Thursday, June 21, 2012

A thing I have not written about until now is the difficulty I have experienced being creative while taking art classes in college.  One wouldn't imagine that creativity would suffer while in the pursuit of higher education especially in the area of studio art and art history.  When I began studying these which I was unable to study the first time around, I thought that the opposite would be true.

I thought my muse would automatically start sending me unlimited ideas and inspiration because I was exposing her to constant sketching exercise, unbroken hours at the easel, and hours of contact with all manner of other arty types each week.  Imagination unleashed!

Silly me.

While assignments, even broadly defined assignments, are valuable for helping a studio artist grow and develop, the sense of inspiration isn't necessarily present.  My technical ability has improved and I earned good grades, so my inner Hermione is affirmed.  Unfortunately, however, I ended the semester with a sense of loss.

I felt I'd lost the ability to paint.  I felt I'd lost the ability to compose a decent, let alone interesting, composition on the canvas.

What I was really experiencing was overload:  plain, old-fashioned burn-out.  This is what happens from too much of even a good thing, like channeling all one's time and energy into completing even the best of professors' assignments.  Painting and drawing became as interesting to me as a term paper bibliography.

That's when I decided to take a breather over the summer months to reignite the flames of creative spontaneity.  I picked Walking in This World by Julia Cameron and will cover a chapter a week over the course of the summer on a self-guided journey of creative recovery.  I'm in week 4 presently, and have begun to see some smoldering going on.  At least, I smell smoke.

I'm interested in doing painting exercises every day but much to my surprise, I also have been dogged by an idea for a book.  One day as I was reflecting on my artistic direction, an idea for a character and plot surfaced nearly fully formed, out of seemingly nothing.

But I know there is no such thing as nothing when we are open-hearted to the Great Creator and open-minded to the ideas that channel through us and flow through our hands into various creative projects.  I fancifully picture my muse frantically war-whooping and dancing around the fire to encourage the glowing coals to once again burst forth in healing flames.

She's a damn pest about it, really, but you get what you pray for when the Universe aligns with your deep desire.  It is then that synchronous  actions take place all round and about you to open doors and line up people and things in support of your project.

So far this week, I've begun an outline of the characters as well as a broad outline of the plot.  I'm either crazy (like I have nothing else to do) or right on the track I'm supposed to follow.  I know there will be obstacles like time, money, and interest lagging.  So far this week I've told my son and my husband about it and neither one has suggested I'm crazy.  What I'm considering is publishing serially via my Quiet Woman blog, the one I normally use for sermons.  So, here's where you come in.

I wonder if reading installments of the story over a blog would be appealing to anyone, and, if so, how often would you want new chapters?   Weekly?  Daily?  Or?  What wisdom do you have to share with me?

Unless you want to just tell me I'm crazy, I welcome your input.  Leave a comment below, please.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

You Behaving Better Yet?

One of the writers who constantly challenges me to rise to her writing on not only a cerebral level but on a gut-wrenching, vomit-in-the-back-of-the-throat level is Anne Lamott.  Born and raised in the Bay Area, she is perhaps one of the more honest Christians I know.  She is an energetic creative, recovering alcoholic, mother, and sought-after speaker.  She has a grown son and about a zillion cats.

My summer's path of creative recovery which I have set out for myself is in lieu of taking any summer school classes.  I am using two resources by other highly creative and prolific women to guide myself through study, exercises, and creative disciplines.  One is an old friend:  Walking in This World, by Julia Cameron.  The other one is a newly discovered friend:  The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp.  I am blessed by both of these works, much as I have been repeatedly blessed by Cameron's earlier The Artist's Way.

Neither Tharp nor Cameron hits with the visceral punch of Lamott, but both have a way of writing truth that sometimes resembles a blow right in the solar plexus.  The punch that stopped me and got me thinking (once I had scraped myself off of the floor) was Cameron's assertion that:

 "Most of us carry what I call 'word wounds'-descriptions of certain qualities that have been conveyed to us as pejorative.  I for example have been called both 'intense' and 'hyperfocused.'  In our culture we have demonized creativity.  We are scared of it and by it.  We tell scary stories about artists and how broke, nuts, crazy, drunk, selfish they are.  In our culture we are afraid of our creativity.  We think it's some nitroglycerin compound that could blow us all up.  Nonsense."

The thing that affected me so deeply was the instant recalling of several "word wounds" that I realize I have been carrying for a very long time-too long, in fact, for them to still hurt as badly as they do and probably too casually tossed at me for me to have taken them as seriously as I have.  

"Disorganized" by a supervisor who did not understand my organizational system.  (I was using Alan Lakein's  system and a Day Timer while still a college student.)
"Procrastinator" by a parent who doesn't get my greed for perfection.
"Klutz" by the other parent who didn't get my lack of mathematics and motion learning styles.
"Moron" and "Little Fat Wife", by an ex-spouse who thought I should be a bookkeeper instead of a pastor.
"Neurotic" and "Hormonal", also ex-spouse language from one who thought I should never get angry.

Finally, since I believe that the Universe always conspires to bring together exactly what we need as we are trying to grow into the Great Creator's vision for us, please understand there are no coincidences.  So, I was not surprised by the responses I got when I asked this question on Facebook:

"Word wounds" Things people say that carve scars in your psyche forever. How do we expunge them? Counselors? Repentance? Confession? Or is that just so much horsefeathers?"

Opinions ranged from my thoughtful brother-in-law's "Thick skin and stoicism helps" (an echo of a couple of art professors' opinions) to variations on forgiveness, a process which I find effective in some ways but usually deficient when anger must be dealt with.

My favorite once again came from my old high school friend, Bill Jacobi, who himself is a writer and artist.  Here's Bill's take:

"If you agree with them it really helps. So, you say... "Yes... you're right. I AM a loathsome scumbag who isn't worth my weight in horse manure... can I get you a coffee?" They will then laugh and realize how silly they sound... and if not you have to have them put to sleep."

Or, maybe I'll just write about them.  Thanks, Anne.