AW1: Recovering a Sense of Safety
Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start – Sexual energy, support and the shadow artist
So here we are, at the first week of Artist’s Way: Recovering a Sense of Safety. This chapter is roughly about going back to the beginning, finding where your natural impulse to create was stunted, injured so badly it went into a coma, or died to its first life waiting to be reborn.
Going over this chapter again, I realised that when I first started the Artist’s Way I barely worked the programme at all. I read the text and did the morning pages, but I don’t remember doing any of the tasks at the end of each chapter. Which means that, wow, was this a bit of an eye-opener.
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In one task, she instructs the reader to unpack their Monster Hall of Fame. Nothing new there I thought. But one particular incident in early childhood revealed in stark outline the origin of my weeboo weeboo story. It’s not that I’d forgotten this incident, it’s just that I hadn’t looked at it in this detail and through this lens, and it was a real shock to see that I’ve spent the rest of my creative life basically just colouring in those outlines.
If you’re doing the AW, I wonder what those monsters are for you?
The spotlight and the shadow
Some of the work was very familiar and easy to work through – core beliefs, affirmations, inner child stuff and so on. But a few other points really stood out on this reading at 46 and a whole lifetime later.
One was the concept of the shadow artist and seeing where that applied to me and my partners. Early relationships were often defined by falling in love with men who had “great potential” as artists and musicians, and later relationships by shadow artists using me as a conduit and guide to their own frustrated creativity.
The other concept that tickled me was the idea of audacity.
“All too often, it is audacity and not talent that moves an artist to centre stage,” writes Cameron. “As blocked creatives, we tend to regard those bogus spotlight grabbers with animosity. We may be able to defer to true genius, but if it’s merely genius for self-promotion we’re witnessing, our resentment runs high. This is not just jealousy.”
Cameron continues by saying that it’s a stalling technique and goes on to discuss this and how to counter it, but I want to take a moment here to savour this little goblin feeling, jealousy.
Every goblin is a beautiful start
Artist’s Way was published in 1994, written probably somewhere between 1990 and 1993, and developed way earlier as a concept and programme – way before social media and democratisation of that spotlight Cameron talks about.
It’s now common practice that shouting louder and for longer than anyone around you will get you heard eventually. Doesn’t matter what you’re shouting about, as long as you’re shouting consistently, someone is sure to believe the message.
For a frustrated and insecure creative this is the stuff jealousy feeds on. But jealousy has a lot to tell you if you’re paying attention. For example…
A few years back, someone I didn’t like had published a book and was bleating about it online. Endlessly. And my god was it getting platformed e-ve-ry-where all. the. time.
Urgh. It was eating me up inside.
One morning, when I still had Twitter on my phone, I started scrolling through my feed waiting for my therapy appointment just getting more and more pissed off about all the hurrahs this person and their shitty piece of work was getting (hey man, don’t judge the judgies, it was the feeling at the time), and by the time I sat down opposite my therapist I was all thunderstorm. I’m a big believer in getting your money’s worth and at therapy that requires 100% honesty and so I told her what was going on and she asked, as therapists must, “What is the feeling here?”
It took a lot of effort to squeeze out the word: “Jealousy.”
Yuck. What an ugly feeling. I still believed then that it was “bad” feeling and not one people of good character experienced.
But my therapist smiled and cooed with delight, “Ooooh, that’s very exciting!”, and so my relationship with jealousy took on a new twist.
Jealousy, she showed me, was nothing more than a marker showing you where you want to go. After all, there are people presenting their many successes all the time, but I don’t get jealous of chefs opening award-winning restaurants or businesspeople becoming CEOs and whatnot.
No. What excited my tweezer little feelings of jealousy was watching someone have the audacity to platform, to own, to complete and present their creative expression that took the form of a book. Without going into details, it’s amazing to me how this plugs into the monster I chose for my monster hall of fame.
All of life is an act of creation
The last point that really struck me this time is the highlighting of sexuality and sexual expression in this chapter.
My work in a previous life as a sex and relationships columnist and author revealed over and over again that sex – sexual energy, expression, attraction, the impulse to expand into and engage with the other and outside – isn’t something that happens behind closed doors. It isn’t something that lives in a tiny box apart from the rest of your life. It’s the lifeforce that animates how you are in the world, how you relate to and engage with the world around you, yourself, your body, your partners, your children and, yes, your creative expression.
I’d bet that if you looked back into your past to see how your sexual energy was met by the world and people around you in your early childhood you’d get some clearer insights into where the sense of safety around your creativity was helped or hindered. I know it’s a fact for me.
Anyway. That’s it for now.
Love and light fellow earth travellers. This is a funny little life isn’t it?
(PS I’ll tell you this for nothing, I am pretty done with this old story so I’m both bored as hell with doing this programme and pleased – and confident dammit – that once it’s done I’ll be ready to move on from all of this handwringing and step into some audacity. Dammit.)
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