Recovering a Sense of Safety
"This week initiates your creative recovery. You may feel both giddy and defiant, hopeful and skeptical." The focus of astablishing a sense of safety will "enable you to explore your creativity with less fear."
This week is about discovering. We are trying to be more aware of:
a) our price tags for being artists
b) our villains -- the people/beliefs/things that limit our creative expressions
c) our heroes -- the people/beliefs/things that open us up and allow us to create freely
One discovery exercise Julia Cameron recommends is writing an affirmation, such as "I am a brilliant and prolific artist," several times and listen for Blurts -- negative comments made by the Critic that lives in our brains. This is an eye-opening exercise I highly recommend doing several times during this 12-week process. We all have a running commentary going on through our minds almost 24/7. The negative self-talk has become so regular that it doesn't stand out. But when you are focusing on a positive affirmation, the negative self-talk is very easy to recognize. What you will hear are things you probably tell yourself several times a day. Give yourself a few minutes of feeding your brain something positive. It will do wonders.
I have tried to tune in to anything that limits my creativity. I have had something very interesting come into my awareness. I noticed that every time I meet someone, I categorize or judge them. My head comes up with something like, "She looks like Marianne. I bet her personality is the same, too." or "Look at that hair! Wow! She must be a little off." or "His voice is really gruff. He must be very hard to get along with."
When I started noticing this super-critical voice in my head, I was appalled! I had a category or judgment for EVERY person I met. I found myself walking down the street, passing a person on the sidewalk, and hearing the judgments fly in my head. I had to consciously turn them off! Hearing that voice made me realize how much it harms me, as a person and as an artist. That voice is the same voice that criticizes everything I do. I fearfully create hoping that voice will find my creation acceptable. That voice keeps me from having friendships with others. With those kinds of judgments, I build a wall around myself keeping others out. Why would I want to get to know someone I thought was gruff or "a little off" or having the same personality as someone I've had a run-in with? And, by creating these judgments, I never get to know a person for who they really are.
On the positive side of things, I'm starting to recognize more of my fears around art and am doing something positive to address them. I am in a swap with 30 other artists across the U.S. and Canada. When we formed this group, the specifications of the swap were simple and flexible. The topic was intriguing, even with a bit of mystery. This was going to be a GREAT swap! But, as we have begun working, technical problems and logistics have cropped up. Instead of remaining flexible, stringent rules have been devised. With each new e-mail I receive from the group, my fear level increases. More specifications. More discussions I don't completely understand. This morning I was ready to completely give up and write a nasty letter to the group to let them know what I thought about their rules!
Morning pages came to the rescue. I typed out all my thoughts about the swap -- what I don't like, what frustrates me, etc. As I kept typing, I found myself layering down to the essence of it all. I was afraid that what I created would not be acceptable because I had forgotten one of the guidelines, or I just wasn't on the same wave length as everyone else. The swap members would find out my secret -- I'm really not an artist after all!
While I was writing morning pages, I felt tightness in my low back and across my stomach. As I layered down farther and reached my honest fears, it was interesting to feel the tightness gradually subside. My muscled lengthened and relaxed more when I wrote about my solution to my dilemma. I didn't want to drop out of the swap...yet. It's still a challenge I think I am up to. But I decided to write a letter to the group and let them know where I am. If things get any more technical, I know I will not be able to keep up. And I made a request that if things could be made any easier, I would certainly appreciate it. I asked for my needs to be met. Normally I wouldn't have done this. I would have just dropped out silently and it would have haunted me. I decided this time to address the situation. I am certain I can't be the only one who feels this way. My honest letter, that points blame and no one and in which I take responsibility for my own fear, I hope will spark conversations, more honest sharing, and a better swap experience for all of us.
As you work through the materials in week 1, open yourself up for discovery. You may find some things you aren't proud of (like I did with my judgmental mind), but you will also find your needs, your bottom lines, what it takes to free your creative soul.
* * * Art Idea * * *
Julia suggested determining your personal price tag for being an artist -- what are those things you think you will lose or will suffer if you consider yourself an artist? Some things Julia mentioned were related to how you perceive others will think of you or how you will think of yourself based on misconceptions of what an artist is.
If you find that you have a mental or emotion price tag attached to being an artist, you might find it healing to create some price tags. Draw price tags or use the mailing tags that are often used in tag art. Or, click on the price tag to the right. It will open up in it's own window where you can print it out. Draw, write, or glue on to the tag things that symbolize the price you expect you will pay for being an artist.
To balance out this activity, get a shopping bag (or draw one) and place in symbols of the non-tangible things you will gain by embracing your art. Attach the price tag to your bag.
Leave your art somewhere safe, but where you can get to it. Throughout the upcoming weeks, take it out again. See how your "price" and "purchases" have changed. You may even want to revise this piece of art to reflect your new attitude.