Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Week Without Reading

I'm a creative person. I always have been, and I always will be. My mother says that I came out of the womb that way. As I child, I taught myself how to play the piano, the guitar, the harp, and the autoharp. I painted. I drew with charcoal and with pencils. I made things out of clay. I wrote short stories and one book. I wrote plays and songs and performed them for my parents, my brother, and our next door neighbors. This is always something that has been a huge part of who I am. 

But then you grow up. The world tells you to choose one thing - one profession - that you will be good at. You will pursue that one thing, go to school for that one thing, and, hopefully, find a job allowing you to do that one thing. The one thing that I chose to do was acting. As someone who has always enjoyed juggling lots of different creative things at the same time, this was ideal. I could play a hooker with a heart of gold, then I could play a rich uppity British lady, then I could play a witch, then I could play a fairy sprite. I love finding infinite selves within my one self - finding things that I didn't realize were in me. It's the pisces in me - being able to change and shift like water. I also love building relationships with other actors onstage. People in real life get to fall in love once. As an actor, I get to fall in love over and over again, and with the most genuine, open, loving people. These people are my family.

So what happens when your family doesn't cast you? When you don't get the job? When you have an eight month gap between one show and the next? 

Your creativity screeches to a halt, that's what. And I have found that when the number of creative outlets goes down, the emotions and the depression go up, along with the hours of sleep, the amount of food eaten, and the amount of crap watched on television. 

I was in this very scary place when a lovely friend of mine suggested a book called The Artist's Way - A Spiritual Path of Creativity. The back of the book says:

The Artist's Way is an empowering book for aspiring and working artists. With the basic principle that creative expression is the natural direction of life, Julia Cameron leads you through a comprehensive twelve-week program to recover your creativity from a variety of blocks, including limiting beliefs, fear, self-sabotage, jealousy, guilt, addictions, and other inhibiting forces, replacing them with artistic confidence and productivity.
This is a pretty spot-on description of what the book does. I write what Julia Cameron calls "morning pages" everyday - three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing. At first this was difficult. Now, on week four, I crave that outlet like prayer or meditation. Every week, I take myself on an "artist date." I go somewhere, alone with my artist, and do something to help fill the "creativity well." I've painted pottery, I've taken myself on an ice cream date, and I've taken myself to the movies. The program has inspired me to start writing in this blog again, to start working on a play that I want to produce and act in, to re-decorate my bedroom, to start learning French, to give clothes away, to get an agent, and to let go of past hurts that I've been holding on to for too long. It has helped me more than I can adequately describe.

Until I read this week's assignment.

If you feel stuck in your life or in your art, few jump starts are more effective than a week of reading deprivation. No reading? That's right: no reading. For most artists, words are like tiny tranquilizers. We have a daily quota of media chat that we swallow up. Like greasy food, it clogs our system. Too much of it and we feel, yes, fried.

What was that, Julia Cameron? No reading? No reading... for a WEEK!? I don't know if you noticed, but this blog is kind of... um... dedicated to reading? So yeah, I like reading a lot. I'd say that's what I do with the majority of my time. 

About 25% of that time is reading books. The other 75% is made up of facebook, twitter, google+ (I don't get it, but I'm already addicted to it!), tumblr, blogs that I follow, magazines, text messages, e-mails, and the list goes on and on! Reading is what I use to communicate. Also, I have about a dozen books on my nightstand and I'm reading all of them at the same time. 

So what, pray tell, should I do with all of this time if I'm NOT spending it reading, Julia Cameron? WHAT? 

Her response:
Listen to music. Knit. Work Out. Make Curtains. Cook. Meditate. Wash the dog. Fix the bike. Have friends to dinner. Sort closets. Watercolor. Pay bills. Rewire the lamp. Get the stereo working. Write old friends. Paint the bedroom. Sort bookshelves (a dangerous one!). Repot some plants. Rearrange the kitchen. Go dancing. Mend.
Alright... I don't have a dog, I don't work out, I don't know how to knit or rewire things, and I'm not Laura Ingalls friggin' Wilder!!!

But then I take a deep breath and tell myself that I'm committed to this program. I am! I can do this! I can TOTALLY do this!

The truth of it is - if this is what I need to do to get back to that 8 year-old self - the one who writes plays and paints and dances and sings without care or judgment - it's a small sacrifice. I would gladly sacrifice much more to be her again.

So I'm doing it, dear readers. I'm going on a reading fast. I've made the facebook and the twitter announcements that I will be gone for a week. I've had heart to hearts with the books on my nightstand.

And you, Cranford... I think I'll miss you most of all!

Now the reading fast begins. Once more unto the breach, dear friends!

Pray for me, dear readers. Pray for me. If you don't hear from me in a week, send a librarian.

Hey! Look at This!

This is what you have done to me, Julia. 

1 comment:

  1. We haven't heard from you in THREE weeks! I hope you're ok and reading-deprivation did not do horrible things to you.

    By the way, I've just found your blog through Blogging Woolf, and I must say I really like it! Good job.


Related Posts with Thumbnails