“A word after a word after a word is power.”Margaret Atwood
I recently came across a book I had bought in London in 1995—and had never read. It was The Artist’s Way—A Course in Discovering and Recovering your Creative Self, by Julia Cameron. I had been looking in the last month for a course to help me gain confidence in my creativity—and this unread book popped back into my life!
I committed to going through The Artist’s Way. This blog will be a weekly account of what I learned and experienced in this 12-week course.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”Maya Angelou
The first week was about Recovering a Sense of Safety. Why are we not more creative than we can be? Cameron says it could be because we are afraid to be creative.
For me, creativity is sharing. It is self-exposure. It requires one to become vulnerable, to show one’s feelings, to reveal one’s heart and soul. Creativity, once released, can be judged, criticised, made fun of. Of course it can be admired and loved and enjoyed as well. But, in our society, criticism tends to be taken more seriously and personally than praise. I know; if ten people praise my work and two criticise it, I remember the criticism more clearly and painfully.
My first homework was to identify three sources of discouragement in my creative life. When I remembered them, I was hit by how hard they had affected me.
The first memory was of when I was seven years old, and an art teacher ridiculed my work in front of the class. I remembered the pangs of shame, and my decision there and then not to continue the art course.
My second memory was of when I was about 20. I had eagerly gone to a photography agency in London with my portfolio of photos I had taken thus far—snaps of my house, the dog, my friends at a party, a Rolling Stones concert, a Wimbledon tennis match. The woman went through them in silence, looked up at one point to say “cute dog,” then shut my portfolio, pushed it back towards me, and said, “Mr Lopez, you’ll never make it as a photographer.” I was crushed.
My third memory was vague one of having come to the belief that to do art you had to be “artistic” and have “good taste.” Since I had no idea what being artistic meant, I knew that I wasn’t. Not being artistic, I couldn’t possibly be a judge of good taste, and therefore it remained always elusive to me. This belief was the worst; I had unquestioningly accepted its influence in the background of my consciousness all my life.
“To live the creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”Joseph Chilton Pearce
As I realised the import of these events and the beliefs I had formed, I was overcome with grief for the seven-year-old boy and the 20-year-old young man—grief for the creative life they lost. The life I lost through unconscious fears and beliefs.
Some people push through such events and become successful in their lives. But how much of that success is compensation for the pain they bear? I went the other way, and shrank into my shell. Even though I did become a photographer and did “make it” as one, I always felt I never belonged, that I was missing something. I ended up admiring creative people from a distance, jealous of photographers whom I thought were more “artistic” than me.
I had become what Julia Cameron calls a “shadow creative.”
“Make your recovery the first priority in your life.”Robin Norwood
So the first step was to remember the events and people that led to my limiting beliefs, to acknowledge their past influence on my life, and to release them. The next step was to remember the people who had championed my creativity—the people who admired my creative work, who encouraged me, who told me I could do it. This is the time to acknowledge the truth—that I am creative, that others have been moved and inspired by my creativity, and that creativity is our natural gift.
To those who have championed me (you know who you are), thank you from the bottom of my heart, your words and actions are more-than-ever important to me.
And now to move to Week 2 of my creative recovery.
“Undoubtedly, we become what we envisage.”Claude Bristol