If there is only one chapter in Artist’s Way that you read, let it be this one
There are so many elements in this section that are so wholesomely practical that if there was only one chapter you were able to work through as an artist in recovery or as an artist in beginning, I would suggest you dive into this one. In all honesty, entire books could be written about just the following sections…
Gains disguised as losses
“The artist’s life will have its injuries. These go with the game,” writes Cameron. “The trick is to survive them, to learn how to let yourself heal.”
I started this process with the Artist’s Way because I got tired of my weeboo-weeboo around The Fulcrum and self-publishing.
Reality had trumped my dream of making my big debut as a novelist. And by “big debut” I just mean getting traditionally published. Nothing big, nothing grandiose. I’ve done the non-fic trad publishing *just* enough to know what the fishbowl looks like.
Or so I thought.
To be fair to myself, calling it the “weeboo weeboo” is unkindly dismissive.
After endless rounds of closed doors, “no” and rejections, it eventually got to the point where I felt like I was stumbling around the boxing ring getting my ego and spirit round-house kicked in the face and gut every day.
It got messy, emotionally. After a while, the hopelessness and despair became salty self-harming thoughts that I’d rub into the wounds just for fun. Because why not.
Luckily, I had a few things working in my favour: I get bored with reliving trauma and impatient to not be stuck in The Suck 24/7, and have the kind of pig-headed determination and perseverance to keep moving towards the light. Even if it’s at slug-like speed.
At the end of last year, I was done with the creative wound that bringing The Fulcrum to life had reopened. Without realising it fully then, choosing to self-publish wasn’t about falling back on the next – what I believed to be lesser – option, it was about not waiting for the world to open a door for me but finding the next available door and opening it for myself. It didn’t feel so kick-ass as I was doing it, but that’s what was happening.
“I learned, when hit by a loss, to ask ‘What next?’ Instead of ‘Why me?’” writes Cameron. “I have learned that the key to career resiliency is self-empowerment and choice.”
I was really moved by this reminder (and validation) that, in every human endeavour, the ability to see the silver lining in the cloud, to problem-solve, to take “action towards” is what gets us from point A to point B, from now to next, from stasis to dynamic movement. From no book to book.
I can’t think of a more important message to an artist in recovery than this.
Here’s a great clip of Michael Caine discussing his version of “use the difficulty”.
The Ivory Power
I don’t have a lot of experience with academia and certainly not as a student of uni-based English or Literature.
As a kid, university wasn’t an option on the table. There wasn’t money for it and that was okay. I was too fuzzy around the edges to know what I wanted anyway.
Still, I’ve sometimes envied the connections and networks formed while doing MFAs, and the ease with which talent and “writerlyness” is assumed simply because one has made it through the programme. Until I published The Fulcrum, I even thought about paying the casholas to do one to finally “become a real writer”. Hilarious, given that I’d been working as a writer for almost two decades.
But then I’d talk to the recovering academic creatives around me and find myself feeling lucky that I never had the privilege. Not because I wouldn’t have loved it, but because I’m not sure I would’ve found my own voice and allowed myself to love what I love.
As a young adult, the chances of my insecurity and codependency allowing the prescribed system to overwhelm me would’ve been very high.
Without specific tools and sufficient ego strengths, writes Cameron, young talent can easily be squashed in this environment. “To be blunt, most academics know how to take something apart, but not how to assemble it.”
I think this part of the book is incredibly important for those who believe there are right ways of being a writer or who have been creatively damaged by the academic framework or unkind teachers.
Filling the form
“The creative life is grounded on many, many small steps and very, very few large steps,” writes Cameron.
Filling the form means working with what you have now (rather than languishing in complaints about what you don’t have) to take the daily steps towards what you want.
It is in the doing that magic happens.
Creativity requires action on your part to express itself in the world – it requires action without you wasting time and bogging it down by overthinking whether it’s good enough or worthy to be in the world or whether the system will approve of it or not.
“In a creative career, [simply] thinking about the odds is a drink of emotional poison. It robs us of the dignity of art-as-process and puts us at the mercy of imagined powers out there. Taking this drink quickly leads to a severe and toxic emotional bender. It leads us to ask, ‘What’s the use?’ instead of ‘What’s Next?’”
I follow a lot of screenwriting and movie profiles on Instagram (more entertaining than following writer stuff; we’re typically less interviewed and more awkward and boring I think) and not a week goes by that I don’t hear a super famous director or screenwriter say “Just write the damn thing”.
Stop waiting and start. Take the step. And then take another and another. Fill the form. There’s no reason to postpone.
One life and all that.
Anyway, I’m loving this chapter and I’m working through it slowly for another week. The tasks are also super in this one. Lot of fun.
Okay cutie. Keep going.
Over and out,
Photo by Mark Duffel on Unsplash