An artist’s date, a.k.a. playing with paint

Playing!In my late teens/early twenties, I decided that was it. I was done writing. I would never pen again. I quit. (I could bore you with stories of my insecurity, of neuroses and perfectionism, of worries about what people might—gasp—think of me and the horrors that come from my brain, but as I now think all those “blocks” are common stuff that all artists struggle to work through—that might even be a necessary part of the process—I will spare you. Or I’ll spare you for now. I may write about young Ev someday!)

For many reasons I couldn’t, I wouldn’t, listen to the deep inner-whisper that never let up, Write, write, write, write, you need to write, it’s you to write, you love to write, write, write . . .

Then one day I was at a friend’s cabin on Lakelse Lake (Mark Anson—I am forever grateful to you!), and I came across The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

I asked Mark about it, and he raved about how good it was, then added, “Actually, I pulled it out because I was thinking you need to read it.”

It sounds cheesy to say the book revolutionized my life. But that’s what happened. I “did” the book. (It’s laid out as a 12-week artist recovery program. But don’t laugh. That’s exactly what I needed.) I answered all the prying questions. Took the assignments seriously. Adopted a habit of morning pages. Started taking artist dates . . .

And by the end, though I realized I’d no doubt be plagued by insecurity again off and on (and that’s definitely been the case!), I had the tools to overcome the negative voices that would see me stifled and sure I couldn’t create—and more importantly: I was infused with joy and excitement and a huge AHA! I was a writer. A storyteller. Maybe even a poet. Not crazy. (Or at least, not all the time.) Not depressed. (Ha—again, at least not all the time!) Just angst-ridden because I wasn’t doing what I was meant to do. What was essential to making me me.

Does it all sound more than a little self-helpey? I guess so. But did it help me? Absolutely.

To this day, whenever I feel my courage regarding my writing start to wane, whenever I begin to second guess the time and effort I put into something so “selfish,” whenever I doubt that I’m working in the direction I need to be, I return to the steps in The Artist’s Way. I take up morning pages again. (I probably should never stop them to begin with, but that’s another topic.) I strive to “fill the well,” which basically just means intentionally doing things that nourish your soul, like going on artist dates (a.k.a. visiting inspiring places), taking classes or workshops directly related (or not!) to fostering/developing creativity, treating yourself to a little craft-related splurge, etc.

This month I found myself needing a little encouragement, a little more play in my work (and a lot less obligation), so I decided to bring back artist’s dates. Yay! (What’s not to love about taking time out to do things that you know will inspire or refresh you?)

Running With BrushesMy first “official” date was a workshop called Running With Brushes, led by Noreen Spence and Dianne Postman. It was incredibly fun. And what we “put out” was . . . Well, I actually have to say, it was art. 🙂 Judge for yourself.

The two-hour paint fest was pure fun, but it also had practical carryover for my writing life—a reminder (with exuberant “practice”) to not over think, plan to death, obsess about each detail . . . just CREATE. Worry about craft and polish at some far off date when the created work is out there in full, where you can see its whole shape, wackiness, potential, nightmare spots, etc. At least that’s what I took from the workshop anyway. 🙂

I don’t know if you’re feeling a bit slumpish, or burned out, or burdened with lofty goals in whatever creative pursuit you hold dear . . . And don’t get me wrong. Goals are good. Plans are great. But artistic dreams shouldn’t feel like drudgery or chores. There will be agony and sweat and work, yes—but there should also be joy and euphoria—fun!If you’re experiencing lots of the former, not so much of the latter . . . Maybe you, like me, need to give your inner artist a play date or two. I highly recommend paint! ☺

Now I leave you with a quote Noreen gave us at the beginning of the workshop. It was exactly what I needed to hear, to remember, and to celebrate. 🙂

“Nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no fail. There’s only make.” ~ Corita Kent

Running With Brushes!

Filling the Well

Many years ago I quit writing. The cessation lasted two years and almost drove me crazy. When I figured out what I needed (to write, regardless of the consequences—or maybe because of the consequences of not writing), a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron was incredibly, incredibly helpful to me.

Though I’ve forgotten many of the specifics of that great book, one of Cameron’s suggestions continues to be part of the philosophical foundation I build my writing life on: Fill the Well. It’s basically just the conviction that all ideas come out of a life lived, so rather than cloister yourself away to write every minute you have time because dammit-you’re-a-writer-and-writers-write, you should do things that aren’t writing related per se without guilt, because every activity, experience, moment with others, pours into your creative well and if you don’t have non-writing time, eventually you won’t have a well to draw from—or what you do manage to dreg up will be stale and bitter.

It can be easy to forget to freshen the well. If you’re like me, your life is busy and you covet writing time and feel guilty if you have time that you could write, but don’t use it “productively.” And there’s wisdom in our you-gotta-plant-your-butt-tyranny—but there’s also a line where too much discipline squashes—where I find myself writing only out of a sense of obligation, not that agony/ecstasy feeling of I MUST WRITE TO GET THIS ALL OUT OF MYSELF OR I WILL EXPLODE.

When my writing has that “Ugh, I have to write,” versus, “I get to write” feeling, I know I have to spend some time doing other things, and ironically, it’s usually when my work/life schedule is at its most hectic and my writing time is already at its scarcest that this need to make time to do other things is crucial.

My family is out at a cadet camp this weekend and after a ticket-selling shift yesterday (good volunteering mom, eh?) and getting a brochure I needed printed for a client, I planned to get A LOT done, because I have (like always, it seems these days) A LOT to do.



Instead, I:



Made a very yummy veggie and cheddar wrap and drank two glasses of wine, sitting in the sunshine with Twisted by Jonathan Kellerman (famous novelist, new to me—am enjoying very much!) 



Then I had a nap. Until 6:00 p.m. 



Then I worked in my delicious smelling flowerbed and yard until 9:00. 

Then I poured more wine, tossed up a stir-fry and watched TV—what a treat. 

Very rejuvenating. Just what I needed!

Today has been low-key too: sleeping in, drinking coffee, reading short stories—and I might clean my house a bit . . . But I’m starting to feel a building urge to get to my novel—there’s a scene burning, a character screaming to be let out . . .

What about you? Do you have similar feeling about the importance of sometimes NOT writing?

p.s. Where was that jeep found? Who did it belong to and why was it left? Last weekend found me wandering, filling the well—I hope the old ghosts don’t begrudge the pictures I took . . .