The Artist's Way: Reading Deprivation

If you feel stuck in your life or in your art, few jump starts are more effective than a week of reading deprivation (Cameron, 87).

Of all the tasks and exercises I mentally prepared myself for when I began The Artist's Way, reading deprivation was not one of them. I had accepted the likelihood that I would have to do tasks I didn't want to do (Cameron recommends completing at least half the tasks at the end of each chapter, choosing those you find most appealing and those you feel the strongest resistance to), but this–this I did not expect. My initial response was one of dread.

A week without reading.

A. Whole. Week.

Seven days. I can hear Samara whispering it now.

It's basically my own personal idea of hell. Even when I was stuck in my now broken reading slump (more on that in a few weeks) I was still reading articles and books … I just wasn't finishing any of the books. When I broke the news to my twin sister (my fellow Artist's Way student) her reaction was slightly more pronounced than mine, her expression turning to one of horror as she responded with a resounding, emphatic 'I'm not doing that'. According to Cameron, our negative responses to this exercise are normal. She explains,

Reading deprivation is a very powerful tool–and a very frightening one. Even thinking about it can bring up enormous rage. For most blocked creatives, reading is an addiction. We gobble the words of others rather than digest our own thoughts and feelings, rather than cook up something of our own (87).

As a serial procrastinator. I especially recognised myself in that last sentence, and with this knowledge and a strong desire to complete Week 4 (after two weeks of putting it off) and move onto Week 5, I finally embarked on my own week of reading deprivation.

So far I've had both positive and negative experiences. On the positive side, I've had some new ideas, including some new topics I want to write about in future blog posts, and I can still listen to music. On the flip side, I want to read all the things! And listen to podcasts (you're not supposed to fill up your reading-free time with the radio. I'm assuming podcasts fall into that category).

To give myself some encouragement I made a list of some of the things I could do instead of reading, including some of the suggestions made in The Artist's Way.

  • Listen to music
  • Go cycling (I keep intending to do this one and then never get around to it. Maybe this week I can change that)
  • Explore my local suburb
  • Meditate
  • Practice yoga
  • Pay bills (done and done!)
  • Sort my closet (time to KonMari the rest of my wardrobe)
  • Cook meals that take longer than fifteen minutes to prepare (a challenge on my patience)
  • Catch-up with friends and family
  • Practice calligraphy
  • Write
  • Plan content for this blog

Some of these things are banal, some are nourishing or productive, and some of them I already do. But, most important, they don't involve reading (except for the things I write) and they are all achievable. And maybe they'll lead to an epiphany or two. Finger crossed.

Until next time,
Miss Fif









Maybe I Can: Dutch Braids And A New Mantra

Moments of clarity can strike you in the most unexpected or unremarkable moments. For me, that moment involved a pair of double Dutch braids.

All through high school and primary school I didn't know how to braid. In primary school I didn't care about this fact and in high school I came to the conclusion I just didn't have the skills for it. I decided it was too difficult, something beyond my own capability. But the truth is I never tried to learn properly, I only attempted to figure it out on my own and when that failed I accepted it wasn't meant to be.

Fast forward a couple of years and I finally asked one of the hair stylists at my local salon to teach me how. And I proved my teenage self wrong. Sure, I was all thumbs at first and my braids weren't perfect, beautiful creations, but I learned regardless. I was successful. I followed up this success by placing new limitations on my abilities. Yes, I told myself. You can style a simple braid, but that's it. And so I concluded that anything more complicated was simply beyond my capability.

Jump forward to the Easter weekend, 2017. My sisters and I were on a mini road trip to our childhood home when my big sis asks me if I can do boxer braids. At first I didn't know what she was talking about. What are boxer braids? It turns out she was referencing Million Dollar Baby (I've never seen it. Neither has my twin–but she still got the reference straight away. I swear those two have their own separate wavelength for all things concerning spirituality and home decorating). Once I understood what she meant I told her I couldn't.

But, using my big sister as my model, I ended up giving it a try anyway. I'm not sure why. Maybe my subconsciousness had decided it was time. Or maybe it was just one of my whims (I get those sometimes e.g. deciding to run a marathon. I still haven't checked that one off the bucket list). My first attempt didn't get beyond dividing her hair into two sections. I had no idea how to proceed. Cue the YouTube search. I flicked through the Carli Bybel tutorial (a good one if want to learn how to do double Dutch braids) and then tried again. And it worked out. It wasn't great, but it was a start. My next try was much better.

Since then I've tried out a few different Dutch braid styles on my twin (sisters come in very useful when you're learning to braid–and you don't have to put in any effort to convince them. At all). Each new braid looks better than the last.

I'd like to think I'm a pretty positive person, but I know I have a habit of seeing particular skills and situations as something I can or I can't do, ignoring the middle ground. But I had an epiphany after my little Easter accomplishment (and maybe influenced a little bit by The Artist's Way) and I've decided to adopted a new mantra, maybe I can. I just have to try.

Until next time,
Miss Fif

The Artist's Way: Week 1

When I was child I made several attempts to maintain a diary, each one short-lived, with my commitment lasting no longer than a few weeks. Suffice it to say, my history as a diarist is fickle.

Warning: the following paragraphs may contain phrases like 'spiritual task', 'shadow artist' and 'creative affirmations'.

If these words makes you cringe, if they send up red flags, or conjure up images of placards declaring 'Back Away! Back Away!' I promise I understand. I felt the same way. Sometimes I still do. But I can promise you this is not an article about Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and its ilk (although, if you want to listen to a hilarious discussion about this book check out episode 10 of the Banging Book Club podcast). If you can get past the self-help lingo–even better, erase the dreaded word from your vocabulary–I promise you that there's wisdom (not mine) to be found below.

Last week I started a 12-week course designed to recover and discover your Creative Self (cue the eye-rolling). Basically, it's supposed to help you sort your shit out. The course was created by Julia Cameron, a writer, director, and teacher, and is laid out in her book The Artist's Way, a self-help guide to freeing your creativity. I first learned of The Artist's Way through my twin sister who in turn read about it in the memoir Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod.

The Artist's Way is for 'anyone interested in living more creatively through practicing an art'. Although Cameron uses words like the 'Great Creator' and 'God' a belief in God is not necessary nor compulsory. Camerson writes, '… you may substitute the thought good orderly direction or flow. What we are talking about is a creative energy'. Personally, I like MacLeod's verson–a Mr Miyagi-clone she envisioned giving advice and projecting a sense of calm onto herself.

Before the weekly chapters, Cameron introduces the two basic tools of the course–the morning pages and the artist's date.

The morning pages are simply three pages of stream-of-consciousness thoughts, a 'brain dump' of anything that crosses your mind. Morning pages are a form of therapy, intended to eventually help you realise your (suppressed) hopes, dreams, and dissatisfactions with life. So far I'm enjoying this part of the course. I've managed to write three pages everyday, although I have failed to complete each entry in the morning. Still, I'm considering it a win. I'm able to write about the good things and acknowledge, and often move forward from, the bad. Of course, stationery geek that I am, the start of the morning pages was proceeded by a trip to Dymocks to buy the perfect notebook for the task because–priorities. In the end I went with a sunny yellow Zap notebook.

The artist date is intended to nurture 'your creative consciousness'. Ideally you go for a solo excursion for a couple of hours. I admit I'm cheating a little this week. I'm going to practice calligraphy at home, maybe go for a long walk or retreat to the park to read afterwards. After all, it will all still nurture my creative self or, as Cameron puts it, 'opening yourself to insight, inspiration, and guidance'. Next I'll week do it properly (I will!).

On top of these two tools, each chapter contains an essay, a list of exercises and tasks, and a weekly check-in. Week 1 challenges your core negative beliefs, exploring the notions you have developed over time that are holding you back. The chapter introduces the concept of shadow artists versus real artists and the use of affirmations to help with your self-improvment. I have to admit, I can't help but think of the self-help seminar in the Sex and the City episode (5x02). Not a great example of affirmations. Fortunately, Cameron writes in a relatable way, providing real life examples of participants in her workshops. For me, it's all about getting past the self-help language to the simple truths. In six weeks time I'll be checking-in again with a post about my experiences and opinions at hitting the half-way mark. Hopefully it will all have been worth it. 

Until next time,
Miss Fif