Artist’s Way: a letter in my defense

A Letter from Home
Dear Universal Editor:

Teachers are like cops. They either get in for all the right reasons or they’re exactly the kind of people that you just don’t want in that field. That’s what I got with those three elementary teachers, and several other teachers along the way. I know from hearing the stories of others that it isn’t just crappy teachers in public schools. Nuns appear to be a particularly vicious phenomenon, and by now we’ve all heard about the conditions of the field of Catholic priesthood, the non-behavioral regulation of private schools, and the government interference that makes it impossible for the good teachers to even hang on and teach.

I know from my own experience that really, most teachers  are bigots. I got treated poorly, as though my own contributions were somehow invalid or faked, until I encountered a teacher who raised a fat kid herself, and who probably was a fat kid at some point. I’m positive that my grades were at least half a point higher than what I was given by my kindergarten, first grade and fifth grade teachers. I’m also certain that as more children of color started attending those schools, their bigotry focused more on them. Now, I know I had good teachers – and they were few, and far between, and easily burned out as punishment for actually caring.

After all, kids of color are more likely to be disciplined and denied their education. I was just the fat kid around before the people with darker skin showed up.

I know what happened to me, and I know it had nothing to do with what I created, what I turned in, what work I did – after all, I would turn in things that were smart, right on and funny alongside my thin male counterpart and his would be praised for “humor” while I would be docked for “attitude” despite relevance to the lessons. So no, the problem was never me. I did my very best, but my teachers did not make an effort to be their very best, and took out their own fears of having a fat body and their own assumptions of my laziness over the very clearly hard work I put in front of them.

So in my defense – I was an awesome student.

My teachers at T-Ball, however, sucked ballz. Given their bigotry towards me and towards the poor kids in class, they had no business teaching at all.

– Diana

25 Wishes

Priestess of Delphi by John Collier Probably the one I have the most in common with of all the great ancient priestesses.

Priestess of Delphi by John Collier
Probably the one I have the most in common with of all the great ancient priestesses.

1. I wish I could get around the city easier.

2. I wish I had more friends here – a lot more friends.

3. I wish I could find the more hidden occult shops.

4. I wish I spoke Spanish/remembered Spanish better.

5. I wish I had friends to go dancing with.

6. I wish I could finally polish off my reading stack. Someday, someway.

7. I wish I could find a writing program I can afford.

8. I wish I could find poets that were as amazing as my poetry group in Minnesota.

9. I wish I knew exactly where I wanted to point my career right now.

10. I wish I didn’t feel an obligation tug of war with Fat Chic.

11. I wish I could finish this consent culture essay and feel right about it.

12. I wish I had more time to stretch and see to my physical health every day.

13. I wish I could do all the exercise, all the social, and all the professional things I need to do.

14. I wish I had more time for that Lynda thing – it’s not really working out in terms of time commitment. :(

15. I wish I didn’t feel so overwhelmed all the time.

16. I wish Mike and I could both establish strong support systems out here.

17. I wish there was more Pagan stuff in SF itself, but since almost no one can afford it…

18. I wish I could find a decent therapist out here.

19. I wish I could feel at peace with the rest of my past. I’ve buried the crap with my family, now it’s the stuff that I’m actually culpable for.

20. I wish I could fly up to see my friend Joe.

21. I wish I could travel to see Lisa and Tonya – they are all in that direction too.

Wait a minute, they are all in that direction. Why am I still sitting here?

22. I wish I had a clear sense of my place with my volunteer gig.

23. I wish I had some form of steady income of my own again.

24. I wish I could overcome my 1:1 social anxiety issues.

25. I wish I could take a vacation on my own – or maybe get in on a writer’s retreat. Maybe after I do that portfolio.

5 Dreaded Activities and their remedies

Honestly, there’s not much I dread doing these days – not even taxes. Unless I am uncertain of a person’s reaction, most stuff is more about having too many things to do and having to pick and choose what becomes a habit and what doesn’t. Or it’s the kind of thing where adding an element of fun is probably dangerous.

5 things I dread:

1. Asking an old professor for a reference. It’s embarrassing and uncomfortable for me – I don’t know why, it just is.

Make it fun: Actually make a chart and use stickers for every one I actually get up the nerve to ask, should I ever actually finish my graduate degree?

2.  Dealing with gross things.

Two words: Video documentary.

3. Tedious things: tagging photos, learning code, learning how to get whatever ridiculous database program to work properly…

Put on music that helps me focus. Set timers. The tedium fades.

4. Talking to someone when I don’t know how they’ll react.

There is no way to make this fun. Ever. NONE.

5. Any medical appointment

Have stuff to do with me, or have someone to chat with to distract me/bitch to.

About Structure

Julia Cameron’s comments about structure in The Artist’s Way for Parents rings a few dozen bells for me. I wholeheartedly concur that the key to creativity is not total freedom, but freedom within established limits. The freedom comes in determining those rules and limits for yourself before you begin your work.

In my case, I’ve found that I do my best work when I set up rules. In fiction that’s called world building. In poetry, form. In nonfiction, it’s an outline. In addition to the form/structure of the work itself, the form structure of my workday also makes a significant difference. A strict schedule including breaks to go for walks, meditate, or watch TV also all make a significant difference to me.

This is actually something I am struggling with at the moment, since I thrive on schedule. Clearly the move and my new environment is forcing at least to some degree an alteration of schedule. My health and the medications I  am on also factor in: I have a hard time rising before 10 am most days, and I get the most (if not always the best) work done between 6 am and 10 am. While the west coast – at least this part – seems to consist of late risers/second sleep folks in my neighborhood (get up, surf, go back to bed), and I do work from home, it still feels like I miss out. Getting up earlier would usually at least get me a better shot at a treadmill at the gym, for instance.

I was having trouble with schedule in Minnesota, too. There’s been a lot of disruptive influences so I’ve been working on settling that, and striking as needed. Here’s hoping that I get it worked out!

5 Things I Love

Hm, 5 things I love?

  1. The dippy feeling my stomach makes on a Tilt-a-Whirl
  2. Traveling
  3. My National Geographic digital subscription
  4. A well-organized closet
  5. Roses. I adore roses.

So how would I share these loves?

1. Take someone on a tilt-a-whirl with me. In lieu of a tilt-a-whirl, find a safe place to spin in circles until we both fall down. For those of us that don’t get nauseated, it is very much like going on a ride. So fun.

2. Take someone with me. Traveling is one of those things you love or you don’t, though. I suppose travelogues can build appreciation. Kiwanis travelogues gave me the bug as a child.

3. My National Geographic subscription – gift it. Maybe just go analog, and encourage any new reader to use the images for all kinds of craft projects after enjoying the fabulous reads.

4. Well-organized closets are the kind of thing you have to live to really appreciate. It also takes some tailoring. Aside from showing endless episodes of Clean House there’s not really a way to get that one across.

5. Roses – show pictures, take someone to a rose garden, volunteer to work in a rose garden…

Supplies: What Can I Do?

Quote from vending machine at the Loft in Minneapolis

from the Loft in downtown Minneapolis

The question to ask is “What can I do?” rather than “What’s going to happen?”

I’ve created an entire workshop around the whole “what’s going to happen?” issue. You remind yourself you can’t predict the future. The artist’s career is not ruled by the law of thermodynamics. That failure in creative acts doesn’t matter – in creativity, all failure is is something that doesn’t change.

I like the “what can I do” question. It puts it all right back in my own hot little hands.

Supplies: Antidotes to Worry

Mike is big on budgeting. Since my hardest to shake worry, even now, is money, his means helps us to have some means. It was what kept us from sinking under debt and worse when we took off three weeks from work after my father went to hospice. By having a plan – one built in tiny increments – everything feels easier.

Como Conservatory - 02/12/2010

peach tree at Como Conservatory


It also works for every project, ever. In the book the Artist’s Way, Cameron mentions the philosophy of one small thing. Whenever I can break any project down into smaller steps, small enough that I no longer feel stress at the sight of a single to-do, it cures the worry. I have control of it. Sometimes I might confront problems on a single steps. Often I can just go back a step and then move forward if needed in those situations. So to me, this sounds like a great system. So far it’s my best remedy.

Other treatments can include exercise – endorphins can chase out worry – sex and coloring or fingerpainting.

No, really, distraction applied wisely is an antidote.

Supplies: “Experts”

Don’t get me wrong… my husband is a good man. Since this is critical of him, I asked permission to write about this behavior of his. He consented, saying “Yeah, I do do that.”

He is also an “expert” at near everything. This is due to his extraordinary talent as a computer programmer and technician. Somehow this often translates into him knowing everything… and he doen’t. The example that comes to mind is the DMV incident when we first got together.

Minnesota is strange and has DMVs distributed in all sorts of places. They are generally not anywhere near other government buildings. I had already learned this the hard way when I wandered into the Hennepin County government building downtown to find out that all I could do there was pay for tickets. All other business required a drive to the nearest DMV.

Aggravating. The kind of aggravating I remembered.

So when my partner moved and had to update his license I told him about my experience.

He actually overruled me. So I got dragged with him to the government center and had to waste time going through EXACTLY what I knew was going to happen.

I was pretty mad about that one.

These things still happen with him, although I’ve learned to be more forceful. The latest was Christmas Eve. We live in the Midwest. Everything except Chinese restaurants close in Christmas Eve in the Midwest. While we are visiting his family in a town he has visited since birth, he stubbornly refused to believe that nearly every business and service would be closed.

We also often argue about how close he gets to other cars. Last year, we tested cars after a traffic accident ruined our Yaris. He often says something dismissive when I complain about his tailgating at stoplights. When we tested a Chevy Volt, it started dinging a warning and told him it was too close at exactly the same time I did. If the car’s interior design weren’t so lousy I’d have bought it for that reason alone.

Thankfully for Christmas Eve I was willing to glare and make tart comments illustrating past experience so he humored me and did a Target run before we went on the road. But oh, he loves the expertise of “no it’s not” and can be quite dismissive of my direct experience. It is probably the one thing he does in our relationship that I find disrespectful – and it really pissed me off.

Note: I only resort to passive aggression when direct comment has failed. Direct comment had failed.