Monday, 21 March 2016

Unblocking the creative artist

Today, as for the past many days, I have been correcting my book manuscript. My editor (I have an editor!... Eeeeek! And WOOHOOO!) has suggested many changes. I’ve been sitting here, starting each day with mantras and positivity and excitement; each day has pretty much descended into boredom, resentment and rage, me wanting to throw a heavy tome at someone’s head. (I hate some of the changes I’ve been asked to do, which seem pointless and are taking ages; and I hate, already in advance, the unseen judge who will write a review of my academic book – formerly The Thesis – and will probably slag it off, the way academics do: ‘I was not convinced by’, ‘It is not clear why the author has chosen’, and so on.)

When I am not editing/ weeping/ snarling quietly/ slamming doors and storming off, I dip in and out of a lovely book I’ve been reading – which is called ‘The Artist’s Way', by Julia Cameron. (I love this book.  It’s like carrying around a kind friend in your bag pocket. I discovered it only a couple of weeks ago. Like all the other great books, it has of course been around for years, and I am only now discovering it – annoying, but perhaps now is when I need it most.)

This morning (buoyed by a positive pep talk by a guru friend the night before, who said nice things and reminded me to be positive, and suggested that I start my day with a positive visualization of exactly how great I will feel when my book is finished), I opened my Kindle to have a glance at ‘The Artist’s Way’. The page which presented itself to my astonished eyes bore the sub-heading: ‘Blasting Through Blocks’.

‘In order to work freely on a project, an artist must be at least functionally free of resentment (anger) and resistance (fear). […] Any buried barriers must be aired before the work can proceed. The same holds true for any buried payoffs for not working. They are, instead, recognizable artistic defences against what is perceived (rightly or wrongly) as a hostile environment.’

This is what ‘The Artist’s Way’ recommends for ‘Blasting through Blocks’.

-       1. Write down any resentments to do with this project (these might be, say, I resent the fact that I’m being asked to do extra work I’m not getting paid for; I resent this editor, she just nitpicks; I resent the fact that I can’t write whatever I want, but everything I write is policed by some academics…)

-       2. Write down your fears (for example, I’m afraid this work will be rubbish; I’m afraid they won’t like it; I’m afraid the reviewers will pick on all the things I did wrong, and not praise any of the good things that I worked so hard on; I’m afraid that, if I write something by myself and it hasn’t been checked by clever friends and supervisors, then it’s not good enough… I’m afraid that I’m not good enough…)

-       3. Have you written them all down? Any secret anger or resentment or fear? Write it down now. (reread resentments and fears; sure I can think of some more…)

-       4. What do I gain by not doing this piece of work? What's the payoff for not working? (mine might be: if I don't do this piece of work, I can go for coffee, piss about, do yoga, play guitar. Write to a friend. Be happy, be free. Do something creative. If I don't write it, no-one will be able to hate it. If I don't do it, no-one will ever need to know it was a bit rubbish... [But then, surely it's better to have a slightly rubbish book out, than have an imaginary perfect book in my head that no one can read?...])

-       5. Make a pact with the ‘Creator’, which goes like this: ‘Okay, Creative Force. You take care of the quality, I’ll take care of the quantity’.

And now I’m writing…

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