No trumpets sound when the important decisions of our life are made. Destiny is made known silently.
— Agnes de Mille
We’ve been working with the idea that instead of the ultimately self-defeating practice of being paralyzed by the prospects of where our creative path may take us, it is extremely important at this stage to take small actions.
It is a big mistake, Julia warns, to hand our creative life over to the Powers That Be, whether that is to put it on hold while we wait for theatre call-backs, or waiting to hear from an agent, or until we have enough money, time, space, energy for The Big Masterpiece.
If you have an inspiration, or even a small itch, to draw, scribble, photograph, dance, sing – don’t wait for things to be perfect. It is a most toxic form of artist block to sit and complain because things aren’t set up the way you want (or think you need) them to be. Wherever you are, whatever the circumstances, there are small steps you can safely take right now.
Begin to notice your patterns of anxiety and negativity. One coach I know calls them the “Yeah, buts…” Step outside yourself just enough to hear the “Yeah, but” attitude and recognize that is the whining sound of an inner artist who is blocked and scared.
Coax her or him out of hiding and resignation with one tiny thing to do. One little micromovement. Then, build on success. What is another step you can take?
“When we allow ourselves to wallow in the big questions,” Julia declares, “we fail to find the small answers. What we are talking about here is a concept of change grounded in respect – respect for where we are, as well as where we wish to go. We are looking, not to grand strokes of change — although they may come — but instead to the act of creatively husbanding all that is in the present: this job, this house, this relationship.
“Recovering creatives commonly undergo bouts of rage and grief over their lost years. When these creative kriyas occur, we desperately want to kick over the traces and get the hell out of life as it is currently constituted. Instead, make changes, small changes, right where you are. Fill this form with creative care until it overflows into another, larger form – organically…It is helpful to think in terms of a space flight: by altering the launch trajectory very slightly, a great difference can be made over time.”
So over the weekend, we have some exercises as we wind down this chapter. First, there are twenty questions for you to explore in your morning pages. Then, next week, we’ll look at some additional ways to solidify our increasing sense of strength.
Although we seldom connect the dots, many of our present day losses are connected to our earlier conditioning. As children, we might have been told we couldn’t do anything, or, equally damaging, told we should be able to do absolutely anything with ease. Either way, these messages can block us. These questions are aimed at helping us understand our conditioning. Even if some do not seem to apply, write about whatever they trigger for you.
1. As a kid, my dad thought my art was ______ and that made me feel __________.
2. I remember one time when he ___________.
3. I felt very ________ and ___________ about that. I never forgot it.
4. As a kid my mother taught me that my daydreaming was ______________.
5. I remember she’d tell me to snap out of it by reminding me ____________.
6. The person I remember who believed in me was ____________.
7. I remember one time when ___________________.
8. I felt ________ and ________ about that. I never forgot it.
9. The thing that ruined my chance to be an artist was ____________.
10. The negative lesson I got from that, which wasn’t logical but I still believe, is that I can’t ______ and be an artist.
11. When I was little I learned that __________ and _______ were big sins that I particularly had to watch out for.
12. I grew up thinking that artists were ___________ people.
13. The teacher who shipwrecked my confidence was ____________.
14. I was told _________________.
15. I believed this teacher because ______________.
16. The mentor who gave me a good role model was ___________.
17. When people say I have talent, I think they want to _____________.
18. The thing is, I am suspicious that ______________.
19. I just can’t believe that _______________.
20. If I believe I am really talented, then I am mad as hell at _______ and _______ and _______ and _______ and _______.