The Artist’s Way for Parents: Raising Creative Children

So, here’s an awkward situation: I committed to working through all of Julia Cameron’s creativity series, and along with it her spirituality series. All fine and well, except that her newest, the Artist’s Way for Parents: Raising Creative Children, by default tags me out. I don’t have children. I made a very active decision when younger not to have children, and for those that read this steadily, my reasons for sticking to that decision are pretty clear.

1909 Mennen's Toilet Powder_3654194280_l

1909 Mennen’s Toilet Powder_3654194280_l

However, upon looking through the book it does seem like there’s still the same principles of self-care. Since this helps me stay on track I might as well. With two books coming out and one in the middle of a pitch stage at the moment, I need some help staying on track. The exercises look on par with most of the Artist’s Way vein, and most of it is about getting into the right mindset.

To give you all a wide-angle view on what’s going on:

My partner’s company shut down temporarily last spring, and in that momentary void he got offered his dream job. Said dream job lives in Silicon Valley. So here I am, now in San Francisco, where my fellow artists and Pagans can’t afford to live anymore. We couldn’t do Oakland because that’s just a bit too far for my partner’s commute. I’m near the ocean, near a major park, have access to a car but nowhere to park… I’m new, and kind of lonely.  I’m also hesitating to tell anyone how I came to be here because the tech industry is not exactly welcome out here, although the housing situation is more the fault of the landlords and less the fault of the industries. Certain techbro disrespect for what makes this place function and the bad, unthinking kind of libertarianism are ruining a lot of what once made this place good.

I have some dear friends that are beyond thrilled that I’m out here. It’s heartbreaking – I will have to tell them this is not the place they remember, not even a little bit.

This all happened just as my own career started to pick up in Minneapolis. I’m pissed off that I have to be the loser in this deal, and I’m more pissed off that this situation, created by outside forces, established a situation where one of us has to be the loser. I’m getting a lot of loving support, but the “it’s so great you’re in San Francisco!” is a really unwelcome and kind of cold thing to say because of that. “I’m so glad you decided to again sacrifice your own career advancement! I’m so glad your husband’s happiness is so much more important than your own!”

Not that these people would know. I have a hard time getting it across that Minneapolis is a wonderful city, that it has everything – even some of what San Francisco has had forcibly taken from it in recent years. Mostly the people that are pushiest about San Francisco’s greatness are pretty dismissive and condescending about the city that’s been my true love since I was 25.

No, I’m not happy to be here. My choice was moral, not emotional, because my choices are always the moral ones. The people that expect me to put on a happy face, and clap my hands, and squeal, and act all excited…they’re assholes. I hope they get hemmorhoids, for expecting me to suppress my emotional truth.

So one way or the other, I need some guidance. I already made the commitment so I’m going to see it through.

All this Artist’s Way stuff: here’s the payoff

So I started the Artist’s Way in 2008, mostly as a sort of me-too with Xiane and Cassidy and Angelique, two being women in the Etsy beauty products guild I was in. It’s one of those situations where life definitely has a purpose – the beauty stuff was a huge diversion from what I knew I was supposed to be doing.  This 12 week series turned into exactly the kind of guidance I needed because it made me pause and look not just at my creative habits but at my entire life.

The Artist’s Way proved so helpful I moved on to Finding Water. Then on to Walking in This World. Then I just kept going…and only this year have I sort of caught up, with the Artist’s Way for Parents sitting on my Kindle despite my not having children.

The small steps, the daily work, the wisdom – for me, it helped. Because now I have my first published book to show for it:

darw_book_cover

At last, it’s out – and it would never be finished without my adherence to the Artist’s Way path. You can get your own copy at Amazon or any other bookstore your heart desires. You may want to ask your favorite indie bookseller to order a copy.

But… it’s out. I did it.

And after I post this I’m going to work on the next two books I have contracted.

Supplies: the complex thing about Mikey

Women taking a course in car care, maintenance, and operation in Tallahassee, Florida

from Florida Memory Flickr Commons Archive

The complicated thing about Mikey is that I did have sounding boards who kept warning me to get out. But they were other types of crazymakers, other types of blockers. They wanted this predator cleared so they could get a better crack at me.

Mikey did make it clear to me exactly how bad the women I called my “best friend” for years was actually for me – how bad her intents towards me almost always were. She liked the idea of Mikey and me together. She thought his calling me at 6 am when he knew I needed the sleep was romantic, not the abusive that it actually was. She figured I would eventually relent to his constant demands I take care of him.

There were others, of course, but most just sort of rolled their eyes. They didn’t recognize what was going on. One girl who had a thing for Mikey was relentlessly jealous of me – I can only imagine how bad he would have messed her life up if I hadn’t presented a distraction. While I have no liking for her as a human being, she is a human being and deserved to be treated as one. That’s not how this  guy would have treated her.

My sudden onset illness, as frustrating as it can be, probably saved me from what would have been one of the most abusive relationship of my life and also ended a female friendship that I have only come to recognize as abusive.  The constant hiving and allergies forced me to be reclusive.

It’s normal to have these patterns when you come from a dysfunctional home. You have to recognize dysfunction at home before the rest of the alphabet falls into place and you get the correct read on things. It took me awhile to see the source of it. Now I see all of it.

Now I have friends who would spot that kind of madness and tell me so right quick.

Supplies: the Creative Desert

Orange mallow, showy desert flower, 05/1972.

from US National Archives Flickr Commons Collection

The creative desert is that uncharted territory. It’s the idea that just might work that people think are absurd. I’ve spent most of my life there, long enough to see rather a lot of vindication.

In high school, I went through a phase where I wrote letters to the editor all the time. Most of them were published – to the annoyance of adults who wanted that space for their own sounding board. In one of them, focused on the environment, I proposed that we mine landfills for recyclable material. At the time, landfill mining was unheard of.

My uncle read some of these missives of mine and had an absolute fucking fit. The landfill mining really sent him over the edge – it was just “absurd.” It’s far from the only thing he’s disagreed with me on where time has taken my side. Really, most of his attitude just had to do with me being female and his least favorite sibling’s least favorite daughter. I have to wonder, if one of his children had proposed it, if he would have taken offense to it the way he did with me.

Of course, now we have landfill mining.

Around 2003, the mass transit system in the Twin Cities was under heavy discussion. There was talk of building yet another highway that looped around the Cities. Thankfully people decided to move towards building mass transit inside the cities instead, helping to reduce car ownership and thus not just pollution but cost of living for city residents as they can. (It’s still necessary to own a car because of winter around here. However, using a car less is still pretty good.) I had posted on the Star Tribune suggesting they look into the old trolley system – there are still tracks and cars languishing in a corner of Dinkytown. Someone immediately posted a tirade about “pipe dreams” and “craziness” directed at me for daring repropose it.

Yet two years later the city had a feasibility study.

Last year, the mayoral election had installing a street car line down Central Ave. as one of its major platforms.

As I paraphrased before, new looks like crazy to dumb people. There are a lot of people who have tried to make me out to be completely nuts when not only am I quite sane, I’ve got a good sense for solutions.

Supplies: My True North

GOODS Chandra Deep Field-North: The Secret Lives Of Galaxies Unveiled In Deep Survey

from Smithsonian Institute’s Flickr Commons Page

True North is difficult for me because I made a conscious choice to operate without a navigation system when I was about 19. Before then, I was under a great deal of pressure to “plan my life.” My parents informed me I needed to pick a major, stick with it, stay at the same college if I could, should take no breaks from school ever … you get the idea.

My parents were setting me up to fail. They were using their map, one that went obsolete in 1969. When I pointed out that they had an obsolete map I got a lot of abuse and denial heaped on me. It was my mother’s “advice” that got me to pick the wrong school in the first place. She thought I’d “be able to study there, with few distractions.” Looking back I realize that she was insulting my work ethic and slut shaming me simultaneously. This conception of me was so outer-space and inaccurate that it took me years to process that that’s what she was doing.

Throwing away the navigation system completely was the only way to banish her influence.

My life – my happiness – improved almost immediately. The only true north my mother wanted me to have was her.

That’s not true north. That’s letting a narcissist ruin and run my life.

I knew for sure that leaving my family made my life better. It wasn’t total direction, but it was a start. Without the map, I still worked plenty hard. I still wound up on the dean’s list every semester. I still found a job even in economies with no jobs available.

But making that choice to abandon the map has had its problems. In graduate school I was hopelessly out of the loop on most of the reading. I had done undergrad in journalism. The MFA in writing was lit focused and most of my class had voraciously read all that stuff that just kind of bored me. I’ve missed so many opportunities as a writer I try not to think of them. I have a sneaking suspicion that if I’d just stuck out that Wal-mart job or applied for that program in Dubai my life would now have a grander, more interesting dimension to it.

The other part of this is that in writing, your True North shifts. I have already been published. I will have three books out by 2015. So what next? Those were my major, elusive goals.

Perhaps I’ll try writing fiction, going down the tougher road of getting that published.  Mostly I want to gather up my wounds and get them healed and then look for direction from there.

All I know for sure is that I want to live a life I truly enjoy.

 

Supplies: 20 “in a perfect world” statements

Duplex Corset 1/3 ca. 1885

Library Company of Philadelphia Flickr Commons Collection

In a perfect world, I would

1. live somewhere warm

2. travel freely and often

3. dance a lot more

4. be able to see friends often

5. have the perfect social/home life balance

6. be able to write without back pain

7. never miss gym time ever.

8. find a yoga class that is not one of those obnoxious “flow” classes

9. get my herbal certification

10. maybe finish grad school (?) feeling a little weak on that one.

11. go on a writer’s retreat at least once a year

12. have Tae Kwon Do/Aikido training

13. have a housekeeper I trusted to clean my bathrooms

14. live in a place where I could safely walk everywhere

15. live near a major airport

16. find a spiritual group that I work well with (coming to terms with of all things a possible Celtic-inspired role/explanation for myself)

17. be able to see the beach/ocean daily

18. wear pretty, comfortable clothing

19. publish some fiction

20. be cured of my allergies

… I have a pretty damn good life already. It’s just the internal noise I’m trying to correct.

Supplies: the Goodies

Goody Two Shoes; J. C. Williamson's gorgeous annual pantomime. 1919.

National LIbrary of New Zealand Flickr Commons Collection

I could get attached to…          Because                                                                                             How I could get that feeling myself

1. Travel                                         I want to see everything                                                              it’s travel. Travel is my favorite thing, right next to dancing and writing.
2. Attention                                 Yay, people are finally noticing me!                                       Write a list of my real friends and how we met. Most sought me out.
I must be moderately important!

3. Praise                                         I felt starved for it when I was younger.                               Look at my box of letters from true friends.

4.Money                                        It expands my choices.                                                                 Continue to find frugal/free things to do. I have a rich life that way.

5. The in-crowd feel                 I too have childhood nerd hangups                                          Look to my values. The in-crowd isn’t among them.

Supplies: the Chorus of Woes: the most ridiculous complaint I’ve heard

Exercising on the Beach

National Media Museum Flickr Commons Collection

What Cameron speaks of here is not the real Greek Chorus coming out to warn the hero (like the hero can even see them, anyway) but the one that we conjure in our heads … sometimes just to have something to complain about.

So, going through the questions – there’s one guy I’m picking on because he does so very much of this crap, and it’s all crap. When you tell him it’s crap and self-created he tends to throw temper tantrums. But gods help you if you try to talk about anything else but him. It’s enough that I avoid events with him at it now unless I am surrounded by people that will help me ignore him.

Most ridiculous complaint:

“Everybody knows who I am everywhere I go!”

Really? The grocery store? The post office? … .wait, aren’t you going to like, the exact same three to five places over and over. That’s not the price of fame. That’s being a regular and lacking imagination.

He’s actually a host of other similar ridiculous complaints/humble brags. I dare not get more specific than that.

Supplies: My Positive Role Model

Queen Rumania  (LOC)

from Library of Congress Flickr Commons Collection

Actually, I have so many positive role models it’s hard to pick one.

Right now I”m thinking of Dawn. Dawn decided what she wanted to do and did it. She has told me she has a no-drama policy. If someone is too prone to madness she drops them or just refuses to engage. She is surrounded by really great friendships and she is a great cheerleader to her friends and their creative projects. She’s an example of doing life and career right – with sincerity, based on real relationships rather than on relationships-for-a-reason.

So far, it’s worked quite well. I often refer to her as a fairy godmother. Don Fairy Godmother.

Supplies: My Negative Role Model

Gunmen going to Sing Sing  (LOC)

From Library of Congress Flickr Commons collection

Oh boy do I have a negative role model. Actually, I have at least three, possibly more. I’m going to hybrid them and pick things I’ve seen or heard from all of them. It’s like an archetypal negative role model. I should add that to my tarot deck – or maybe that’s what the Devil card really represents.

What bothers me specifically about the collective behavior is that it’s delusional, narcissistic … and really unimaginative. It’s the person that got upset that Mark Wahlberg went from Marky Mark to a successful career as an actor/film producer.

“So what, he can only do one thing?”

“Yes!”

Well, that’s bullshit. 

I am a more-than-one-thing artist and I reject this message.

************

There are the name droppers. “Oh I met this famous person whose name you don’t know and he just adored my painting/book/personal style. You really should go meet that person and see what it might do for me – I mean, uh, you.”

… or I could focus on sincere relationships with supportive people and not take into account their connections or fame unless I am encouraging them to use those for themselves in some manner. When it counted, my real friends helped me in the ways that mattered. My name dropped from a celebrity’s lips means jack especially since most people will remember the celebrity and not what the celebrity says unless locked in a good hate-on fever.

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There are the “suffering artist” stereotypers, and that one stretches far and wide. Most recently a well-meaning friend posted some biased, very poorly researched Thought Catalog drek to my Facebook wall that encouraged the idea that all artists – especially writers – have something wrong with their brains that turns them into depressed crazy people, the implication being that maybe if we didn’t right we wouldn’t go crazy.

The article enraged me on multiple levels. First, Thought Catalog is a cess pool of confirmation biased base shit. I followed it for awhile just to see what it had to offer  and it is one of the great shames of the Internet. Essentially it’s people who are great at expository writing and terrible at critical thinking. Second, anytime you imply an entire population is x/has x without evidence based research to support it (and this had none) then you are currying bigotry for some purpose. Third, it stigmatizes depression. Fourth, the article stigmatizes creativity. Fifth, it seems to fail to connect that when depressed people are in their extreme low points they aren’t creating. Creation – art therapy and upward – is the neural activity that gets people out of depressive loops. It’s not 100% but it’s a factor. To assume a writer is automatically depressed or will get depressed because s/he writes is just offensive.  Depression and creativity are both complex. But creativity is NOT  disease, is not psychological smoking that will lead to a disease and in most cases probably does not exacerbate a disease.

Writing does not do bad things to my organs, least of all my brain.

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There’s the whole special snowflake shit. Oh the writing life is so difficult. Oh, all good writing and creation comes from a certain self loathing. Comedy comes from self loathing. Oh, you can’t be healthy or seek healing and still create.

Every day of my life informs me that this above line of poison is absolute screaming bullshit. The times in life that I suffer are the times in life that I’m not writing. When I’m writing I’m getting progressively better and working on my issues has made me a better, more empathetic human being and writer. I can also be funny as hell – and it’s not centered in self-hatred. The self-hatred schtick? Blech. Boring and predictable.

We are not special snowflakes. Originality isn’t worth thinking about – enjoyment is what really makes a difference.  Writing really is like dating: nothing good is going to happen unless you find a way to have fun with it. The acclaim/flattery/critical praise is for people that would rather read reviews than go on to the next project.

In a way, my writing career does have something in common with my corporate career: in corporations I hated, I always stepped away from office politics and reminded myself I was here to do my own time. Writing is my calling – so rather than doing my time, when I’m dealing with attention-seeking colleagues, it’s really about having my time. That means not giving it to them by not indulging the rhetoric of the special snowflake.