Monday, March 19, 2007

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!



Blogger Becoming Amethyst said...

I think you're really on to something in considering the mindframe in which we approach writing (or any other task really) drastically effects our experience of that task. In applying this to my thesis writing, I think that I have definitely been gentle with my workload on the outside, not pushing myself too hard etc., but on the inside I have still been berating myself for not been 'tough' enough with my writing schedule, and thus negating my good intentions of being gentle with myself!

I am sorry to hear you are feeling lonely, too. I can truly understand where you are coming from, as I felt very isolated when my second son was born, in fact that was the time that I first attempted the 'Right to Write' exercises. I think I've found that the key is not to be afraid to reach out ~ there will be lots of people who want to help you. I know it's hard to believe sometimes, but it's true...

Here's mirroring a fruitful week right back at you!

Love x x x x

3:25 AM, March 20, 2007  
Blogger Susan Abraham said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:35 AM, March 20, 2007  
Blogger Susan Abraham said...

What an open-minded and frank post, Mardou.
On one hand, there is that terrible inclination of becoming a snob.
On the other hand, & especially with me, there is an equally deep need for long intellectual conversations if purely for selfish reasons and only to breathe my own self-awareness, if nothing else.
I think life is so short - I taste the exhilaration & elation in wanting to learn and absorb as much as I can before it is all over.
I think I somehere along the way, I settled for simply going with the flow of my spirit and intuition.
Mardou, I'm sure you will not be lonely for long. Soul-searching is often solitary.
hugs :-)

7:51 AM, March 20, 2007  
Blogger bee said...

i resonate with so much of what you are saying here, mardou. i think you're very right on with the fact that it's all about intentionality when it comes to the page - not something i'm terribly good at.

the finding water book is ringing all sorts of bells for me, too. it's incredible, isn't it?

8:16 AM, March 20, 2007  
Anonymous tammy vitale said...

Intentionality - there's a word that is making it's way into the everday of my life as fast as anything I've seen move in. A friend noted: segment your day into intentions (that about 1 month ago) and that started it. I've managed to start the morning and bedtime with intention and will progress to during the day and segments. And I find that working on my art, loving the piece no matter what, makes it all even more magical - yes, in the past there were days that lumps of clay in my hand are just that. My head was everywhere except on that piece of clay (peace of clay would work here too). I think I'm getting more from reading others' reaction to Finding Water than my own first reading. I may have to reprioritize what gets read when. Which is by way of saying - great post.

5:11 PM, March 20, 2007  
Anonymous GeL(emerald eyes) said...

I understand you breaking your rule for underlining in the book. At times, I disagree with Cameron. At other times, so much of what she says, I nod in agreement to. There have been weeks, when I jot down her quotes in my journal. That very act of affirming has been a major support as, has reading others blog opinions and personal journeys.

I'm glad this is helping focus you and give you courage! I'm sorry you are lonely. I've had those periods in my life. I DID find that getting out and expanding my circle beyond the arts (I'm an artist and a writer) is immensely helpful.

There IS only so much time in the day or night, so I am still choosy. However, I think we all have radar that works well on trying new experiences and seeing if there are commonalities. Often, it takes more than one encounter. I need to remind myself of that, because I used to trust my intution on one encounter when I wsa younger. Now, groups can overlap.

Being gentle with oneself is important. Great post: so open and helpful to me, too. Thanks!

2:20 AM, March 21, 2007  
Blogger kate said...

I love this: "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 think this is so true, but something with which I constantly struggle. How not to get discouraged? I'm not always successful at this, but I always do come back to the writing in the end. Great post.

9:10 AM, March 21, 2007  
Blogger Amber said...

I broke my no writing in books rule for Eat, Pray, Love. Sometimes you just have to make sure you really GET something.
It sounds like this book is touching alot of creative souls around the blogs. That's great. Now I will have to pick it up!


7:13 PM, March 21, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading this poignant and honest post.
I too, am sorry to hear of your loneliness.

Here's to an artist date this week!
And here's to banishing "self loathing"!!!

10:51 AM, March 22, 2007  
Blogger Left-handed Trees... said...

I don't always agree with Cameron either...but the places where she and I diverge in thinking are exactly the ones I look at more closely. I hope you got the date in (or the walk, which is endlessly more important to ME it seems). Thank you for sharing your insights this week...

12:30 PM, March 22, 2007  
Anonymous Frida said...

Optimism as emotional courage - that certainly rings true here.

It must be just as true everywhere, when it is honest (and not the smiley face pap).

I hope I can sometimes be the kind of reflecting mirror that you need, AND I'm not an artist!


1:56 PM, March 22, 2007  
Blogger Laini Taylor said...

Great post! So many things I relate to, like not feeling like I could really identify with folks who aren't "creators" in some way (and then realizing that one of my oldest and closest friends in fact is not and she's one of the awesomest people in the world), and also that struggle to keep writing poorly and to resist the temptation to go seek inspiration in the beautiful words of others. I do see the value in that, and I'm about to go and do it, now that my own writing day is finally ending (10 pm!). But I absolutely agree the pushing forward with one's own writing is so much more important. Ugh. Today was a struggle, but I'm optimistic about tomorrow!

12:12 AM, March 23, 2007  
Blogger Sophie said...

xI appreciate the writing badly bit -
since it is what i do best most of the time -
i have found it DOES lead to bits of good
writing which is encouraging!

You are always optimistic and soulful in
all you write i find - that's why you are such a fave with me:)

1:55 PM, March 23, 2007  
Blogger Sophie said...

xI appreciate the writing badly bit -
since it is what i do best most of the time -
i have found it DOES lead to bits of good
writing which is encouraging!

You are always optimistic and soulful in
all you write i find - that's why you are such a fave with me:)

1:55 PM, March 23, 2007  
Blogger Patry Francis said...

I like what both you and Julia Cameron have to say about writing.

1:49 AM, March 25, 2007  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Isn't it fantastic when a book 'gets you' so much you actually (sssshhhh!.....) underline in it. Oh that sin of sins! I feel like JC is watching me sometimes too, as if she was writing about me. Amazing.

Good luck with this new week. Thanks for sharing, E

5:39 PM, March 25, 2007  

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