The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.
~ Julia Cameron
The Elegant Gathering
Bend It Like Beckham
SOUNDS ARTSY FARTSY TO ME
6 June 2004
This is the weekend that Im about to embark on a new adventure, of sorts. Im starting Julia Camerons "The Artists Way." For those unfamiliar with the program (it seems that most people I know have done it at least once) its a 12 week program which consists of weekly exercises, writing "morning pages," going on an "artist date" once a week and its supposed to free up your creativity.
My creativity could use a little freeing, so Im willing to try anything.
I actually started writing "the dreaded morning pages" three days ago. Camerons theory is that the act of the hand moving over paper recording whatever comes to your mind can have miraculous results.
Ive always composed well, but my method of composition has been, since I learned how to type in high school, to sit at a keyboard and write. Words pour out of my fingers like flopsweat (in case you hadnt noticed). When I first heard that youre supposed to start the day by writing three pages, my initial reaction was that it would be absolutely no problem.
But then theres that little catch--youre supposed to hand write these pages. I dont even hand write grocery lists, for Petes sake. And now Im supposed to write three whole pages....every day?.. indefinitely?????
Well, anything to free up my creativity.
So Ive been writing the morning pages. The rule that Cameron gives is that you arent supposed to re-read the pages youre writing for at least 10 weeks. Heck, thats not a problem at all. I find that while I may start out marginally legible on page 1, by the time Im halfway down the page, my handwriting becomes so illegible that even I cant read what Ive written--minutes after Ive written it.
Ive discovered that it does open up my brain and sometimes surprising things come out, but Ill never be able to go back and review any progress (if any) that I make in the writing of the pages, because as soon as I get to the bottom of page 3 and look at what Ive written, it looks like so much chicken scratch and Im only able to pick out a word here and there.
But then legibility isnt required--or even necessary, I suspect.
In conjunction with the Artists Way, there are also these two writing groups that Ive joined. One is the group that meets at Joans house. This is a group of people who are old enough to appreciate "memoirs" who are writing their various histories. I have only attended one meeting, so I dont have a feel for the group yet (except for the people I already knew who are there), but I found in my first meeting, when everyone read one of their stories, that I, who had brought my journal entry about taking Tom to the urologist--the infamous "The Peep Doctor"--felt humbled by the eloquence of each of the stories as they were read. I suspect this group is going to really inspire me to write better.
The second group is the writers group that is kind of struggling to find its direction at the moment. The first two meetings I attended were spent mostly discussing what our individual goals were and what direction the group should take. There were something like 13 or 14 people at the last meeting, two weeks ago.
Todays group was smaller, only 8 people, and today we started a more structured way to handle the hour and a half. The time started with giving out a topic and having each of us write on that topic for 10 minutes. Then we went around and each read our writings.
I have to admit that I had some difficulty with this part of the process. It seemed to me that the idea was to open ourselves up by writing, not that we were presenting a finish product to the group, so I found some of the criticism unnecessarily harsh. A lot of the comments that were made, on almost everyones piece, were things that might have been picked up on editing if we were to be putting together something for publication.
Two people each week will read 3 or 4 pages of something they're working on (which puts a bit of pressure on me, since what Im working on is theatre reviews and this journal!). One person read something that seemed to go on interminably and I found my attention lagging before the end of the first page. The first comment that was made on this reading was that it needed editing. But then everyone else was very supportive and starting pointing out all the good things in the piece, so that by the time the comment section was finished, the writer was glowing with the thought that a marvelous start on the short story had been made. (I refrained from throwing in my own comment about how I cringed at the phrase "what she worked at.")
The next reader had written a marvelous start to what could either be a novelette or a book. I was enthralled with it, could see that as an exposition it was marvelous. The work got torn to shreds by people whose writings have not inspired me thus far. I felt the criticism was unnecessarily harsh, didnt understand what the writer was doing, and expected more from an introduction than was necessary.
Again, I felt unsatisfied with the comment section.
I dont know if its me or if its the group. Ive never been in a writing group before and maybe this is the way things work. I have to admit that the harshness of the criticism made me uncomfortable sharing these pieces that I vomit out here on the Internet each day. But I promised myself I would stick with the group and I intend to, at least until I have a sense of whether this is helping or hurting.
At the conclusion of the meeting, I went off to satisfy another artistic urge. First, I stopped by the craft store and picked up some material for my next altered book project. Then I stopped by PETCO to get some toys for Sheila, since she really seems to love toys and we dont have doggie toys around here.
Finally, after the disappointing loss of Smarty Jones (oh how painful...even the jockey and owner of the winning horse--whose name I cant remember--apologized for beating Smarty Jones!), I went back to PETCO to take more photos for the SPCA. Of course, now the urgency to take SPCA photos is a bit less, since I have found my dog. But it was still fun to see all the animals and try to get good shots of them, hoping to find good homes for them.
I should make mention of the death of Ronald Reagan. I told Walt that my reaction
to Reagan's death makes me understand the people who were bitter about FDR years after his
death. I was not a Regan fan when he was Governor of California. I never voted
for him. I was not a fan of his presidency. He probably was a good man and I
am sorry for his family's pain, but I will not be joining the flag wavers who will spend
the next few days talking about how he was the best president of the modern age.