I would not say that my creativity was blocked before I started The Artist’s Way – I have been steadily working at my arts practices, plugging along like a little worker bee. But I am realizing now that I was slightly stuck in those practices, and consequently being very safe with my art making. Now I’m taking risks, putting myself out there more, and finding myself in a creativity tidal wave. It is simply amazing to me, how much can happen when you create space for it, defend it from internal aggressors, and then just effing go for it. Since I began doing The Artist’s Way, I’ve been confronting head-on the ways that I’ve stemmed the flow of creativity in my life, because of shame, co-dependancy, or fear. Replacing those contracting forces with love, acceptance, and playfulness has wildly affected my life in some very concrete ways.
First of all, my husband (who is also doing The Artist’s Way) and I actually started practicing for the show we are playing this Saturday. When we haven’t played music together in awhile, the first rehearsal is excruciating. We are grumpy, rusty, and full of blame and criticism. It’s pretty much a disaster. The only good thing about it is we have been together so long that we know the pattern and keep telling ourselves “It gets better It gets better It gets better don’t give up!” Then, the following night, we find some kind of groove, letting go of our creative resentments and saying yes to each other’s offers. So now, I am actually excited about our performance, and if you are in the Bay Area this Saturday, July 14th, you should come to Old Crow at 8pm for the incredible art that John Felix Arnold III has created, and stay for our croonings and beats. I’m doing a lot more singing this time, letting myself be even more vulnerable in my performance, as we are singing about love together. It scares me, and that is exactly why I know I need to do it.
Of course we have all of our same old tired problems, but we are starting to find creative solutions to some of them. Now that we have some space and courage to try new things, we are shifting things around, rather than wasting time complaining about what we can’t have. We rearranged two out of the four rooms in the house, and the result is an altered perspective, and a greater investment in our cozy space. Showing the changes to my friend Ellie, I said, “Look! There’s a dance floor in the bedroom now!” “Only you would see that freed-up space and call it a dance floor”, she replied. Sure enough, pretty soon Olive, her friend Caden and I were all stretching on the bedroom floor together — the space was just too inviting to be solely for walking.
Speaking of dance, I’ve been bringing Operation RAD BOD to my dance classes, stretching myself to get even more comfortable with my body as I move it around. The classes I take are greatly cardiovascular, but I often dance in exercise pants, a tank top and a long sleeved dress over that! The teachers usually wear short shorts and tank tops, and no matter what the students don, we are equally drenched in sweat by the time the hour is over. I never really thought I was choosing my outfits based on any kind of body shame, but in the heat of this past Saturday, rather than reaching for my usual somber attire, I pulled from the bottom of my drawer an electric blue “run-skirt” — basically a mini with tiny shorts attached underneath. I topped it with a pink sleeveless top, essentially showing more skin with that outfit than I would anywhere but the beach. I didn’t really think too much of it, I just pulled it on and rushed to class, arriving to the delighted surprise of my friends. They were hilariously inspired by my colorful, tiny attire. Rebecca said, “You have great legs! I’ve never seen them before!” The fact that we have been dancing together for 5 years and she’s never seen my legs made it jarringly clear to me that I’ve been hiding my body in my dance classes.
The class was packed, and there’s a huge mirror in the room, but I did not once find myself obsessing about how all my skin looked as I shook it around. I don’t know what happened, but I was just… free from all that self-consciousness, and I had a blast, actually not overheating for once! On the walk home I realized that what I’d done out of opening my dress choices to more options was actually a big step in Operation RAD BOD. I posted my brave sartorial choice to my Facebook page, and was encouraged by how many people enjoyed that I’d thrown off the fetters of somber fabric and embraced my own skin.
Another great part of the Artist’s Way is you are encouraged to get in touch with your child self, allow yourself to play, and simply have fun. By a series of fortunate events, I found myself in a toy store without my child. I was able to browse the things I was actually interested in, rather than monitoring Olive’s interactions with the wares. I found myself drawn to a fashion coloring book — a huge tome filled with fabuous fashion illustrations that you fill in yourself — high heels to decorate, dresses to pattern, sunglasses that need a face drawn around them, prints that need colors chosen for them. I bought myself every color of Le Pen that they had, and brought it all up to the cash register, my inner artist in a state of glee and ecstacy that I was actually doing this. I then spent the evening coloring fashion illustrations, rather than watching mindless TV. I felt my world expanding with every swirl I added to the page.
As I am owning myself as an artist — spending my free time singing, coloring, and writing, instead of comparing, judging and tuning out, I have been amazed at how the creative opportunities have been pouring in. My friend Esther from LTYM SF told me how to submit to KQED’s Perspectives, and I mulled over what I could possibly write about for several weeks. Finally, an idea came to me, and though I don’t have the kind of life where I can just sit down and write any second I’m so inspired, at my next writer’s group I banged it out, and sent it off. Much to my surprise, the editor contacted me right away, accepting my piece! I had such an encouraging talk with him about my writing, and it happened on a day when all I was feeling was “I want to punch today in the throat.” So, I really needed a win, and now I am greatly looking forward to being on the airwaves next week! Things are flowing, and I am feeling more alive.
I’m sharing all of this with you because I want to spread the reality that if you let yourself be creative, if you make time and space for it, and you drench yourself in positivity rather than small-mindedness, you will be amazed by how much color and opportunity will come your way. I’m not much for the New Agey “you create your own reality” stuff that is thrown around a lot in our post-millenial culture, as I have too much of a sociological understanding of the very real effects of classism, racism, sexism and homophobia in our current world. However, creativity is within you. It could be bringing a creative perspective to your feud with your neighbor, a fresh eye to the haircut you are regretting, or just taking a different route on your walk to work. Whatever you choose, I invite you to let your artist self take control of something today, and report to me what happens!