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Working Towards Living a Creative Life

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(this was the info I found for it, it's Not My image... It came from Google...

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(this was the info I found for it, it’s Not My image… It
came from Google…

I’ve been sick for the past three weeks. The worst kind of cold/sinus/flu thing. I’m not well yet, but I feel better. Over the past few weeks there was little in the way of working on my novel in Scrivener. However, I worked on the novel in my writer journal. I worked on characters, plot, setting–I journaled about it. When I finally got back to writing I missed and was so excited to be back to writing. I felt guilt for not actively working on my novel.

I started my fourth week of the 12 week self-guided course from Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.” So far the course is helping a great deal. Between the “morning pages,” the tasks, and the check-in’s, not to mention the artist date’s, I’m facing all kinds of things I had no idea were even issues, or that the issues were as bad as they are. I am filled with self-doubt. I self sabotage. I have writer impostor syndrome.

However, as I found my way through the “morning pages,” and went on my artist date’s, read the information…as well as working in my personal journal, my “art” journal (which is more of a sketch your life, illustrate your life, smash journal, etc), and my writer-ly journal I found myself being more and more creative, wanting to be more creative even if I couldn’t manage to do as much as I wanted to do because I was sick–I made a new list of things I’d like to accomplish over the next few months: DIY projects around the house and yard, urban sketching, poetry workshop, plotting workshop, making my journaling work for me in a better way, in a more productive, creative way.

embrace struggleJournaling helps me me in ways I wouldn’t have imagined. Things are more vibrant and positive. I’m more passionate about life, my pursuits, relationships, and I’m more open. My communication skills are improving. The more I work through the Artist’s Way course, the more in depth my creativity becomes, the more open I am to figuring out why I have so much self-doubt, why I sabotage myself,  and how I can fix it. Working on the self-doubt isn’t easy, it means facing things that are painful. Insecurities. Memories. Fears. And working through those takes courage, but it’s worth it. I find myself procrastinating. I get distracted. I make excuses. Reluctantly I find myself avoiding my writing, or my art, because I’m afraid that it won’t be good enough. Perfectionism. What if it sucks? What if my beta readers laugh? What if I’m really not that talented? Maybe I should just give up now before I embarrass myself. But as the words flow onto the page in my journal I find myself more and more open to the possibility that perhaps it’s just the fear and the insecurity that are causing me to have so much self-doubt, or to feel the self-doubt to begin with, or that I’m procrastinating and self-sabotaging because of fear. Plain and simple.

These insights into my creativity, or lack thereof,  are a start. A start to opening the door to living a more creative life, to being successful in my creative pursuits, and to opening myself up to being successful in my creative pursuits. I knew I had a few issues because of the self-doubt,  writer’s block, procrastination, and yet I didn’t think it was as bad as it was until I began reading the “Artist’sWay.”  As hard as it was to sit down every morning, in the beginning, and work on my morning pages it made me see how important it was to be open, to let the words flow. I also realized that the resistance was because of fear–insecurities are rooted in fears. I’m not really a fearful person. Even when I am I sort of “fake it till I make it kind of thing.” You can only do that with writing for so long before the insecurities/self-doubt eat you and end up with writer’s block–at least, that’s what I’ve experienced. Facing the resistance head on isn’t something I’ve done in my morning pages, the morning pages are just about being honest with myself, but I have been facing those fears, insecurities, and self-doubts in my personal journal.

The Writer's Life

The Writer’s Life

When you think about it, really think about it, the procrastination, self-doubts, insecurities, perfectionism, and avoidance are all about fear, based on fear. I’m not a fearful person at heart though, I’m more of a sassy, feisty, stubborn, determined, and resilient kind of person. So I buckled down and wrote it all out in my journal. I wrote and wrote and wrote, honestly and openly about my fears. Facing some of those fears gave me insight, but it didn’t fix the problem, but it did make me realize and understand that I’m the only one holding me back. I am the only one who can do something about it. I decided to take mini-artist dates, do little things to make me feel good and be more open to being creative. For example, I went outside with my cup of coffee and a book of poetry and read for 15 minutes, I went outside with my coffee and my sketchbook and had some fun, I went to my hair stylist and had my hair done (washed and styled), I ordered myself a few cute little diary stickers and 2 new watercolor inserts for my TN (Traveler’s Notebook), as well as a cute little magnetic bookmark with a coffee theme. (I also ordered one for my daughter with a unicorn on it, she’s an artist and a welder, as well as being a single mom who suffers from depression and like me, she suffers from self-doubt at times.) Twice a week, on the first day of the new week of the self-guided course and halfway through the week I go on an artist date and take myself to Starbucks. One of those dates I journal and the other day I draw and watercolor. I love watercolors. I love journaling. So I’ve decided to combine the two and try doing what people are calling “Urban Sketching,” or “Illustrate your life,” or “Sketch your life.” It makes me feel really good when I do that. I don’t make my artist dates about my novel, I make them about something else creative. The more creative I am, the more I want to write, the more I feel able to write and less self-doubty.

I’m amazed at how much it has actually helped me with the writing.

 

 

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Perfectionism, Writing, and Life

Growing up I had one of those mom’s who hovered. She hovered over me when I was washing the dishes, cooking, cleaning, doing homework, etc., and without her ever uttering a word I felt criticized. I splashed too much water when I was washing dishes, I needed to turn the heat down–cooking it too fast, I missed a spot, I spelled something wrong or added or subtracted or multiplied or divided wrong…Some of that is normal parenting, some of it was my mother’s need to do things her way and to have everyone else do it her way because that was the only right way/correct way. (She’s not as bad now, age has mellowed my mother… )

With so much hovering, and backseat cooking, cleaning, etc I ended up feeling like I couldn’t do anything right, that I wasn’t good enough, and that you had to do things a certain way or it wasn’t the right way. As a parent we try to teach our kids right and wrong, how to do things, and even more importantly we are supposed to teach them to find their way in the world and learn how to be a responsible, independent, caring, moral, and successful adult. I figure my mom got most of those right with me, but what she also did was raise someone who was taught that perfectionism, even if it wasn’t called that, is the only way you get things done right, at least in a manner of speaking.

Unfortunately or fortunately–depending on how you look at it, now that I’m older, and my kids are grown, I find myself sounding more and more like my mother, most of the time it’s just in my head, but I often find myself saying, “Don’t splash so much water all over the sink,” or “If you do it this way it’ll save you time, effort, etc” or “If you do it that way it’s going to take twice as long,” or “Why are you doing it that way, you should…” It’s the strangest thing when I catch myself doing it or when one of my children, or my husband, points out that I sound like my mother. I’ve never wanted to be that way, not the hovering thing, which to me equates judgment and criticism.

Lately, I’ve noticed that I am doing it to myself when I write. That little voice in the back of my head that whispers, “You’re not doing it right, look at all of those words you splashed on the page, they’re not right, it’s not right, you’ve done it wrong… [or] you’re doing it all wrong, you should be…”

I know that part of it is a need for control. a part of it is perfectionism, and a small part of it is insecurity. When someone does dishes differently than you do as long as the outcome is the same what difference does it make how they do them–so long as the dishes are clean it really shouldn’t matter. And yet, every time someone helps me with the dishes or does the dishes I find myself looking at all of the splashed water around and on the sink and faucet, noticing whether they are using hot water (God forbid you should wash dishes in my Momma’s house with cold or lukewarm water), or if you use too much soap or not enough soap…and I cringe because there is the part of me that wants to jump in and do the dishes the “right” way, or to tell them “you’re not doing it right,” or “stop splashing the water all over the place” or something else equally critical. And it’s not just the dishes, it comes up with laundry, sweeping and mopping, vacuuming, dusting the furniture, cooking, or hell, even how you sit on the furniture, or how far or close you are to the television, or driving (don’t get me started on the driving thing, so glad that my dad taught me how to drive and not my mom).

Don’t get me wrong, my mother is a wonderful, caring, strong woman who had a hard childhood, went through the tragic loss of losing a husband when she was only 28 years old with a 7 year old and a 4 year old, and then later on met someone and fell in love, and who said when he was going to marry my mom that he wasn’t just marrying her, he was marrying all of us and he meant that–we were a package deal. But my mom is nitpicky. She’s funny about her home, her domain. She grew up without, and once she became an adult she treasured every single thing she worked for, was given, etc. She didn’t own her own pair of shoes or coat until she was 19 years old and bought them herself, she got hand me downs from older siblings or from the church or from a charitable organization–as one of the oldest of ten kids being raised by a single mother, with an alcoholic father who never paid a dime of child support, my mother became a caretaker and the second in command/woman of the house at an early age. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for her, but like all of us my mom has flaws and it seems I’ve either inherited them through nature or nurture.

I have to admit though, I’m harder on myself than on others. I am way too critical of myself. Had my mom not taught me that there are certain ways to do thing, some better some just your own way, and also been taught to think for myself, I wouldn’t have known later on as an adult that I could do things one way and as I got more experience doing it I’d eventually fine tune how I do it so that it was the right way for me, that I could do it the way I was taught but watch how others do it and learn from all of it and find my own way. In practice, remembering that there is more than one way to do things is not as easy as it is in theory though. I can remind myself over and over again that just because I don’t hardcore outline, or just because I don’t write by the seat of my pants, doesn’t mean I won’t be able to write a good, hopefully great, novel. I can remind myself that I might write faster or slower than someone else, or that I might need a story board, or I might need in depth character sketches, but what it all boils down to is finding a process that works for me and fine tuning it so that it works well.

Hearing my mother’s voice in my head sometimes keeps me aware of how important it is to strive to be the best you can be, to do things to the best of your own ability even if it means you have to splash some water all over the sink to get there. I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those people who has an immaculate house, I’m too creative and distracted, not to mention the fact that I function better with color, clutter, and a bit of creative chaos around me, but my kitchen and bathrooms are usually clean and would (most of the time, unless I fall asleep reading or get into the writing zone) pass even my mom’s inspection. However, even though I am creative, distracted, and chaotically clutter and chaos (I imagine a female Linus walking around with a pen and a notebook instead of a blanket) I am also my mother’s child and when it gets to be too much my OCD kicks in and the house gets clean from top to bottom and organized–it might not stay that way for long, because me or my laid back husband will inevitably leave a cup on the end table, or leave our jacket on the back of the chair, or our dirty clothes on the floor instead of putting them in the hamper, or I’ll leave a book  or a few books, or watercolor pencils, or my husband will leave his guitar propped against the couch… Our home is lived in and we’re happy.

I’m grateful for my mother and all that she taught me. That little voice that yells at me to get it right, to do it right, to keep trying until I’ve got it perfect or as perfect as it can get helps keep me striving to do better. I just have to remember that “being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect–it means that you’ve decided to look past the imperfections,” and for me it also means just being the best me I can be and forgiving myself and others when they splash water all over my sink.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2015 in Family, Life, Writing

 

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