Paying attention, slowing down – these are powerful healing antidotes for self-doubt, cynicism and fear. Focusing on the now gives us the necessary perspective to overcome every circumstance, and reminds us that we are interconnected to a web of creative support and love.
In “The Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to Be the Artist You Truly Are” by Danny Gregory, one of the very first exercises in the book is to draw a coffee mug. That’s because, he insists, anyone can learn to draw, and it is a very useful skill for artists of every kind, not only painters.
Feel free to pull out a sheet of scrap paper right now, before reading ahead, and draw a simple mug. Yes, you!
If you’re like most people, you’ll draw the round opening on top right away, then the two straight sides coming down, and attach the handle. But, he writes, “the test of whether they are really looking comes when they draw the bottom. Almost everyone [that is not a trained artist] will just draw a straight line across.”
It might look like a lot like this:
Hmmm.. What’s wrong with this picture? If you really look at a mug, the bottom is curved just like the top. “So why don’t most people see that the bottom is curved right off?” he asks.
“Because they are thinking, not seeing.
“They know the table is flat, the bottom of the mug is flat, and the way you draw something flat is with a straight line.
“Your left brain is far more powerful than your eyeballs. It has no problem ignoring the data coming in, and transforming it into something else.
“How do we get around this? We have to shut your brain off. Or at least the part of your brain that is so stuck on rules and correctness and flat bottoms.”
So, to shut the brain off, particularly the smarty-pants, non-artist that is our left brain, we learn to bore it, so it will go off and think about something else. We do this by training ourselves to slow way, way, WAY down, and look very, very, VERY closely at things. In other words, pay attention.
It works exactly the same way when we are experiencing the cacophony of fears and hopes and growth and setbacks that comprise life. Especially our life as baby creatives. Slow way down, and absorb what is really in front of you, not the ghosts created in your brain by fears, regrets, and old criticisms.
So, ready to do some homework this weekend? First, twice a day, preferably morning and evening, get quiet and focused and go back and re-read the Basic Principles of The Artist’s Way to yourself. Noticing any shifts in your attitudes yet? To what extent is skepticism easing its grip on you (or not)?
Next: list five major activities you spent time on this week. How much time did you give each one? Which were “want to” and which were “should” or “have to?” How much of your time is spent helping others and ignoring your own desires? Have any of your blocked friends triggered doubts in you?
Number Three: Take a sheet of paper. Draw a circle. Inside the circle, place the topics, projects, and ideas you need to protect. Place in it the names of those you know are supportive. Outside the circle, write the names of those you need to protect yourself from, at least for now. Place this safety map in your morning pages so you can use it to support your autonomy. Add names to the inner and outer spheres as needed.
Last but not least, make a list of twenty things (yes, at least twenty, not eight or sixteen!) that you enjoy doing (roller-blading, rock climbing, making soup, star-gazing, making love, etc.) When was the last time you let yourself do these things? Write down the date next to each one. It may have been years. You may not even be able to remember the last time.
Don’t worry; this is going to change. In fact this can be a great list of ideas for artist dates. Which I hope you’ve been having lots of, right? Tell us about them!