I‘ve been reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and doing the exercises in the 12-week course. Last week was about Recovering a Sense of Safety, and this week was about recovering a Sense of Identity.
It became apparent that the identity I had created for myself—as an artist and a photographer—had default properties which had been baked in by my early creative experiences. My sense of myself, and quite possibly of the identity I put out to the world, was obviously coloured by those experiences; especially the negative, shameful ones. When I decided to become a photographer in 1985, I had a hard time describing myself as a “professional photographer” to others! For a very long time I admired my artist friends as being more creative than I could ever be!
My task for the week was to review the default identity I had taken on and expressed through the years, to observe how irrelevant it was to my present needs, and to consciously create a new one.
Interestingly, my week started with a lot of inexplicable anxiety. But as the week progressed, I would wake up in the middle of the night, imagining myself in a new, greater identity. I saw myself doing bigger jobs, international projects, books, assignments for governments and NGOs. I was having bursts of energy which kept me awake at night.
The anxiety came back, and I realised I had organised my life and my business to stay small. I was feeling anxious because I had not created the infrastructure and processes to handle more and bigger jobs. My business therefore had to be rebuilt from the ground up, if I was to move to the next level.
I realised that my increased energy was coming from stronger identification with the role of Bard that I had been initiated into in 1995. My work as an artist is starting to have a more overarching purpose, a societal purpose. What actually is an artist? I explored that question.
An artist—a bard—tells the story of the society he or she is in, but perhaps in ways that push it forward. The artist does it in a way that makes the invisible visible. The artist is said to be in touch with the Ether (Akasha in Sanskrit), and miraculously plucks visions or songs from it, and offers it to society.
The act of expression is the ceaseless process of rendering the invisible visible.Koji Taki
That which is visible, that which structures the everyday, passes for reality.
The act of expression requires a transition from a world of apparent certainties to a world in which we cannot even locate ourselves.
Coming into a new identity is a metamorphosis, with its attendant discomforts and struggles. I believe that when the choice of identity is right, there is a release of energy and power, and something beautiful can arise and fly.
Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.Carlos Castañeda