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.