Welcome to week two, part two of The Artist’s Way Challenge! For part two, I’m sharing the creative exercises from The Artist’s Way and some of my experiences with the process. Activities like these encourage self-discovery and help us break through our barriers. Making time for yourself is urged this week.
A quick recap: week two is known as “Recovering a Sense of Identity.” This week is
“aimed at moving you into your personal identity, a self-defined you.”
Cameron discussed both internal and external factors related to self-doubt, and we were encouraged to examine our related experiences.
Morning pages help us work through our thoughts and emotions, and save us from oversharing with our family or friends. At least I’ve found that to be the case.
I wasn’t as successful with my morning pages this week, though. I even missed a day! On two other occasions, I almost forgot but remembered shortly before bed. I’m going to have to get back in the habit of doing them in the morning. Otherwise, I continue to love the process.
My Artist Date
For my artist’s date this week, I transplanted my balcony veggie plants into bigger pots. Gardening is on my list of twenty things (task three this week), and it’s therapeutic for me. I miss living in a house and having the extra room to grow for a garden, but I like growing plants in containers. I find them easy to take care of, and they seem to thrive when they’re in the right size.
Two of them were in pretty small 10-inch pots. One of these, a tomato plant, had wrapped its roots around about twenty times, even stretching them underneath the water drainage base. Poor guy. The new pots are 16-inch, and everyone looks much happier in them.
Initially, I was only going to transplant the two in the smaller pots, but I worried the others might get jealous of their new digs. Plus, I had to go back out anyway. I had severely underestimated the amount of dirt I would need. I originally bought three 16-inch containers and only one 25-quart bag. That bag filled one pot. Ha-ha.
I ultimately bought three more bags, the 50-quart potting mix this time, plus the additional pots. Moving the bags of dirt from my car to my balcony was like moving small dead bodies. The whole process gave me quite the workout, so I felt like I killed two birds with one stone. My arms are even a little sore today. Apparently, artist date’s can be productive too.
Task One: Affirmative Reading
In task one, Cameron asks us to review the Basic Principles and
“be alert for any attitudinal shifts.”
She wonders if the student has set aside any skepticism at this point in the course. Here is a link to the Basic Principles.
There are some religious connotations within these principles that I still find myself rebelling against, so I’m only going to cover two specific principles. The First is
“Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative energy.”
I freaking love science, especially neuroscience. We know so little about the brain in the scheme of things. I believe there is an energy in life, which cannot be entirely explained by known science. I can’t know for sure what this energy is or where it stems from, but I feel it all the time.
The Ninth principle
“It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity.”
I believe the more we open ourselves to being creative, the more we will see our creative potential. I think this is what writers, like Stephen King, are referring to when they talk about showing up, even when you’re not feeling the muse. The “muse” will reward you when you do the work. We need to open ourselves up to this potential by committing to our practice daily.
Task Two: Where Does Your Time Go?
In this task, you are to list your five major activities throughout this week, and how much time you spent performing them. The point is to consider how much time we spend on our responsibilities versus allowing ourselves to do the things we want. Alternatively, it’s helpful to assess how much time we spend doing things for other people, especially those toxic types who encourage self-doubt, as we discussed in week two, part one, Overcoming Self-Doubt.
Cameron also suggested drawing a circle to create a “safety map.” This map is to include topics you want to protect and the people with whom you feel safe or unsafe discussing those topics.
The map wasn’t a concern for me. I don’t surround myself with unsupportive people. When I share my work, I embrace constructive criticism. I don’t share my work when I’m unsure if it’s any good (which is most of the time). My mindset has shifted. I used to overreact to criticism, but I’ve learned it helps to understand the person giving it to you.
Are they trying to help you improve, or are they just being a jerk? Or jealous…
As for time, the pandemic has been both weird and pleasantly surprising for me. I’ve had a lot more time to spend doing the things I want to do. I also don’t have any significant obligations when it comes to other people. My family lives elsewhere, and the initial lockdown and lingering social distancing of the pandemic have limited my time with the few friends I keep.
That said, my five main activities this week were: writing, watching movies/TV shows, reading, researching, and actually, visiting with friends.
These aren’t things I felt I should do, at least not in a negative sense. I write because I love it and I’m trying to build a second career. I perform research and read for similar reasons, and also for pleasure. I’ve visited with friends very few times over the past four months. Even so, it made me nervous, which is sad.
I do waste too much time watching TV. That’s one reason I gave myself this project. I hoped it would kickstart some extra writing discipline, and it has, but I still have a ways to go. One thought, though – sometimes I switch on the TV because I like having some noise in the background. In this case, I’ll throw on a movie I’ve seen twenty times, so I’m not as tempted to focus on it.
Focus. Focus is still a problem.
Task Three: List Twenty Things You Enjoy Doing
When was the last time you allowed yourself to do something you enjoyed? Cameron asks us to make a list of 20 things we enjoy, and the last time we allowed ourselves to do them. This list can be a potential resource for artist dates.
Mine was a mixed bag. For instance, I love hiking, and I was able to do that a few times before this unholy weather came upon us. Ballroom dancing, though, is something I miss, and I haven’t done that for a long time. If I had to come up with a time frame, I’d say it has been at least four or five years. I would love to get involved with it again someday, but it’s currently cost-prohibitive, at least from the standpoint of taking private lessons. It’s probably social distancing prohibitive right now too.
Task Four: Two Favorite Things
This week’s goal: choose two things you’ve avoided from your list of twenty and incorporate one into your life this week. It’s easy to fall into a time-scarcity mindset, but if we want to make positive change, we need to look for little ways in which we can boost creative acts.
I thought this was a great idea, and I chose photography. I used to take pictures all the time, and I have albums of them, especially from hockey games and zoos. The last time I thought about taking pictures, other than the occasional one-off pic or selfie, was when I was supposed to travel to Norway last year. The trip didn’t happen, but I still have the camera I purchased in anticipation of it.
I recently came across a second camera (in my storage). It’s about eight years old now, but it’s still in great shape, and I was only missing the cord that allows me to plug it into my laptop. I purchased one for $5 a couple of months ago, and I finally hooked it up this week. I discovered pictures on it of the Formula 1 race in Austin from 2017.
I’m going to study up on photography and start taking pictures again. Better ones this time.
Task Five: Week One Affirmations
Here, Cameron asks us to assess our reactions to the creative affirmations from week one (as well as our personal ones). Here is the best link I’ve found to view them: creative affirmations.
Much like the basic principles, the affirmations are a bit much for me. I dig this one, though:
“Through the use of a few simple tools, my creativity will flourish.”
For me, this creative recovery has a lot to do with my writing practice, so this kind of affirmation speaks to me best. I love being creative, but being practical and logical is also important to me. I like the idea of finding tools that work, and not just waiting for some kind of magic.
In the past, I’ve wasted a lot of time searching for inspiration when I should have been concentrating on developing my talent and the tools that make me most productive. Now, I try to integrate simple, yet highly efficient tools, like making my writing a priority, time management, organization, and goal setting. My new mantra is, “do the work.”
Task Six: Five More Imaginary Lives
This task is the same as task eight from last week. You are to choose five more imaginary lives you could be living and consider how you can integrate pieces of those lives into your own. This week I chose:
- Brewery Owner & Operator
I’m not sure if this is cheating, but I chose photography for this task too. I also do a lot of apartment karaoke, but I’m not sure that counts as my being a singer. Or does it?…
Task Seven: Life Pie
In task seven, Cameron asks you to draw a circle divided into a pie with six labels: spirituality, exercise, play, work, friends, and romance/adventure. Next, place a dot in each circle corresponding to how fulfilled you are in that area. The outer circle means great; the inner circle not so great. Finally, connect the dots to see where you might be out of balance.
I’m not sure I got much out of this one. Generally, I don’t feel out of balance anymore. I suppose my work life could be considered out of balance since I’m trying to start a new career. That always takes time. That’s not something to feel negative about, though. I feel more adverse about the thought of returning to a job that’s not my passion.
Task Eight, Nine, and Ten: Ten Tiny Changes and One Small Item
What are ten tiny changes you would like to make? Tasks eight, nine, and ten are related and also somewhat similar to tasks four and six.
In tasks four and six, you are to choose specific actions you can take in your life based on what you enjoy, but tasks eight, nine, and ten are more like small sparks. For instance, maybe you’ve been meaning to write someone a letter, or you need to replace the fourth light bulb that burnt out in your apartment in the past two months.
That last one is a true story, and it’s what I chose for this week. I was worried about doing it on my own because I didn’t want to break the glass cover or fall off my chair, but my annoyance over having no kitchen lighting for three days helped me overcome this concern.
Final Thoughts (Check-In)
So, there you have it. I like this process so far. I wouldn’t say every exercise has been beneficial or even relevant to me, but I think I expected that. We all have different issues to work through, so some weeks will be more applicable to our situation than others.
I think task two is probably the most valuable one. It pertains to everyone. It’s a good idea to periodically evaluate how you’re spending your time to make sure your life is in balance. Getting out of balance is part of what leads to stress and burnout. We need to make time for ourselves to recharge.
If you have toxic people in your life, though, I encourage you to do everything you can to remove yourself from that situation. The drama and harm just aren’t worth it. We can’t be responsible for everyone.
There’s still time for you to grab the book and follow along! Finds previous posts here: