Whatever would Grandmother say about all this frivolous nonsense?
Frivolous. The word really struck a chord in this week’s unpacking of Cameron’s Artist’s Way in Week 6, Recovering a Sense of Abundance.
Growing up, frivolity was not allowed. It was “being silly” and silliness was for silly people and we were not silly people. If cleanliness was next to Godliness, silliness was Satan’s right-hand clown.
That was when children were still expected to be seen not heard. My Calvinist grandmother, a woman of two World Wars and with whom I spent a lot of time, was always sure to impress on me that God did not approve of layabouts and that worthiness was earned only to the extent to which you could make yourself useful around the house or knit.
In an art class the other day, Gail asked us to remember a time in childhood when we were creating or world-building – playing, in other words – and I couldn’t think of one immersive play experience that wasn’t tinged with some kind of darkness. I was an only child in silent houses and by the time my half-sisters were born, the wrecking ball of our collective ancestry was only just gathering momentum.
One time, I felt pure unadulterated joy at being swung in circles by my step-grandfather but then it ended and he said “all good things come to an end”* and that seemed more awfully true than anything in the world and it haunted me for decades. Maybe other good things happened then that were light and frivolous but I can’t recall them.
So here we are, recovering a sense of abundance and dealing with the word “frivolous” against the backdrop of this childhood mindfuckery and what I was taught was worthy work – and especially since I’m in the “ebb” part of the “ebb and flow” routine of freelance life.
While I take the time to clear away my admin, dive into a miniseries Tom and I are developing, and start prepping for my next book, I can’t help hearing my Grandmother’s tut-tuts and thinking that I should probably start looking for a proper job; stop all these frivolous whatsits and start working working working working…
Of course, I am working, working, working … it’s just all work for my creative landscape; it’s work that’s in the creation phase, not the implementation phase; and it’s work that’s easy and thoughtful and fun. Most importantly, it’s work that expands me and doesn’t leave me feeling depleted.
But can it really be work if it doesn’t leave you depleted?
“Many of us equate difficulty with virtue – and art with fooling around,” writes Cameron. “Hard work is good. A terrible job must be building our moral fibre. Something – a talent for painting say – that comes to us easily and seems compatible with us must be some sort of cheap trick, not to be taken seriously.”
Since The Secret and Oprah&Co brought all this abundance business to pop-culture, it’s been too easy to minimise “abundance” to “manifesting money”, and while I think Cameron adds to this noise here and makes the sorts of assumptions about safety, environment and possibility that can only be made in the stable economies and functioning countries of her experience, I like that her take on abundance is also about a perception change in how you view the world around you and a mindset shift to expanding what you allow for yourself.
I like that she asks you how you can change the narrative for yourself about what is silly and frivolous, what is worthy, how you measure value by what you contribute with joy and ease, and then how you might create time for yourself and your creativity.
That’s ultimately my main takeaway from this chapter. I still struggle with is the whole “follow your dream and it’ll all work out” schpeel, which I’m less inclined to throw my heart at these days. But I have another week or so with this section to figure out what to do with that. Anyway, I wonder how you’re doing and if you’re still in it? What stood out for you?
*Luckily I also learned that all bad things also come to an end.
(PS Whenever I want a visual reminder of abundance in the world, I take a drive out to fruit farms or go cherry picking in Ceres.)
Photo by Roma Kaiuk🇺🇦 on Unsplash