PRATIE PLACE

Sunday, January 01, 2006

My New Year's resolution

In early November a friend was reading The Artist's Way. He's an extremely successful academic, but he really wants - something more. He's edging his way into music.

Since he was raving about this book, I got it from the library. At first, I thought it wasn't for me.

It seemed to be aimed towards people who had always wanted to be creative, but had felt blocked for various reasons. People who, for instance, secretly want to be writers, but haven't admitted it to themselves, or are afraid to try - so they hang around with writers instead.

My problem was different: I felt my creativity would always be available to me, if the occasion arose, but the occasion was no longer arising.

In other words, I think if there were a purpose for my creativity, it would be there. When I need a tune, I can compose it; when I need a lyric, I can write it; if I need an album cover, I can paint it.

That's the problem with being an artist but also a deeply pragmatic person. Since I felt nobody needed or wanted what I could do any more, I stopped. My life has become silent.

Well, the first, non-negotiable requirement laid down by The Artist's Way was that one sit down every morning and write, longhand, three pages. About whatever, not for publication, not even for divining purpose. Cameron says, if you can't think of anything to write, write "I can't think of anything to write" until you've covered three pages.

This morning writing (I do it after I blog) proves to be very easy and pleasant, it gives me a happy reason to go downstairs in the morning. It keeps me company as the sun rises. I haven't yet run out of ruminations!

It's already led to some changes in my life. Here are a few:
  • I signed up for a class with Jane Filer and bought one of her paintings;
  • I investigated beginning a Yiddish class with Sheva Zucker in January;
  • I started memorizing fiddle tunes after dinner.
I find my fear of solitude - following my son's departure for college - is completely gone and I enjoy my time alone tremendously.

Well, I read a little farther along in the book and found myself: the artist who's been damaged and discouraged.

That's the problem with being in love with things unloved by the world in general. My ex-husband, exasperated in the car about fifteen years ago, snapped on the radio and turned it to a country-western station: "if you'd wanted people to appreciate your music, this is what you should have been singing."

Instead of Serbian a cappella? Instead of Bosnian love songs? Instead of Yiddish, Siberian, Breton, Sephardic, ancient English songs?

I knew he was right and eventually ratcheted down my hopes to nothing - but with that, I also ratcheted down my belief in what I was doing. Until I practically stopped doing it.

Yes, my life has become rather silent.

In the last week, thinking yet again about this picture, I realized my biggest challenge this year (here comes the New Year's resolution) is to "get out more." To spend more time with other people and do more things I don't usually do. An introvert like me is so tempted to "do without." I know perfectly well I can do without! But now it's time to reach for more. And that's my one and only resolution.

I'm looking forward to visiting around the blogosphere to see what other people are resolving.

Happy New Year!


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17 Comments:

At 10:15 AM, Blogger ribbiticus said...

what a great way to start the new year! will look for that book here. good luck to you! :)

 
At 10:16 AM, Blogger panthergirl said...

Everyone I know that has done The Artist's Way has come away enriched. Some people do it as a group which is a good idea too.

I've yet to throw my hat in the AW ring...but I really should.

Happy New Year!! Here by way of michele today...

 
At 11:42 AM, Blogger michaelm said...

Be sure to do the "Morning Pages"
(or Mourning Pages, as I used to call them) The course is a great one if only to get the hand moving across the page. Great resolution. Good luck and keep writing!

~michaelm

 
At 12:21 PM, Blogger MaryB said...

Happy New Year, Jane!

I discovered The Artist's Way about ten years ago and started listening to it on cassette tapes but quickly moved to the book (I found the music used on the tapes irritating).

Morning Pages are a good way to just get something on paper. Long before TAW and whenever I was stuck in the midst of some video script at work, I'd sit at the computer and write whatever was going through my head: "What am I going to write now? I haven't the foggiest notion of how to make this concept interesting." blah-blah-blah. But eventually I'd get to the "Maybe xxxx will work. Or yyyy." It was thinking on paper - most of it garbage - but eventually some little nugget would surface and I'd be off and running.

And off-topic, thanks for all the Christmas and Hannukah music over the past few weeks. Wonderful!

 
At 12:41 PM, Anonymous terrilynn said...

I had totally forgotten about The Artist's Way; thanks for the reminder. I did it years ago and found it exasperating and fun and maddening and enriching and addictive and terrifying. In short, just what I needed.

I like the painting you bought quite a lot.

Happy 2006!

 
At 12:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of my favorite New Year's greetings was written by Neil Gaiman in 2001, and he's repeated it every year since:

May your 2006 be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't to forget make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in 20062, you surprise yourself.

Best in 2006
Bill Lentz

 
At 2:40 PM, Blogger Romanduck said...

I loved that book and read it so long ago that it may be time to pick it back up! God luck with your resolution!!!

MSM

 
At 2:44 PM, Anonymous Kimberly said...

Oh, Jane, I hear you. My life has become much more silent than I would have it be, and I intend to change that this year.

I found the Artist's Way about 12 years ago, when I signed up for an AW group along with three of my friends from Houston Revels. I've not revisited it since; perhaps it's time.

I'm so glad to be part of your plan to "get out more" in 2006.

 
At 5:35 PM, Blogger melinama said...

Kimberly! That was EXACTLY what I was thinking when I took you up on your casual offer to come fiddle for your country dance band! My world needs to be larger. I can't wait to see your part of it!

 
At 7:51 PM, Blogger kenju said...

An admirable resolution, Melinama. Have a wonderful New Year!

 
At 11:18 PM, Blogger Prego said...

Love the Chas Addams cartoon. Funny, I was just telling my wife, I'm going to try to be a little more prolific with my editorial cartooning this year. My (excuse)problem is lack of time... thus lack of inspiration.

Good luck. Thanks for the tip on the book, too. Perhaps the public library has a worn or dusty copy.

Here via Michele tonight. Nice to see you again.

love,
p

 
At 12:16 AM, Blogger Joe said...

Very good post. I am going to look for that book. Thanks.

Michele sent me tonight.

 
At 11:33 AM, Blogger MLight said...

Apologies for the very long comment, but I thought you might find it interesting.

When I was pregnant with my second child, I took a political science course in grad school. The professor, at one point, brought in an article from Commentary magazine. I found it interesting, and a different point of view, and ended up subscribing. After my third child was born, I didn't have much time to read, and I realized that I was just going through the magazine, tearing out the Terry Teachout articles, and, eventually, getting rid of the rest - so I dropped the subscription.

So, I was glad, earlier this year, to find that he had a weblog, and started reading it daily. Oh, look, he's visiting the Stevens Center in Winston-Salem (fond memories of it since I went to the School of the Arts) - and meeting with a Triad blogger. Link to blog, read, and enjoy, everything at Pratie Place (but too shy to leave comments) - no, she's in the Triangle!

In fact...look at user profile, realize that my husband knew her ex-husband about two decades ago. Show husband "Calvin and Hobbes" strip on weblog referring to ex-husband. He said it sounds accurate. Go to look at acoustic tape collection...Sally Rogers, Christine Lavin, Ada, Dougie MacLean...Solstice Assembly - yes, that's hers.

Now, this would be a rather large coincidence in itself, but, going further...read about Yiddish lessons with Sheva - whom I met a few times back when her husband was my advisor in graduate school - and the political science professor back in the first paragraph...

(I don't know if he'd remember me, since the child I was pregnant with in the first paragraph is about to turn 14, but if you happen to see Sandy, please tell him hello from Laura Emery.)

And, for those of us who don't care for top-40 or country-pop, the world would be a much poorer place without Serbian a cappella or Bosnian love songs.

 
At 12:01 PM, Anonymous Moominpappa said...

The Artist's Way was one more link in a long string of events that fall nicely into Cameron's use of the word synchronicity. It started with little events prior to our October mountain vacation, and continued with revelations during the trip. About a month later, the book was on the shelf of a used bookstore we had been waiting to get into in Hillsborough. We finally had a day off and the new shop was finally open. The book was stood up on a shelf, like it had gotten up there to watch the door until I came in. It practically hopped off the shelf into my hands. I'd never heard of it before.
I knew, however, that I was a blocked artist (painter) and that the book was mine. I don't recall the rest of the family visit to the bookstore.

I'm in between weeks 9 and 10 today. After building two art tables in my oldest son's large room, he and I have been making things. Our Christmas card was a start. He's been making small sculpey scultures of great complexity for gifts. I got one from him that is a great leggy insectlike creature (he's drawn it before typing some long scroll on an old fashioned manual typewriter) playing a semicircular organ console, up on a pedestal which it's gripping with its hind legs. On my table I started by drawing some of the postcards to be used as part of chapter 7 or 8, and it led to a large watercolor, and then to several illustrations (one of something I don't even understand) and now to a painting/drawing I'll be calling "Into Owlswood through the Acorn Gate."

Best, though, is that I am happier than I have ever been. I am seeing the world again through an artist's eyes. There is nothing else like it. I want to invent new colors. I want to move a mountain. I need to make worlds. God made us in His image.

I guess, like a recovering alcoholoc or a dieter, I should view some aspects of the Artist's Way as permanent changes to my life. I will probably only remain unblocked as long as I continue the Morning Pages. And spontaneity comes much more often if I make sure I get a quality Artist's Date. Those two things drive the process, for me.

So I applaud your resolution to "Get out there more." It's good advice for me, too.

 
At 11:00 AM, Blogger Badaunt said...

Good for you!

My NY resolution is to become more organized. And tidier.

It's the same resolution I made LAST year. :-(

 
At 11:09 AM, Blogger melinama said...

I see New Year's resolutions as successive approximations - you get as close as you can this year, and then try again next year.

 
At 11:24 AM, Blogger Isabella said...

Happy New Year, Jane! That's quite a resolution for an introvert like you — it would do an introvert like me a lot of good too. I'm very excited for you, particularly regarding painting classes.

 

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