Friday, May 2, 2014

"The Artist's Way" Rescues Me Again

Just wanted to say how much I adore Julia Cameron for writing and sharing "The Artist's Way." I've never actually read and done the whole program (I always got stuck about Chapter Four), but twice she's saved my creative life. The first time was when I quit my job (three years ago April 15). In fact, this book helped me make the decision to leave my job. I had attended a weekend workshop on The Artist's Way and realized my job was a Crazymaker in my life and I was a Shadow Artist. (Go to Julia's web site to learn more about the terms in the book and this blog post. You can find The Artist's Way in any used bookstore.


Crazymaker and Shadow Artist are two of the buzz words used in the original "The Artist's Way," but it became clear to me in that workshop that my purpose in life wasn't to be a part-time editor on a technical publication (college catalog). The Universe, God, or Whomever keeps things going had been very clear when I was about to graduate from college back in 2001 that I was supposed "to give a voice to the voiceless." I was so far off my life's purpose that I had become stressed and depressed and hadn't written a word in two years. (Looking back, I've discovered that I always get depressed when I'm not going in the direction I should be. You'd think I'd figure this out more quickly, but usually not.)

The day after that weekend workshop ended, I turned in my resignation with three weeks' notice and then kept writing my Morning Pages faithfully every morning. You'll learn more in online sites (there are tons of them if you don't want to find the books!), but these are three stream-of-consciousness pages, handwritten in a notebook, journal, scraps of paper (I suggest something bound, tho, that you can flip back through later when looking for inspiration) where you just write the first thing that comes to mind. Don't type them. There is something about that connection of pen and paper that makes them even more powerful.

Most of my early entries were anything but creative. I hadn't written a creative thing for two years, too stressed out with my Crazymaker job. So it became a diary at first. What I did yesterday. What I planned to do today. A list of to-do items.

I left my job thinking I would find a new job, but in retrospect, I realize I was just applying for more jobs that turn into new Shadow Artist ones. I knew from hanging out with members of the Romance Writers of America that making a living as a novelist would take years, though, and I didn't have that much savings to hang out that long. But my husband agreed to give me a year off to regroup and figure out what I want to do in life. I went into super-homemaker mode a while (still no creativity) and tried to find ways to cut costs so we wouldn't deplete our savings.

And every morning, I wrote three pages of this random stuff in my journal.

About two weeks after the end of the day job, characters began showing up on the page. I'd written Nobody's Angel two years before (to the month) and Marc, Luke, and Angelina were among the characters who popped in. I'd learned at my Kentucky RWA chapter meeting that erotic romance was popular and authors in that genre actually were making a living at writing. So I had written another book, enjoyed the writing of erotic romance, and then wrote Angel. Then the job exploded and I didn't do anything with it, even though Samhain had asked me to send it to them. (I had submitted the first ER novella to them for an anthology it wasn't right for, but apparently they saw something they liked in my style.)

And then life exploded (three years ago this weekend). My sister's cancer metastasized and I was at the oncology visit with her when she got the devastating news. When I came home that night, I was drained and the thought of writing anything escaped me, but my friends in the Naughty Romance Writers secret group on Facebook told me I should write to express my emotion about it. So, sitting at my dining room table, with NCIS on the TV in the next room (it's almost always on in the next room <g>), I decided to write a scene that would put all the worst that could happen into it so that then I could get that fear out and would be more helpful to my sister as she fought the fight of her life.

Enter Adam. Sitting at a bus station in Chicago, devastated that his wife of 20 years had lost her battle with cancer. Not wanting to continue his own life. Not knowing how to go back to Camp Pendleton to be there for his Marines when he didn't know whether he wanted to dive into the bottle again or pull the trigger. With NCIS on, his voice and face were very much Leroy Jethro Gibbs's. <g> I can't tell you if Karla showed up that night or not. I doubt I really got that far. But this scene, with all it's back-story telling, becomes the opening scene of my free introduction, Masters at Arms. (See book list and reading order for the Rescue Me Saga here.)


The next morning, I pulled out my notebook again and wrote my mandatory three Morning Pages. I tried to figure out how to save this man from himself. Now enters Karla. Working with Phil Gigante as he interprets that scene for the audiobook version opened my eyes to some things that hadn't occurred to me. Adam's very voice changes in that scene as he is slowly pulled back to life by the young, vibrant Karla. He goes from a gruff, surly, near-dead man to the reluctant hero to someone who can laugh again for the first time in...well, forever.

I'm convinced that doing my Morning Pages for the five weeks preceding that event is what opened up my creativity again and made writing that scene possible. Now fast forward three years. I'm working on book five in the series (Nobody's Dream, due out later this year if I can finish it by then). But connecting with the characters this spring has become a daily chore. They just aren't speaking to me the way they did when I wrote the first 60,000 words of the book (mostly in the first half of the book).

In one of those moments of clarity, yesterday it occurred to me that these two are very private loners. They just aren't as open to sharing their story as say Adam and Karla or Damian and Savannah. Marc, on the other hand, is much like Luke and Cassie and I remembered that my Morning Pages had helped me connect with him and take him from the cardboard-character stud he was in the original draft of Nobody's Angel to the more fleshed-out character he was when that book finally was published in September 2011 after two MAJOR rewrites (including gutting all but 35,000 words at one point and adding 85,000 new ones).

When it came time to further delve into Marc's psyche in the writing of Somebody's Angel (Rescue Me Saga #4), the MPs helped me free him.

Once again, I made the decision that I needed to do Morning Pages. But it was late in the afternoon--as I posted on my Facebook Author Page--and I am impulsive and impatient, so I took a nap. I didn't want to wait until morning to start! I woke up three hours later and wrote my first three pages in the remnants of a notebook from my college years 13 years ago with homework assignments and notes ripped out. Had to find something quick! No time to go buy a shiny new one at the store (but I can see I need to hit the school supply sales this summer to stock up because I need to keep doing these!).

In my entry last night, I spelled out to the Universe what I was struggling with in the story. I didn't find any answers, although I did make some notes about how to tweak some existing scenes. I just asked what I needed to do to help these two find their happiness together. I threw in a few to-do items, as well. When you write Morning Pages, the point is to declutter your mind from extraneous information and worries as much as it is to tap into your muse or creativity. So I got those out of the way and wrote in the margins "Do--Bus" (for to-do and business) and then kept writing.

After a two-hour phone call with a reader turned friend who made it clear that my writing these stories isn't about achieving fame and fortune, but meeting my purpose in life--to give a voice to the voiceless. I wrote a couple hundred more words last night (well, early this morning), and then went back to bed. Six hours later, I got up, picked up the notebook (even before my bagel, but with my Diet Coke with Lime at my side), and wrote my second batch of three pages.

Holy shit! Not only did I get answers to where Luke & Cassie needed to go in Nobody's Dream, but Adam & Karla and Marc & Angelina, as well! There are multiple scenes I can write, so I am now going to dive into writing again--and I'm going to kick some serious word-count ass today! Hopefully that means not a lot of Facebook time, but I wrote this blog to inform my readers of my whereabouts (just where they want me to be--butt planted in chair and writing)--and to help other writers who might benefit from the miracle of the Morning Pages!

To learn more, I just found this companion booklet at Amazon for only $2.99. (It's not an e-book.) Probably also available at Apple and Barnes & Noble Nook. It's called The Miracle of the Morning Pages--and the author answers frequently asked questions about the MPs. I firmly believe MPs do bring miracles to our writing! 


5 comments:

  1. Kally, back in January when I was so upset about my job you posted on my FB page "This is an opportunity for you. Take advantage of it." I had to suck it up and stay even though I wasn't/am not happy about the situation -- I have very little savings; and am my sole provider. The stress has dried me up.

    Today I read this post and you have again inspired me. I will follow your lead and do this so that when I'm back in my groove, I'll at least have a fount of inspiration to draw from.

    Thank you!!

    HUGS

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    1. Hang in there! I so know the feeling, and I know my circumstances were much more conducive to just quitting. But maybe the Morning Pages will help you as you try to find inspiration and your creativity again.

      I should point out another "refill-the-well" technique Cameron uses in The Artist's Way--Artist's Dates. You just go on a date by yourself, alone. Doesn't have to be anything expensive. Lunch in the park. A movie that will inspire you. Window shopping. A day (or a few hours) at a museum. Some of my favorite dates involved doing kid things because you want to try and tap into that "you" from your childhood before she got dinged around and told she couldn't do whatever it was she wanted to do or be. Really awesome stuff and I'm going to start doing these again, too. Just once a week is all she asks you to do.

      Thanks for reading my blog!

      Kally

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  2. This is a great post and it's inspiring. Just reading how you can easily lose and then find yourself again leaves me hopeful.
    I think I need to learn more about this and implement it in my life. I'm a busy mind person and can't seem to declutter, which leads to subconscious worrying and the stress and anxiety. Maybe writing Morning Pages will help get it out. I also write so much in my head lately that by the time I want to write it out, I'm exhausted. Vicious circle.
    But I also have a lot on my plate (I'm sure no more than anyone else) but it's all tiring. Full-time college, full-time job (running a business), family, and the need to write.
    I need to find my mojo again, and declutter this head of mine.
    Thanks for this lovely post.

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    1. It's great for us busy minded writers. (And that's probably most of us.) Plus there are so many distractions out there. This helps me focus and teaches me discipline. (And, yes, there are Doms who require their subbies to journal, too, altho they don't call them Morning Pages. ) It's an awesome tool for all walks of life--and Cameron's book isn't intended only for writers, but anyone wanting to tap into his or her creativity again.

      I was never very productive during college or while working full-time, but I hope it helps there, too. But I'm writing full-time now and the demands for business and marketing stuff are like having a full-time job. So I can attest that it's working in that regard in just these few days that I've been doing them again.

      I just posted on FB that I had my best wordcount day since I started writing my latest book. Now if I can keep that up, I'll have something ready in advance of my brainstorming session with some of my editors next month!

      Kally

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  3. I am going to pick up a copy of this book! I have been struggling so much with life and parenting issues that I just can't seem to finish my NaNoWriMo book....I made a bunch of pitch appointments for RT to try to get my butt into gear, but more stress wasn't inspirational, either. I am going to try this....it really sounds like a good outlet for creativity-blocking worries to be listed and put into their place! Thank you for writing about this! I don't know that I would ever have found this book/ program otherwise!!

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