TURNING DREAMS INTO REALITY: What if you couldn’t fail?

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Like most writers, I am fairly introspective. I spend time thinking about who I am, what made me this way, and where I’m heading. I have learned that we need to spend time thinking about our dreams, and finding ways to make them a reality. If you find yourself not pursuing your dreams, I encourage you to try working your way through “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. It is a revealing journey. It taught me that I can make my dreams a reality, and I learned a lot about myself in the process.

One thought I have pondered recently is this – What three things would I do if I knew I could not fail?  1) I would quit my job and I would spend more time writing. 2) I would open a scrapbook store (my favorite stores are the Scrapbook Store & More in Mexico, Missouri and Soul Sentiments in Millersburg, Missouri). 3) I would get my pilot’s license.

I am interested in hearing YOUR three things. Email me or post a comment and tell me your three things. I’ll discuss your responses in a future post. But first . . .  now that you’ve decided what three things you would do, it’s time to take action. Take a moment to consider these things. What can you do to incorporate these things into the coming week? You have 7 days, and 24 hours in each day. Surely you can devote one or two hours to one of these things. For instance, I plan to spend an hour today scrapbooking. Sure, I need to bless my house (for those of you who know Flylady, you know exactly what I’m talking about).  And laundry needs to be done. And I need . . . well, you know how it goes. But I can spare one hour to pursue my dream. That’s all I’m asking. One hour. Are you seriously going to tell me that you are so busy this week that you can’t spend ONE measly hour on your dreams?

I didn’t think so. :o)

Plan your week. Make time for your dreams. They deserve your time and attention.

The Artist’s Way: Week 2 – Sense of Identity

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We are through Week 2, which is “Recovering a Sense of Identity”. This is an important week to me, because this is the main reason I decided I needed to recover in the first place. Somewhere in the past few years, I’ve lost me. Instead of being me, I am JR’s wife, Katelyn’s mom, the office’s paralegal, etc. My identity has become blurred. I am no longer clearly me. I look in the mirror, and I don’t recognize the face looking back at me. The person I see is more tired, heavier, and harried than the me I used to be. So, I am using this week to try and regain my identity. In doing so, I hope to become a happier person, and, in turn, a better mother and wife.

Julia describes this as “going sane”. It does feel a bit like I’m going crazy. I have become obsessive about protecting my time. I have become more aware of what is really important. For instance, several years ago, I agreed to water my mother’s plants and pick tomatoes while they were gone. Normally, before TAW, I would obsess over that and worry, worry, worry about whether I was going often enough. but after experiencing The Artist’s Way, I decided when to go and made it a family project – not just something that I had to go do while my family sat at home in the air conditioning in front of the television while I played the martyr. I’ve felt guilty about not giving more of myself. I’ve questioned my own recovery – wondering if I’ve had all the success I’m going to have (which isn’t nearly enough, as far as I’m concerned). Julia says this is normal – she cautions “Do not let your self-doubt turn into self-sabotage.”

One of the ways we can avoid self-sabotage is by being aware of our “poisonous playmates”. Be aware of your friends who are themselves blocked – they will not help you at this time. You need to guard your inner artist – you have a responsibility to yourself to do just that. You need support now. And no one will support you better than yourself, and those of us who are going through TAW with you. Lean on us, and depend on yourself. You are on the right track.

Julia introduces us to Crazymakers in this chapter. The first time I read this, it was like a huge lightbulb went on. Crazymakers create drama, and put themselves at the center of attention. As soon as you start to focus on yourself, the Crazymaker calls you with a crisis. As soon as your life starts to go smoothly, the Crazymaker creates bumps and roadblocks and detours. They force you to conform to their schedule. But here’s the thing – they can’t FORCE you to do anything. Once you are aware of the Crazymaker, you can set boundaries and react to your own needs and not the Crazymaker’s. Recognize that this person is using you, and put a stop to it. That person is using you – no, that person is abusing you. There was a person in my life when I went through this the first time who I definitely considered a Crazymaker. She certainly drove me crazy. I made a conscious decision to stop reacting, and to let go of the anger that existed over all my previous reactions. It was incredibly freeing experience, and actually saved the relationship. She still drives me crazy, but now I avoid her except in specific circumstances so that I control my reaction and how much she affects me.

Think about your identity – I mean REALLY think about it this week, and do two or three of the following tasks:

1.   Affirmative Readings every day. Be alert for attitudinal shifts.

2.   List your five major activities this week. How much time did you give to each one? Which were what you wanted to do, and which were ones you should do? How much of your time is spent doing for others, and how much is spent doing for you?

3.   List twenty things you enjoy doing. Think back over the past several years – or even back to your childhood. Next to each entry place a date indicating the last time you did that activity. (Hint: perfect list to plan upcoming Artist Dates!)

4.   From your list of twenty things, write down 2 favorite things that you could do this week. Look for windows of time just for you and use them in small creative acts.

5.   Read the affirmations from Week One. Pick two or three that sounds the most ridiculous, and write them five times each day in your morning pages.

6.   Look at the list of imaginary lives from last week. Add five more lives. Can you do a little part of any of them this week?

7.   Life Pie. Draw a circle and divide it into six pieces, like a pie. Label them: spirituality, exercise, play, work, friends, romance/adventure. Place a dot in each slice at the degree to which you are fulfilled in that area (outer rim is great, inner, not so great). You’ll see where you’re lopsided.

8.   Ten Tiny Changes. List ten changes you’d like to make – any size change is fine. Just start each sentence “I would like to . . . ”

9.   Select one change and make it a goal for the week.

10.   Go do it!!

Recovering a Sense of Safety

Working through The Artist’s Way is often helpful for me. As I’ve mentioned before, I am about to become an empty nester. Given that, I am feeling the need to prepare . . . and part of that preparation is nurturing my Inner Artist. If you have read Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, you know that the first week is about recovering a sense of safety. This is the beginning of a journey of artistic exploration and release. I am excited – I am really looking forward to releasing the creativity. I feel like my muse is deep inside me, covered with sludge, struggling to make her way to my shoulder so she can whisper in my ear.  What are you feeling?

One of Julia’s conversations in this chapter discusses Shadow Artists. Look at your own life – this may be your situation. Many people who are artistic don’t receive the encouragement they need as children, so they follow a safer path. They are caught between dream and reality in a shadow world, on the fringes of the artistic world they yearn for – but aren’t quite brave enough to strive for. I am a paralegal by day, so I don’t think I quite fit that pattern. I certainly thought along those lines though – when I was in high school, trying to decide what to do with my life, I planned to be an English teacher. Later, I decided to be a school librarian. Then life happened and things changed and, well, eventually I ended up as a paralegal by day and writing in my spare time. So, though I don’t consider myself a Shadow Artist, I did meander down that path in my younger years. There are times I’m still tempted, though . . . think how easy it would be to “become” a book editor for others who want to self-publish books. And I do wonder if my forays into non-fiction (for paralegals and weapons accessories) are the work of my Shadow Artist.

Another thing that we creative types have in common is the need to protect our inner artist. S/He is a child that needs to be nurtured and protected. Please recognize that this is a learning/growing process. Picasso did not create a masterpiece the first time he picked up his brush, and Stephen King wasn’t an instant success the day he first wrote words on a page. Give yourself permission to explore. Through exploration, you will eventually find what you are searching for. My favorite quote of Julia’s is her answer to the question”But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really” write? Her answer: “Yes . . . the same age you will be if you don’t.

So, let’s start now. Think about those dark, negative beliefs that hide inside you. These are at the core of your creative block. We need to uncover those dark beliefs so that we can deal with them and get rid of them. It’d be nice if we had a delete key, but we don’t. So, how do we get rid of that negativity? First, recognize that just because you hear them in your mind doesn’t mean they are true. They came to us from society, our parents, our friends . . . but that doesn’t make them true. I want you to take each negative, and turn it into a positive. For instance, one of my negatives is that “I don’t have good enough ideas.” My positive is this: “I have many good ideas.” Put a positive spin on that nagging negative voice. We usually remember the negative and forget the positive – I challenge you to pay attention to those positives. Make an effort to remember them.

Easy for me to say, right? Actually, it’s easy for you to say, too. I want you to work with positive affirmations. They really are powerful. There are lots of affirmations out there – find something that works for you. Here are a couple of mine: “I am a creative person.” “I write every day, whether I am motivated or not.” Use these affirmations and positive thoughts to get past those negative thoughts that your Inner Censor blurts out.

And now, it’s time for you to work on some tasks to recover your own sense of safety. I’ll work on these this week, too, and may share them with you later:

1.   Time Travel – list 3 old enemies of your creative self-worth. Be specific – these monsters are the basis of your negative beliefs.

2.   Time Travel – list 3 champions of your creative self worth.

3.   Imaginary Lives – If you had five other lives to lead, what would you do in each of them?

Artist’s Date

Like many of you, the events of last Friday have weighed heavily on my mind. I just could not bring myself to post, and so I didn’t. One of these days, perhaps I will share my thoughts. But for now, I need to turn my mind elsewhere. I find myself in need of an Artist’s Date, and think I need to plan one very soon.

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One very important part of doing the Artist’s Way is the Artist Date. This is one to two hours a week, which you spend by yourself – this is a very special time just for you. No kids, no husbands, no friends. Just you and your Inner Artist. We tend to get so caught up in life that we just don’t take time to nourish the creative soul that is hidden deep inside us. This is your excuse – it’s your assignment, so it officially needs added to your to-do list.  I don’t care how important you are, I don’t care how busy you are. If you want to do this and be successful, you need to do it all the way. Think of it this way – you are refilling the well. You have a deep well of creative ideas which you draw on when you write, but if you keep dipping a bucket of creative ideas out each day, you are eventually going to run the well dry. Not a good thing. You want your well to be full of FRESH creative ideas. If you hole up in your home or office and spend your free time writing (which, let’s face it, many writers think they have to do), your writing loses its freshness. I know you are busy. So am I. But if you want to be a SUCCESSFUL writer (or artist, or photographer, or sculptor, whatever), you have to get out there and experience life.

I’m not asking you to spend a lot of money here. I’m a struggling writer, myself. All I ask is that you get out your day planner or calendar, and mark out 2 hours for you to take your Inner Artist on a date. Do it today – don’t put this off. Give some thought to what you might want to do. You could go to a movie, visit a museum, take a class, go for a walk, go for a bike ride, take a bubble bath, spend a couple of hours in the salon being pampered. Whatever you do, it should take you outside your normal weekly path. Do something different, something to pamper yourself and stimulate your creativity.

If you need more ideas, just let me know and I’ll send you my Artist Date handout of ideas. And comment below – tell me and the others your ideas for dates.