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Inertia

Hi - I posted on the artistway07, but it's my first time posting here.

I'm getting a bit stuck with my morning pages - I will write - say, half a page, then get up and check my email, then write a bit more, & then get up & ... put bread in the toaster for breks -

so, I've been doing 3 pages, but somehow I feel that stopping and starting like that evades or shortchanges the purpose of the MP. I'm really exhausted by a series of dramas that have completely re-arranged my life (including a parent's illness). Because all this stuff is so draining, and it's taken up all my life bandwidth - I can't even stand to write about it in my morning pages, but all this stuff is still there - so I avoid writing about it, in any depth at least, coz I just feel exhausted all the time.

Any fellow 'un-blocking' artists got some encouragement or cheerleading for me about this? I could use it...


(I made it to chapter 6 of AW last year. Since then I have finished my first complete draft of a piece of fiction. Before that I never got much beyond the beginning of anything I attempted. I'm working on the 2nd draft now. I have to remember that that alone is a big achievement. )
Just to let you know I haven't died. Right around Week 9, life got really crazy hectic and I am trying to get back to a normal routine. Still doing my daily self-portraits but no morning ages in a while and I need to get back on track. Will start up again with Week 9 very soon!

Chapter 12 Overview

The final week, the final chapter.

I think the main value in this chapter is the description of the ideation process. How an idea emerges half baked and gets fiddled with endlessly, procrastinated on, fooled around with until a point when it's ready to emerge as finished work. Forcing something to completion before you're ready almost always results in something shoddy.

It's not like learning to drive a truck and following the same route every time.

I don't have a hangup against playing. I sit around at home in a squashy armchair and play all day and that's what Social Security pays for me to do. In my day job as cripple, all I have to do is exist. So I spend all my days in ways that encourage my creativity. I have trouble doing formal Artist Dates because they wouldn't be anything special compared to my everyday self indulgence. Right now I have Walking with Beasts playing in RealPlayer, a type of documentary that's always stimulating for me. I'm planning to buy more documentaries like Blue Planet and others by David Attenborough, just watch for anything good that comes up on the BBC site and order it.

I don't believe in Divine Plan, and this chapter did go into that and into tasks that involved passing off responsibility to your god.

Thus, I'm not going to do those tasks. I'm not shoving off my worries and decisions and problems and obstacles onto Odin. Instead as they come up, I'll look them in the eye, face them and make a decision.

I'm not going to take up sewing instead of painting or drawing ACEOs or researching dinosaur trivia. While my geraniums do need repotting, this isn't the best week to do it -- either for me or for them. My wild geranium just bloomed. It needs to bloom undisturbed and then later on in May long after the last risk of freeze is gone, I'll move it and the other wild geranium to the yard to the wild patch near the garden. They're perennials, they'll settle in there and flourish. Then get a couple of new zonal geraniums to occupy the windowsill.

The big ones need repotting but I don't have the pots or the money yet to get them. That can wait till I get the necessary resources and have a good day. That is the pace of my life.

No lists.

Lists demoralize me. Stories motivate me. So I will go on doing Morning Pages.

There is a good saying that started in AA but has enormous bearing on this book. Take what you need and leave the rest.

I hope you find in it what you need to thrive and overcome the negative social pressures against creativity that can sometimes come even from otherwise loving and supportive people. I hope you can come to trust yourself and believe in your capacity to make your dreams real. Start doing it in little ways and seize it when the good days come, and it'll become real.

If this book did anything for me, it made me recognize I didn't have this problem. What I had and have to deal with is just a set of challenges and bad situations that are physical, tangible, real and must be acknowledged. I need runarounds for disability more than attitude rearrangement. A power chair would do more for my ability to do book signings and attend science fiction conventions than an attitude change.

It was a feel-good book in that it did affirm a lot of my views on creativity -- and also a constant irritation as the paradigm of Divine Will and other Christian dogma elements grated on me culturally. That's not who I am or where I live. But in the debate, I wound up affirming what I do believe -- that my life is my own and my opportunities are ahead, not behind me. The ones I missed only go to show that even then I had the skill to do this thing that I set my mind on so young.

It raises another question though.

Why is it that with any self help book there's pressure to take it verbatim and absolutely do any assignment no matter how pointless or even self defeating? Is that something that got programmed into me and most people in school? I find myself defending my decisions to skip or alter or substitute tasks in this journal even though my reasons are all tangible and reasonable or personal and my own responsibility.

I should not hesitate to adapt anything to suit the reality of my life and neither should you or anyone else. The best way to use this book is to think about everything it asks and come up with your own answers.

Chapter 11 Check-In (late)

I know why I procrastinated on this wrap-up. Chapter 11 was a null chapter. Dead issues solved decades ago, combined with a second half that rubbed my nose into things that I can never have and should get used to doing without -- and most of the time do care about. Honestly, I don't like sports. I don't enjoy watching them. I don't care about them or anything, but when the book ties that in with creativity, when creativity is my escape from boredom and the inability to do many physical things I would love to do -- rock climbing, exploration in exotic dangerous places, amateur paleontology -- then making it seem like these capacities I don't have are necessary to become more creative is demoralizing.

I'm not normal.

I never will be normal and it's not a goal of mine to become normal in any way.

I kept up the morning pages this week, more often than not in the morning. I kept my mind off this program and so a lot of them were more pleasant ruminations on art and writing and current reality and my household as it is. I live in a good place and I do very cool things with my time when I'm not looking at the past.

I didn't do an artist date as such, explained that last time. I always do exactly what I want to do. I am not constrained by anything except commitments that I make. I get paid for breathing in my day job as a cripple. So every day, not once a week, is when I do the things that make me happy whether they're productive or not. I did get a beautiful artwork that I bought, it arrived this week. Mountain Spirit is an ACEO by John Houle, my favorite nature artist, of a cougar, my totem. So in answer to a previous task, I have a totem symbol now and it's in my ACEO album. I may take him out and put him on my desk sometimes when I write, the pencil drawing is so lush and real the cougar seems to come to life.

Scheduling an entire artist's day? Well, often, if I have a writing project, I'll schedule an entire day for writing. Usually a stack of them, a week or two, to get a book done. I have a project planned that I might be doing in the next few weeks, a colored pencils workbook, that could be a lot of fun and turn my hobby art into lucrative professional writing. I'm looking forward to that. I'll do it when I start and finish when I'm done.

The constant repetition of "artist" is still disturbing though, because I'm a writer. Not an artist. Not for avocation. I write for serious and I draw because it's fun to play with my toys, I take the former seriously and have career goals. I take the latter as a fun relaxation and something to write about, along with everything else that I enjoy and pay attention to. I could as easily become a serious dino-writer with the amount of research I've been doing lately.

Come to think of it, there was one day during the week that I spent all day just reading and researching dinosaurs and paleontology. Two days of it, saturating myself in the backgrounds I need to do my Canadian Mesozoic "Three Day Novel." I wrote to a professor with some questions about Albertasaurus sarcophagus too, and hope he's willing to mentor me or refer me.

Synchronicity?

My lilac bush bloomed. I changed my mind on what to order this month and did get the plein air stuff onto my order for my May check, since I can paint outdoors now. It was seventy degrees and the lilacs bloomed. I got some photos of them and took a sprig inside. I took photo references, shared them online and spent 11 hours doing an immersive colored pencil realism piece that came out gorgeous. Masterful Color by Arlene Steinberg turned out to be a good read and an inspiration, not least of which in how the book is written. All that is going into my colored pencils workbook, along with the things she didn't talk about that'll make my book an important addition to other hobbyists' collections.

Other significant recovery issues:

The depression brought on by rereading my Morning Pages still lingers sometimes and I still get the nightmares from the memories. I have spent 52 years of my life in unlivable conditions and abuse of one kind or another, it only ended two years ago. When I look at all of it, that is overwhelming, and I am getting annoyed at the amount of scarring. The number of things that make me flinch and get a wave of fibromyalgia pain, ordinary everyday things like trying to remember a number or a password.

I want to live as if I'd had a real childhood. I want to be free of any of the scars of my abuser's influence and of the subsequent traumas they led to. I'm tired of being emotionally scarred and getting fibromyalgia attacks at ordinary day to day things like trying to type a number accurately. Why can't I just relax about it and be good at the things I do and extra careful with things I'm not good at, take those minor mistakes in stride the way I do not walking fast? It's all the attitudes she beat into me.

I was very good at filtering out the attitudes that led to hurting other people. I learned not to be an asshole. But what I wasn't able to filter out as easily were the attitudes that wound up wounding me and leaving me beating myself over things that aren't important or even always relevant. Who cares if I flunked gym? Contrary to her dismal predictions, I know of nothing in adult life where someone's grade school grades follow them to diminish their reputation. Einstein flunked arithmetic too.

So it doesn't matter. She doesn't matter. That is what I want, to live free of even her memory and hold my head up as who I am.

Hmmm...

I can't remember if I posted the end of week wrapup or not on Thursday or Friday, so I'm going to check and I'll post it today if I didn't.

Chapter 11 Overview

Half and half.

The balance between making and keeping artistic commitments, or making so many commitments that there's no room to innovate and be creative is something anyone with a creative career has to find. The first half of this chapter, "Recovering a Sense of Autonomy," makes sense.

I've learned this one the hard way over the years every time I've had any success and my body started to fail. I've learned that I can't build up a queue for creative projects or plan anything more than one in advance. I've learned that deadlines are guidelines unless I take the advice of a serious tailor and corsetmaker that I knew in New Orleans.

"Sit down, organize everything you need to do for the project and come up with a reasonable timeline for it. Be generous. Make it as long as you can, don't try to promise more than you can. Then take that sensible timeline and triple it before you tell the client when it'll be done. Life happens. You can't know in advance what will interfere. If you get it done early, they're not disappointed, but that's on average how much interference any given project is likely to get."

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Belated Chapter 10 Check-In

I lost some days this week to overexertion and recuperation. My printer came, and I had to rearrange everything to make room for it. Two days later, my son in law came in with the carpet steamer to clean my room. I moved too many things out of his way and reorganized my creative corner. It's literally clean. It's a lot more comfortable. My room is seriously improved. This took spoons. (Google "The Spoon Theory.")

I did some version of my morning pages every day all the way through, though a couple of the worst days were shortened and only a few hundred words.

I watched the Extended version of The Lord of the Rings trilogy movies and they were stimulating, inspirational, comforting and beautiful. I love being able to see Middle Earth so close to what I imagined when I first read that. The story is very dark, much darker than many modern fantasy novels. I didn't think of it as an artist date, because it isn't something separate from the rest of my life to do something for myself. I'm a bachelor and a writer. Everything I do is the way I want it, everything I enjoy is in some way related to my writing.

This is something about the Artist Date that I'm starting to comprehend. I do things like that every day, not just once a week. I don't have to schedule it into a life that's mostly oriented to other people and what they think of me, or to social obligations. I don't have very many obligations and I let a couple of them go hang this week. I skipped doing Nibblefest Art Contest even though I liked the theme of Reptiles, because I didn't feel up to doing good art on April 20th. I'll do it some other month when I've got time and energy. If it feels more like an obligation than a pleasure, then it's not as important to do it. I do that for fun, and LOTR was more important this week.

Synchronicity... no, not exactly.

Rereading my old morning pages overwhelmed me. One thing became so clear. Any section oriented to the present or the future was generally happy. I was making plans or appreciating little day to day things in my life here and now. There is a great divide between the present and the past as clear as if I were a veteran coming home from a war.

Everything that had to do with anything before I came here was unmitigated horror. The technical term for it is pathos, not tragedy, since the overwhelming majority of the horrors were not things brought on by tragic errors of my own character. In the words of Andy Dufresne from Stephen King's masterpiece Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, I was in the path of the tornado. I made a few mistakes in life but what happened to me as a consequence was so out of proportion to what I did that it makes no sense. Most of it was about things I could not control and did not do, was just born with.

That's true of a lot of people on this planet.

Because so many exercises go into the past and analyze it, rereading my morning pages overwhelmed me with all of it at once. I got depressed. I got PTSD symptoms again. I got flashbacks at inconvenient moments. I got pain-fog stealing days out of my life. I got the shakes. I got the nightmares. I got the unexpected rages and I cried for no immediate reason at things, even sometimes at good things, because they came so late into my life. I got the terrors and wound up dreading how fragile this good life is.

It's not. I don't think it will ever get as bad as it was.

I wrote an essay on a spirituality site that a friend who's engaged in philosophical discussion with me in email created and invited me to. One of the threads was titled "Why are we here?" I snapped.

I articulated my complete response for the first time.

I know why I'm here. I'm here because at every point when I could have chosen to die, I chose to live so that I could become a science fiction writer. That's why I put up with all the rest. The meaning of my life is something I decided to give it. Other than that, I have the same meaning to my life as that cat or a cougar in the hills or a wolf or a kestrel. I'm a living creature that seeks optimal conditions. I chose to migrate rather than fight a lot of times when I faced harsh conditions.

I'm responsible for choosing the meaning of my life and so is anyone else. Even a believer in Divine Will or someone whose religious path leads them to a decision to become a servant of God should recognize that their god would appreciate a willing servant far more than a slave who obeys anything he's told and accepts meaning imposed by others. But then, I can't speak for your god. I can't speak for anyone other than the one person I'm responsible for: me.

It's not fair to their future selves to even speak for the minor children I help take care of on these matters because they will come to face those choices themselves. There's my view of "Why are we here?" You're the only one who can answer that for you, bot you have no right to tell me what my life means. How it impacted yours, yes. But not what it should be. I am a science fiction writer, and I have come a long way on this quest.

I'm at one of the good points now, the things that in stories get a page or two or maybe only a transitional sentence before there's another exciting conflict. Fifty or sixty years of Bilbo's life vanished between The Hobbit and Fellowship of the Ring, and those may have been the more enjoyable years Bilbo had. I could stand some more of that while I face my chosen challenges instead of my enemies.

Week 8 Check-in -- Belated

I did my morning pages all but a day or two last week, I believe. I also did some affirmation work most mornings, and an abundance meditation. Still doing the self-portraits, though in a slight dry spell. I'm okay with that -- my Artist's Date was a photo shoot in and ollllld cemetery and that was inspiring and I got some good shots, plus I got to play some in Photoshop AND I got my ollllld scanner working again, so I was able to scan in old photos and postcards and generally had lots of fun noodling.

Aside from photography, I haven't allowed for a whole lot of time spent on other creative endeavors.. am hoping to do more collage and related stuff soon. Also looking to make a mobile of paper cranes, so I need to get the folding of those down, and lots of pretty papers for them. :)

Little synchronicities are fun: I joined postcrossing.com where you send a postcard to a foreign country and then some random user sends you one. I scanned my received ones on the same day that a fellow flickr person scanned the postcard *I* sent *them* and they showed up right next to each other in the flickr Postcrossing pool. What were the odds?!

Good chapter -- I don't think my artistic woundings were major and I feel string enough to overcome them now, so it being the week for "Recovering a Sense of Strength" -- I agree that is appropriate. The uncovering of old dreams and listing steps toward achieving them is powerful.

Update on the Way

I certainly have been lax in my Artist's Way efforts!  No only have I skipped two weeks of morning pages, but I also failed quite miserably in the "no reading" policy of this period.  But I'm dusting myself off and stiffly approaching the proverbial horse once again, reading to mount up.

Breaking the no reading assignment was, in my feeling, more than worth it.  My most notable literary venture was The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audry Niffenegger.  When I heard that Eric Bana is starring in the film version of the book that's coming out around November, I thought that between his involvement -- he's only a small step down from the wonderful Hugh Jackman in my book, especially as Hector in Troy! -- and my vague grasp of the plot, this movie is something I'd be interested in checking out.  However, as the book is usually better than its film counterpart, I checked the novel out of the library and journeyed in.

I had low expectations.  "National bestsellers" put me in mind of The DaVinci Code, Oprah's book club, Danielle Steele, and, in general, books that may be entertaining but are also of moderate to low quality.  Book snob that I am, such texts barely earn a passing glance from me.  I only read The DaVinci Code because I was down the shore and wanted something quick and light for the beach.  (Plus, I wanted a more informed opinion regarding its then-controversial contents.)

Niffenegger's book was nothing like my thin and sanctimonious expectations.  Instead, I discovered an intricately woven plot, vivid characters that walked with me after I closed the pages, and delicate, well-crafted prose.  It's been some time since I've met characters that I can truly root for, mourn with, and love.  The whole tale reminded me of the voice of the graphic novel Blankets, and the male main character seemed the literary incarnation of Neil Gaiman, somehow.  I loved it, devoured, luxuriated in every word.  My only criticism is that there is some sexual content that briefly smears the artfulness of the story.  But overall -- what rare joy!

Not the usual fears... truth time.

In chapter 10, there was a list of questions that I answered in my morning pages and had thought I was done with them. But those questions stayed with me past the first round of answers. Tonight I have a different answer to one of them than just dealing with schadenfreude.

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