constantly throughout the day. I end my morning pages with the affirmation. It’s a step towards my happiness—creating art. Freeing myself of screaming whispers. Creating a new best friend, a happy artist friend.
This is week 1. I had several cranky moments of frustration, a day of procrastination, and several bouts with my “not enough monster.” I also finished 4 paintings and started 2 more. Am I on my way to recovery? I would hope so. I’m trusting the process and continuing forward. One step at a time.
Happy New Year! It’s a 2011. Time to evaluate the past year and plan for the next. 2010 was filled with many challenges for myself — striving through health, struggles with creativity and rediscovering my artist. It is said that “we are the sum of our thoughts,” then 2010 represented my fear of being the archetypal “starving artist.” Physically and realistically I was not starving, although spiritually I exhibited this archetype. I was lost; unable to sustain full creativity — let alone pick up my paint brush at times. Call it “Painter’s Block.” My creative well was drying and my starvation for inspiration resulted in creating an unhealthy physical body. I was sick; sick of not creating art. I realize now that I’ve tied my passion for Art to my entire being. Art has always been my passion and thus my life. The latter part of 2010 found me rediscovering the joy of painting and my desire to create art. For 2011, I want to continue on this path of “Finding my happiness.”
As far back as I can remember, creating art has always made me happy. This last year showcased this fact. I was told by friends and family of the remarkable difference of “seeing me in my element.” When painting, I was free to explore my emotions and release onto the canvas. This was not the case with the other parts of my life. I was regularly cranky and behind my smiles & laughter was an angry child. Angry that things were not as I envisioned them. I started wallowing in that anger and that crept into my creativity. I for one thrive on my personal happiness and when I am not feeling that way, my creativity is blocked. I’ve learned from my one hundred days of painting, that I can paint regardless of my mood. This past year provided a challenge to that notion. I was finding it more and more difficult. “Finding My Happiness” for 2011 is my theme — my mantra for creativity. With that theme in mind, I hope to portray the uplifting, the inspiring, the joy and the exuberance for life in my paintings.
To assist me in this adventure, my friend turned me on to the book by Julia Cameron w/ Mark Bryan, entitled The Artist’s Way
. After reading the introduction and first two chapters, I discovered that there is a 12 week workshop of “discovering and recovering” one’s creative self. The opportunity is presenting itself and this time I’m walking through the door. This week marks the first week of my journey. I hope to share with you my insights, foibles and discoveries during the next 12 weeks. This is an exciting adventure and I’m nervous with anticipation on who I’ll find at the end of this 12 week journey.