Six months into retirement.
Even considering that the last half year has included the dark months, I have been living joyfully with a sense of freedom, peace and abundance because now I have … time. Time to contemplate, time to appreciate, time to release the part of me that somehow got suppressed in the workaday hustle and bustle.
As I looked forward to retirement, my most cherished aspiration was to finally live what I think of as The Deeper Life – growing and thriving in spirituality and creativity. Now, with the “more time” I was enjoying, I expected to move forward in these two areas, but instead I observed an all-but-irresistible resistance. A week went by, two weeks, a month, but there they sat, still on the back burner. I started to worry. Would I ever actually grow deep in my walk with my Creator, or spend time on the creative projects that are so alive in my mind?
At Christmas we met with friends to catch up over coffee. Jaime shared about a book she was reading that I had never heard of. I’m not sure what she said that made me write down the title, The Artists’s Way. My impression was that it offered ideas on how to be more creative, and I can always appreciate those. Or maybe it was the fact that the book has been in print since 1992, over 25 years, and yet there is a long waiting list for it at the library.
I put in a hold at the library and didn’t think much more about it. I got through the dark season of January, and early in February The Artist’s Way came in. Turns out that it’s a twelve-week program for unblocking blocked artists – writers, musicians, painters, designers, anyone who works in the creative fields. After reading the introduction and the first two chapters about basic principles and basic tools, I decided I needed to own this book. I wanted to commit to getting “unblocked.” I had a strong sense that if I followed the program through, and became unblocked as an artist, the process would also help unblock my spiritual life. I could see them moving forward in tandem. After all, Julia Cameron’s premise is that creativity is the Creator’s will for me. Through my creativity, I serve God.
As I finished Week One, I had already noticed some remarkable things.
One of the basic tools is the morning pages. When I first get up, my assignment is to write three full 8.5 x 11 pages – stream of consciousness, grumpiness, happiness, recollections, ideas, comments about the weather, whatever is on my mind. There is no wrong way. I am not supposed to reread what I’ve written or show it to anyone. The pages go in a binder away from sight. I find my morning pages unexpectedly enjoyable. I wake up looking forward to them, and I am surprised by the clarity and focus they brings.
Another weekly tool is the artist’s date. It can be as short as an hour. It is done solo, not in company, and it centres around any small thing that delights and feeds the creative soul. It’s for enjoyment, not production. So I pulled out my cardmaking papers and supplies and created three corner bookmarks as a way to celebrate my brand new book. I spent two hours enjoying the papers, the colours, the textures and the embellishments, trying different combinations and eventually achieving happy results. That doesn’t sound like much, but the sense of satisfaction and release was remarkable.
Each week there are ten tasks around a theme. I do as many as I can; I don’t have to do all of them. The first week’s theme was Recovering a Sense of Identity. I learned some interesting things about myself. I am my own biggest critic. I can always find ways I could have done it better. Apparently this is to be expected. Julia teaches a way to distance the criticism. She calls that voice The Censor, as opposed to me calling it me.
I think The Artist’s Way journey will bring results. I can feel it in my bones.