Finding Water--check in, week four
Sometimes, while I read Finding Water (or any Julia Cameron book), I have to look around the room furtively, looking for her eavesdropping self, so completely does she nail some aspect of my personality that I had thought was “only me.”
Last week, it was her comments on believing mirrors, and expanding your definition of the kinds of people who can perform this service for you. I’ve had a problem for a few years (OK, maybe more like almost a decade) with wanting to connect deeply only with other writers/artists, as a way of bolstering my own variable self-image, and validating that, yes, I can also fit into this community and take myself seriously. But, alas, I think I’ve also moved away from several people who could have been very fine friends, just because on some level I didn’t think I’d have anything substantial to say to me or vice versa. Only now do I really feel myself opening up to the possibilities of deep friendship with a variety of people, appreciating them for their own sakes. Because I am so incredibly lonely.
This week, these quotes got me so deeply that I broke my own long standing rule about writing books and actually underlined them:
“Optimism is an elected attitude, a form of emotional courage.” I’ve always resisted this idea, equating it with a type of bland smiley-face repression. But lately, I’ve been driven into taking another look at this. While venting my frustration can feel good temporarily, I also think it drives away the people that I most need in my life. And the good feelings of venting never seem to last, unless I can move past them into a form of “looking for the bright side.” And I admitted to myself that the people I most admire, even when writing about their sadness and loneliness, possess just this attribute…they can find some positive about their situation, and they sit with that until it can grow within them organically. Optimism now seems a form of artistic discipline, the steadfast belief that I can sit with a writing problem without hysteria, and trust that somehow, I’ll find an answer (if not THE answer) that will allow me to move on in the piece.
I just typed “peace” and it occurs to me that’s also accurate.
The other quote is “No, in order to write, I must be willing to write badly and to have the faith that if I go forward ‘writing badly’, some purpose is still being served.” I’ve always believed, in theory, in the first part of that statement, the being willing to write badly, but I honestly never thought about the very act of willingness to write badly as serving some purpose. In fact, I’ve often struggled with the idea of my writing, especially awful writing, as serving any purpose at all.
Maybe the purpose is just to allow myself to hang out in all of my silly personhood on the page? And this allowing is what amuses the muses and brings forth something…better? Maybe it’s about intentionality?
Which brings me to the third part of the chapter that struck me—the poor blocked grant writer. I found myself getting indigent on her behalf when J.C. told her that writing, however badly, would probably be better for her than reading the brilliant words of others. “Why, I do that all the time!” I sputtered mentally. “It’s one of the most reliable sources of inspiration for me!” But of course, I ignored the vital idea of intentionality, again. Because it’s possible for someone to pick up her Unabridged Collected Works of Chekhov and use its genius to bang herself upside the head, never writing a word. And it’s possible to use the same book as an encouraging voice, a teacher, to see in Chekhov a fellow writer, albeit one way further down the path.
I’ve done this both ways, and can (sort of) tell the difference now. And, of course, when you are blocked, it’s practically impossible to read anything without seeing it as a reproach to your own inability to write anything. All of those beautiful words become the best excuse to keep from writing your own flawed ones.
So, once I got past taking it all very personally (that pinging sound you heard was J.C. plucking a nerve), I saw that one of the things I need to work on in my writing is my own intention—am I moving towards learning, being willing to try? Or am I grumping towards the computer, hating myself? Either way, it’s writing, but I’d probably get a lot more done (and more happily) without all of the self-loathing.
I know this is probably painfully obvious to all of you, but I guess I’ve been so focused on the act of doing any writing at all, that I never really thought about how I was approaching it, or thinking that how made any difference.
As far as the divining rods, I have to admit I was daunted by the idea of trying to list my accomplishments—scared that I wouldn’t even be able to come up with ten! Maybe I’ll go back and attempt them later.
Morning pages everyday, but no walk, and no artist date. And yet, I feel like I got a lot out of this chapter, if only the idea that I need to continue pushing and fumbling towards balance.
See you all next week--hope it’s artful and productive for everyone, including me!
Labels: finding water