The Artist’s Way: Week 5 Retrospective

Today marks the beginning of Week 6 in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, which I am following in order to encourage creativity in my life. Denial of my feelings and desires has been a way of life for me. I am using this book as a way to help me open up to creativity in a way that I have always desired.

For the first three weeks, I was excited, I had ideas, and I found it relatively easy to implement them. Starting in week 4 and through last week, I felt as if my mind were returning to the same dull state I experienced before I embarked on my writing journey through The Artist’s Way. 

This is always the spot where I seem to crash and burn in my dreams. Past the initial honeymoon period, I return to feeling less pumped and less inspired. Creating ideas becomes more difficult. I start to feel sad and then become depressed. I stop doing the things I enjoyed. I become bored and claim that I don’t know what to do.

This is the cycle I have struggled with my whole life and the one that I am trying to break. I think there is a natural settling down after initial enthusiasm, the low that results because of the high. My issue is that I let myself stay there in the lows.

In my morning writing, I realized that I need to raise my awareness when I am in a low period. The solution is to take steps to bring myself back to center like jumping jacks, dancing, a brisk walk – anything! I can read inspirational quotes, call a creative and supportive friend, or play with my cats. That way, I lift myself out of the seriousness of depression and back towards the lighthearted play of creativity and growth.

A sign that should have signaled to me that I need to shake things up was that I did not add anything new to my Pinspiration Board last week. I was so excited in week 4 to think of the board, put it up, add a couple of inspirational quotes to it and around the house, and then have a clear desk in front of me.

So what happened? It became the thing that you sit right in front of every day but yet fail to see. On my Pin Board, I copied two sets of reminders from The Artist’s Way – The Basic Principles and the Rules of the Road. As of week 3, I should be reading them twice a day. I decided to read only once a day, and then I forgot to read them at all this past week.

Raising awareness of things that have moved out of your conscious eye and back into your consciousness is one of the most difficult challenges we face as humans. Often, it is not until much too late that we look back and see that we stopped doing something meaningful, which lead us to stop doing other meaningful activities, until we are in a place of doing nothing.

My parents were born and raised in the Great Depression of the 1930’s. They worked hard on farms, at their jobs or in their home, and in the vegetable garden. The greatest thing that my parents ever aspired for me to do was the freedom to do nothing.

Until recently, I did not understand how their lifestyle has made it difficult for them to understand the physically easier, knowledge- and creativity-oriented lifestyles that they made possible for their own children.

Yesterday I signed up for a Publishing and Creativity Conference to be held in the Lower West Side of NYC on April 11-12. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, is going to be there. When I told my mom about it, she said, “Well, it’s good to have something to keep you occupied.”

With this comment, I started to understand that what I see as an essential life activity, she sees as a hobby. The need for creativity or writing to be fluff to her. Her accomplishments were so much more concrete – raising family, growing vegetable, or cleaning.

But ideas and creativity could not be fluff to me anymore than being able to raise her family was to her. I guess that shows me I will have to be patient and continue to explain to her, as I have been doing lately, what I want to do with my life and why it is important. I am OK with that.

Writing about it in my morning pages and here on my blog seem to help me continue forward in personal growth. Please share how you get yourself back on track when you find yourself derailed.

Eating Healthy(er)

Consistently eating well is a chronic challenge for me.

When I am stressed, rushed, and – especially – lazy, I tend to open my fridge and pick out the items I don’t have to prep to eat.

Salad sits in my fridge, wilting. Instead, I go for nuts and fruit. And more fruit. And then again.

A few weeks ago, I started up my coffee habit again. This, combined with my tendency to eat sugar, is a recipe for exhaustion.

In my unscientific opinion, sugar and caffeine provide the body with false means of energy.

Caffeine is a stimulant, much like adrenaline. It wires you up and keeps you going even when your body lacks the nutrients it needs.

Chronic sugar intake exhausts your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, tires out your pancreas, which produces insulin, and increases your intolerance to insulin (a condition often diagnosed as pre-diabetes). Sugar is also reported to be a major factor in cancer, as chronic sugar intake provides the cancer cells with a never ending source of growth energy.

I ate way too much sugar and caffeine yesterday, so much so that is a wonder I have not turned into a pile of sugar. The price I paid was exhaustion, both yesterday and today, from poor food choices and a too-hectic schedule.

I wondered why I have been unable to learn this lesson. When I have shared with my mother my desires to stop eating sugar, she provides a ready excuse: it’s the holidays, your birthday, a Sunday afternoon when it’s sunny, it’s just one cookie.

You would think my mother is built like a house. While she does have weight in her belly, she seems to carry it well. My struggles with energy and eating well have not been her struggles. I seem to be sensitive to sugar, unlike her.

I think I am a sugar junkie. In writing my evening pages today, I decided it might be helpful for me to post inspirational quotes regarding healthy eating in a couple important places.

The first quote I found that I printed, framed, and hung on my Pinspiration board is by Virginia Woolf:

The second quote I found, printed, framed, and put up on my refrigerator is by Hippocrates:

For myself, I find that positive reinforcement works much better as a motivation tool than dire warnings against what happens if I do not eat well.

Slowly but surely, my living area will contain images and photos of quotes, people, and place that remind me that love and loving choices are the way to make my way through any decision, especially ones with such a profound impact on all areas of my life.

Pinspiration Board

pinspiration board

Pinspiration board

In creative wave #6 of yesterday’s post, I described wanting to put up a cork board with pictures of loved ones, inspirational quotes, poetry, and reminders, which I call my Pinspiration Board. I tried to control myself from tacking up paper because I wanted to start with images, but I just couldn’t help myself.

I tacked up a housewarming card from a beloved friend, a card from my dear husband, pictures of three cats (two of whom passed away), my list of life goals for 2014, a lists of Basic Principles and Rules of the Road from Chapters 2 and 3 from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and a sticky memo of ideas. 

My Pinspiration Board replaces a bookshelf that I moved to a wall behind me and a large framed print that I moved to the wall to the left of my desk. The small collage framed above the board was made to me by another beloved friend and was displaced by the hanging of the large framed print to the left.

With the bookshelf gone, I have more space available at the back half of my desk surface. Not only does my desk feel roomier, but the room itself feels like it opened up. I was able to stack my jewelry supplies higher. To the right, I stacked only the books on the right that I am immediately reading or using. To the left, I have two framed print with words and pictures that keep me focused on my writing and my art. An electric candle adds a stained glass glow to my corner as I work in the evenings as it gives off a faint perfume.

No desk of mine would be complete without a full cup of steaming hot coffee. I’m mad about coffee! Unfortunately, I usually am so engrossed in my morning writing that my coffee goes cold before I have the opportunity to drink the full cup. The cup holding my morning java was given to me by a third beloved friend. We used to work at a college together, and she bought me this cup because I often talked of feeling tired or wanting to eat a dessert. Vive le café! Vive l’écriture!