Editor’s Note: This is the 2nd installment of a weekly 13-part series. If you would like to join Jessica on her journey, we suggest getting hold of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. Best of luck!
“I’m learning that rejection and fear are just really loud monsters hiding in my closet, upset that they can’t find any skeletons.”
– Lem “Saint” Gonsalves, excerpted from the poem “Exposed”
Last week, I time traveled. I went back through blocks of my life, scouring the recesses of my memories for those moments when my Artist Child was wounded. Each incident of hope injured has left scar tissue on my dreams that must be massaged.
This journey was part of the first week of Julia Cameron’s course, The Artist’s Way. Each chapter of the book that accompanies the course features tasks for the reader to work through. This week was about uncovering Monsters and Champions and turning negative blurts into positive affirmations. The basic concept of the exercise is that each of us has people and situations that we’ve experienced throughout our lives that have left indelible impressions on our subconscious. Those people and situations create the flow of inner dialogue that guides our life choices and self-perceptions. When the people and experiences are negative, sometimes the negative flow outweighs the positive and can create the blockage that The Artist’s Way is trying to eradicate. By opening the closet door and facing our Monsters, and turning their negativity into positivity, we cancel out the darkness that binds our creativity.
In addition to the weekly tasks, each day of the course (and throughout life, if one is so inclined) we’re commissioned with doing an exercise called Morning Pages, in which we unleash the subconscious flow of thought onto paper in order to clear ourselves of anything that may block us during the day. It’s the perfect assignment for a blocked writer, because eventually that flow of sludge may turn into gold and, after tweaking, a profitable piece of work. However, the express purpose is not that. It’s simply an emptying.
We’re also to take ourselves out on a weekly “artist date.” This week, I took myself to an open mic where my cousin Lem “Saint” Gonsalves was featured and it transported me back to the days when I was a poet. I’ve seen my cousin perform many times, but I had never seen him so raw, vulnerable and transparent on stage. As he cried before an audience of family, friends and strangers, I was reminded of what it is like to really be an artist: to pull drops from one’s beating heart and splatter them onto page, canvas and stage.
I also watched the film “Whiplash,” coincidentally after I had done the Monster task, and understood Miles Teller’s character in a figurative sense: the raw, bleeding hands – the desperation to please his Monster, whom J.K. Simmons so phenomenally portrayed in his Academy Award-winning performance. Last week was all about putting salve on those hands, wiping away the tears, and facing that Monster with a resolve to succeed not because he said I can’t, but because I know that I can.
Have you signed a creativity contract and committed to the work of the Artist’s Way course? If so, please share your journey with me. We’re in this together!