Editor’s Note: This is the 4th 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 or checking out Cameron’s online video course. Best of luck!
Week 3 of The Artist’s Way was about Recovering a Sense of Power, and it transported me to a time when I didn’t know that boxes existed. I remembered how creative my parents were when I was very young. I envisioned sitting in the back of my mom’s dance class, proud of her ability to move her body with grace and precision; discovering my dad’s love and knowledge of music, seeing him hopeful about becoming a songwriter. Then, I watched them both abandon their loves – even beat themselves up over their inability to perform in the way that they’d dreamed they could, or used to do, and realizing that their self-doubt colored the way that I approached my creativity and viewed my own ability to achieve my dreams. Both of my parents have found purpose and fulfillment in other pursuits, but I will never forget that they had artistic leanings.
Boxes aren’t just something that happen to us. They are something that we put ourselves in. True, everyone loves a good box. It makes us feel safe to have everything neat and orderly, but as artists we’re made of much messier stuff. We’re not meant to live in boxes, we’re meant to tear them down.
I remember reading an interview with director, screenwriter and producer Scott Derrickson, an evangelical Christian, who has understandably received some flak from the religious community regarding his primary choice of genre to work in: horror. People in boxes love to put other people in boxes. He responded: “The church loves truth in its prescriptive form, truth that says, ‘Here’s what’s wrong, and here’s how you fix it. Here’s the diagnosis, and here’s the cure.’ The truth of the artist, although far more descriptive, is still truth.”
That rocked my thinking years ago when I read it, but I wasn’t in recovery yet. What I’ve realized, is that often when I’ve tried to break free from the boxes that I’ve put myself in (because, frankly, I cared more about not upsetting or offending people than I did in being true to myself and who I was meant to be), I was told things like, “Your writing is so dark. Why is it so dark?” or “How can you feel/express/write/create something like that? How do you know these things at this age? Where is this coming from?” Such fear. Such worry. Such concern.
Occasionally, I work as an event ambassador for a child advocacy organization. Last week, I attended a conference on childhood grief and trauma. As I stuffed my emotions inside so as not to stick out like a sore thumb amongst professionals who dealt with these truths as a daily reality, my mind was flooded with thoughts such as, “How can I help? What can I do? How can we stop this?” At the end of the conference, actors Lindsay Wagner (“The Bionic Woman”) and Justin Chambers (“Grey’s Anatomy”) joined the panel to share their experiences portraying themes of grief and loss in film and on television. Then, it clicked. I can’t do what these people do: social workers, district attorneys, therapists, doctors, police officers… but, I can use my talents and creative abilities to shine light on the work that they do and the things that they see.
Recovering a sense of power means breaking down the boxes, tossing them in the garbage and declaring: “This is MY truth and I will let my light shine for the world to see.”
At this point in your Artist’s Way recovery process, it’s important to note the little changes. Slight discoveries make all the difference in encouraging and propelling you forward in the journey, because it can feel discouraging sometimes – the solitude of it all. You may expect everyone in your life to stand and applaud, but that likely won’t happen. You’ll instead find gold stars in the little things: having a creative breakthrough or epiphany during an artist date, sensing the envy of a friend’s success transform into admiration, having a long-forgotten memory from childhood resurface, or simply accomplishing a week’s worth of Morning Pages. My advice is to note these things, because it reminds you that you are in recovery, you are making progress, and you have a lot to be proud of.
Read the first three installments of this series:
- Unblocking the Inner Artist
- Of Monsters and Champions: Let the affirming begin!
- A Case of the Crazymakers