The Artist’s Way–Week 11

Jul 7, 2017 by

The Artist’s Way–Week 11

I’ve reached Week 11 of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. My life has changed tremendously in the past 11 weeks. I will tell you that. Probably more so than any stretch of time the rest of my entire life. The positive impact this book has had on me can scarcely be measured.

Everything You’ve Got

My twin daughters were visiting on Tuesday for the Fourth of July and the younger one, Haley, (by all of seven minutes) (Oh, and they turned 18 today) kept noticing and making fun of taped images I have at key places around the place. The note says, “Everything You’ve Got.” She was trying to be grammar queen on me and tell me it should be “Everything I Have,” but I’m not changing it.

The origin of the line comes from Ryan Gosling’s character Seb in La La Land when he’s talking to Mia outside the Griffith Observatory toward the end of the movie. She’s auditioned for the part in the Paris film and she’s asking him about what they’re going to do about their relationship and their chase for their dreams. Will he come to Paris with her or stay in LA and pursue his dreams while she goes to Paris to chase hers? He tells her, “When you get this part, you’re going to have to give it everything you’ve got.” He knows the importance for her of chasing her own dream, one that is not his own, and he knows the importance of chasing his dream. And to accomplish the dream, every dream, ones you and I have as well, that’s what it takes, “Everything You’ve Got.”

The Writer’s Path

There now are 24 days left for those of us in the final stages of The Writer’s Path Program at SMU. On Aug. 1 we turn in the first 15 pages of our manuscripts for blind-judging. Thirteen of us in the program will be selected to go to New York in November to meet with publishers and agents with the Big Five. The pressure is on. 

But what I have found by working through The Artist’s Way is that whether or not my book gets selected, it’s going to be okay. I’ve taught myself over the past 11 weeks that I am “a prolific writer and a great artist.” We were told to practice saying that allowed in one of the first few weeks. It was kind of hard to do at the beginning, without laughing that is. I’ve gotten better at saying it aloud over the past few months.

My art is an expression of the inner child who lives within me. The one who has been squashed, crapped on, booed, chided, beaten down, put down, insulted, and abused over the course of my life. All those words are being brushed aside because of TAW and what I’ve learned by reading the book, writing my morning pages every single day since I started them, and doing the chapter tasks.

Not Just For Writers

I told my daughter Haley the other night that she should start working in her own book. That it would change her life. Then she threw more wood on the fire of the past saying “I don’t want to be an artist. You’re always broke.” Ouch.

I’ve had a hard eight years of life and no, I’m not making as much money these days as I used to. But more importantly, emotionally and mentally, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. I’d trade that for lots of money and the problems that come with them any day of the week. Would it have been nice to have more disposable income? Without a doubt. My life would be even more drastically different had that been the case. But God has also used this opportunity to teach me much about life that I was missing.

I’ve never been much for material things. I want a reliable car, a roof over my head, my Macs, Canon camera equipment, and oil paints and canvases, a comfortable bed to sleep in, health care, healthy food to eat, and enough furniture to be able to sit in a chair and watch TV on rare occasions. The car is somewhat on the fritz right now, which is troubling, and income is shallow. But I have most of those other things and they’re helping me in my experience with life. They are helping me write my book. Two weeks ago I made my first short film on Zelda Fitzgerald. And because I’ve made changes in my food lifestyle, weight is falling off my body. My back injury the past year has hurt me in many ways and held me back. That issue is being addressed through legal channels.

What is most important to me though is how close I’ve grown to God and seen that God, as the great creator, created me, you and the world around me. He made the world in seven days according to the Bible, but he didn’t just stop creating then. He still does it today. And in me, he has given the ability to create new stories, new films, new colors, new paintings, new building designs, new whatever he and I can pair up together to dream.

That’s the satisfaction I have from 11 weeks of reading and working in The Artist’s Way. One does not have to be a writer, or a self-declared artist to gain something from this book, but I will almost bet anyone who follows it methodically, working one chapter a week and then doing all the exercises, writing the morning pages, and doing the weekly artists days will find such a dramatic change in their lives, they’ll never regret having invested the time.

 

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The Haley Buggin’ Guitar Riff Ditty

Jun 9, 2017 by

The Haley Buggin’ Guitar Riff Ditty

Guitar riffs. We hear them and they earworm their way into our consciousness and then burrow in for a long stay.

Last night about 8 p.m. I downloaded an app to tune my guitars and one for my mandolin. I never got to the mandolin.

Haley Buggin’, a little ditty I made thanks to The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. https://youtu.be/7zgmMeP-coE

I tuned the guitar and then started a progression of the chords E A D, but thumping them and muting them like U2’s Edge would do, and then hammering the neck notes like Eddie Van Halen or Pete Townsend would do.

The result, I thumbed out a progression that I then recorded and sent to my daughter Haley calling it “Haley Buggin’.” You see, over the past couple of years, Haley has from time-to-time sent me tracks she’s recorded seeking input and support. I’ve been encouraging but probably not nearly enough. This was the first time I’ve ever sent her one. I sent her a track about 40 seconds long. Then I recorded a second one. These are the only two times in my life I’ve ever played this progression in this manner and almost 12 hours later, I’m not sure if I picked up the guitar I’d find it again without the aid of the audio recordings. If I’d not taped them, they’d be lost.

After finishing the second version, I liked it at playback and immediately came to the iMac and opened Garageband.

After a few tests, I found some backing drums and maracas to add. I also played with the reverb setting for the guitar track and violla, I had something that sounds like it was recorded in a studio. After moving it over to iTunes, I then fired up Premiere Pro, pulled the audio into Audition to make a .wav file, and then copied the twins’ graduation video. I created a new sequence, called it Haley Buggin, and began to cut individual pics of Reagan out.

Now it’s important to explain that I have nothing against Reagan. It’s just that the first thing that came to mind when I named this piece of music is Haley Buggin’. Since she was born, I’ve called her Haley Bug, and juking on a guitar, well, it just SCREAMED the obvious title. I love Reagan and Chandler, my two other daughters equally.

I then found some video of Haley jukin with her guitar and she starts talking and moving her head in time to the accents of the music. I added a music credit across the black, and then I dropped in the “This is Sick” video clip of her netting potting. Loaded that to YouTube and then on to FB.

Haley says she wants the tune as a ringtone. I can do that.

The amazing part is that in 1.75 hours I took something that didn’t exist before and loaded it to YouTube as a semi-finished, finished product for all the world to use as an earworm.

My guitars haven’t been out of their cases in years. And when they come out, they play a riff I’ve never heard before and in a way I’ve not ever really played, either.

THE ARTIST’S WAY WEEK 7

I am presently in Week 7 of 13 of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. This book is transforming my life in measured and magical ways. Godly ways.

Pulli out the guitar and the first thing my fingers do is knock out a catchy, bouncy riff. That’s magical and wonderful and that’s The Artist’s Way.

God and Julia Cameron helped get my mind to a place where it could free that song into existence. There is no other way to describe it.

So here’s the video of Haley Buggin’. I hope you like it. I hope the tune infects you and you’re stuck walking around with it. Dance in your car with it. Add it to your walking track. (I did 9,000 steps yesterday.) Make it a ringtone.

And if you don’t like it, well, that’s okay, too. I freed it from non-existence to make my soul happy and to release it as an artist seeking to make a contribution to the world of music, sound and video. And I made the piece the way I did out of love for one of my children. That’s the happiest, most healthy part of all of this. This one paragraph.

The point is, share this wonderful creation that God has given us. Serendipity-style.

And then pick up your own copy of The Artist’s Way and see what God does in your world.

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I’m Under A Writing Deadline

Jun 5, 2017 by

I’m Under A Writing Deadline

So what does that mean? Naturally, my mind is trying to find everything it can to NOT write. And I have 56 days to meet a writing deadline.

My kitchen is clean. My sock drawer indexed in a way that would make Sherlock Holmes envious. My Scrivener file is full of sub-folders. And I keep rehashing my Resurrection, Supreme Ordeal and fighting with myself about how to actually re-write my Call to Action.

Why is this?

The Quest for Perfection

In Chapter Seven of The Artist’s Way this week, I’m dealing with PERFECTION. Or my mental quest to put out something that is as close to perfection as humanly, or me-ily possible.

I’m on a writing deadline and doing all I can to NOT do what I should be doing.

“The perfectionist is never satisfied,” says Ms. Cameron. “Midway through the project the perfectionist decides to read it all over, outline it, see where it’s going. And where is it going? Nowhere, very fast.”

I’m trying to break out of this syndrome. In a video on the CREATIVE app today for Apple TV, the screenplay writer teaching the class said to “Imagine your harshest critic sitting here on your shoulder. Most like, if you’re fortunate, it’s your mother. Pick a place she would love to be on a vacation to, and send her there for the time being.” Get her off your shoulder, is what he said.

So yeah, I get that. Mom probably isn’t alone perching on my shoulder. I know I have several critics who I need to send packing.

And not just until I finish this draft.

The Artist’s Way

Julia Cameron’s book, done right, a chapter a week, is altering my creativity. She is healing my heart. She’d argue more so that it is ME who is healing my own heart. And she’s right.

I recommend this book for everyone. In 2014 I bought a copy and gave it to each of my three girls who never did anything with it. That’s not a criticism, because in 2014 I started reading it and thinking, I don’t have time to devote 13 weeks to this.

Three years later, that’s exactly what I am doing. I don’t peek into the coming week’s lesson. I review those of the past. I re-read my Basic Principles, and The Affirmations I need to hear. I also read An Artist’s Prayer every couple of days to help keep my mind fresh and healing.

Writing Deadline

I have a third of fourth draft I’m working to revise of my book, The Voodoo Hill Explorer Club. A revision of it must be ready for submission to the head of The Writer’s Path Program at SMU on Aug. 1. The first 15 pages are going to be judged and determined whether or those those of us who submit should be selected to go to New York in November to meet with publishers and agents who work or represent the Big Five.

In the meantime, I’m struggling to not self-sabotage this effort. But it’s hard. I’m finding plenty of excuses to not write. I need to go for a walk. Three miles and an hour’s time. But while I’m walking I’m thinking about the book. And a dozen other things. The garbage needs to be taken out. The floors haven’t been vacuumed in several days. Oh gosh, there’s dust on this computer. Oh my, look, it’s about to thunderstorm. What’s being said that’s dumb on Twitter? How about Facebook? What did Simon Cade or Matt W post in their video feeds about filmmaking today? What’s Hazel Hays up to? What’s in my Mail inbox? Julia Cameron says I need to throw some old clothes out. What can I really do with this closet? Ah, yes, what am I going to eat for….

Chapter Seven

This week Julia Cameron affirms that my story is written. I just need to get it down on paper. Or into Scrivener so I can push it out of Word. I need to think of the writing process as being lowered down via a well into an sub-dermal layer of consciousness. She says writers, creatives, should not be trying to think things up. Then you’re reaching for something that’s out of reach. Visualize being lowered down into that river and the words are floating past. It’s my job to offer them rescue. To gather them into the boat and then put them in the right order onto my pages.

That is a much easier way to see writing. It seems to be working today. Today.

The teacher in the CREATIVE network on Apple TV says that we should schedule time on our calendar for writing and then adhere to the calendar.

I’m going to do a little of both. But it’s not easy. I keep trying to find a way to not sit here. To be elsewhere. And yet to retrain my brain to stay fastened to the chair.

I will say that the extracurricular things I am doing are not all bad. Yes, they are excuses, but they’re also allowing my brain to play. And Cameron also says that a playful mind is the most creative one of all.

I hope she’s right. There are only 56 days left until submission and I have 56 scenes in my work at present…..

And that’s how an extra blog post gets written, too…. 🙂

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The Artist’s Way, Week Four–No Reading

May 20, 2017 by

The Artist’s Way, Week Four–No Reading

Even before I reached Week Four of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, where she says to stop reading for a week, I had scaled back my time on Social Media sites like Twitter and Facebook because the noise from the Petulant Left–largely haters of President Donald Trump, largely haters of anything that goes against Judeo-Christian principles of the past 2,500 years–has become too shrill to bother with.

One of my true friends sent me this picture of the sun setting in Mariposa, CA this past week. It’s just amazing.

And thanks for Julia Cameron, thanks to Rick Warren and The Daniel Plan, and God and myself, I’m doing a reset of my life regardless.

I am focusing my life on what’s most important–God, me and what I put into my body so that I might continue to serve him.

I just went through the worst year of my life. Surgeries from severe pain, opioids, doctor appoint after doctor appointment, and more and more pain.

To boot, the person I have been most in love with my entire life copped out on me, succumbed to the threats of her daughter and mother–they are the ones who decide who she’s in love with, not her–and a week before Christmas she walked out of my life. Boom, gone. She lied to her kids and mom for four years about me. Treating me like a mistress. Hiding my contact information in her phone under the graduate college she’s attending so in case I called and they were around, they’d see the school calling, not me.

Shame on her for lying to her family. Shame on me for letting her treat me like that. It won’t happen again.

Julia Cameron says in her book during this week of healing that we should stop reading. No books. No online stuff. Just to read the assignments in the book.

That led me to write a perfect iambic pentameter Shakespearean Sonnet Tuesday night expressing in very poignant terms how I feel about what my friend did. For now it’s folded over and put into the book. The temptation is there to record audio, then lace it with video of all the places we went in the past four years so that those who need to know she’s a balled-faced liar will finally know the truth as she parades around as some sort of super Christian. That’s not meant as judgmental. It’s just the truth.

But as importantly, I’ve stopped looking at the news feed on Facebook and the top hits on Twitter. Most of it is rage at the president. Hate.

I have no time or inclination to listen to that bull any longer. President Obama did a lot to wreck this country and Trump is trying to fix some of it. He’s also trying to make America safe and why the Petulant Left is in favor of leaving the country vulnerable to people who like to commit mass shootings or blow things up is beyond me. That’s not us, they say. Well, I’d rather be alive than have been shot or blown up by a terrorist, or have a family member or friend who was.

Such craziness.

I’m focusing on God. My healing. Eating healthier. Walking. Getting my life back on track. If you or your noise is set on being a distraction to that, I really don’t need/want/like you being in my life at all. So, like Julia Cameron talks about in her book, I am putting new, healthier boundaries in place. And walking every day with my Lord. Much closer than ever before.

And I like who I am becoming again.

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A Mile Into The Woods

Apr 27, 2017 by

A Mile Into The Woods

I walked a mile into the woods today to be further away from you and closer to me.
Perhaps I succeeded.
But it was time for another view.

I walked a mile into the woods today.

I hear planes in the distance.
The wind rushing over my ears.
The rustle of the leaves.
Feet padding along the trail.
Cars way off in the distance.
Birds.
Cracks and smacks of branches and sticks.

The whisper of the wind across my ear drums.
The pulse of God’s breath moving across my arms.
The bursts of sunlight breaking through the crown of the trees above.
The dancing shadows across the ground.
The to and fro of branches wafting in the wind.
The colors, greens, darker; brown, black, bright green and gray.

I hold out my hand and the sun catches it, throwing a shadow across the ground.
But it’s not crisp, it weaves in and out of light.
There, it’s solid.
No, now it’s not.
There are patterns from shoes that have been here before me.
V-shapes, circles, squares.
At deeper depths.
Tire tracks, from bikes.

A broken branch lies a few feet away.
The light above illuminates the top, worn from who knows what.
The rest of the bark is intact.

A tiny yellow flower, no bigger than a diamond clings to nature’s floor, protected by fronds of green petals.

A yellow star of a flower.

It’s a miniature star, yellow, with a darker yellow center.
And it was waiting for me to come along and sit here today, for me alone to capture.
Or maybe, just maybe it’s my metaphorical reflection, a quantum physics of sorts I do not yet comprehend.
But I’m trying.
My eyes are open.
Again.

A bird chirps overhead. Now it’s gone.

Divergent travelers surround me.
Another over-crowded airliner moans eastward overhead.
I hear a truck far off, backing up, backing up, backing up.
Both are in a race.
While I sit here.
Still.
Forgetting to breathe.
Or think about anything but the moment.

The sky above is blue.
The leaves above reflect the white light of the sun—not greenness at all.
While others are shades far darker in the shade.
And then there are the branches where from many feet below I can see the chloroplastered canals of leaf after leaf after leaf.
Like a playground bully, the wind pushes the leaves.
Like me in my inner frights of seeing too many parental fights, they never push back.
So many forces working against them and they continue a dance in the wind as if none of their opposition matters.
These are Spring leaves.
Deep inside I must resemble a crumbling one in Fall.

I see bees buzzing past me.
Clumps of white spores float along in the air.
A blue butterfly.
Then a Monarch.
A bird is somewhere off in the distance.
This snack he’s missing.
I’m glad.
There go two more now, chasing each other into the leaves like lovers in a Hollywood musical.

A water fall of sorts is no more than forty yards from where I sit.
The water rushes.
Like the mass of human drama beyond, it doesn’t relent.
A constant wash of white noise blending in with all the other orchestral parts employed around me.

The wind is blowing the branches above my head making the leaves look like a million pinwheels as they sway two and fro.
A kaleidoscope of light and shadow and mystery.

I want to lie down on the path in front of me.
On my back and flatten against the earth, staring up into the azure blue, and then just close my eyes and take it all in all the more.
But my inner parent voice says that’s not allowed.
Or maybe it’s an echo of an actual parent voice.
Maybe tomorrow.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll bring a blanket or a towel.
Or maybe I should just try it.
Who will know?
Those damned inner parent voices.
What do they really know?

Now a dog behind me somewhere has joined his bit part in the symphony of outdoor sounds I am awash in.
At home, if it were my dog, this would bug me, but in the distance, the sound is different.
Not annoying.
Not troublesome.
Now it’s stopped.
No, it hasn’t.

To my distant right I see one lone purple flower at the seam where the grass is no longer edged and bushes, Mother Nature, takes over.

The pink/purple flower. I took a picture anyway.

Just a lone purple and pinkish dot on the horizon.
And it, too, dances in and out of the bright light overhead.
Maybe I should go take a picture.
Maybe I should let the one in my mind’s eye be enough.
Click.

There goes a wasp.
Keep going.
Arms dropping.
Pincers ready.
I’ve been stung by you and life too many times already.
Keep going.

Maybe it’s time to load up the pack and head back.
Or maybe I should close the computer and open my mind more.
There went a shadow of a plane from overhead, racing on its way.
Why do I want to follow in pursuit?
A yellow butterfly just swooshed off to my left.
It doesn’t need clearance to fly.
No flight plan required.
Without a set destination.
Gate to gate time is of no concern.
Pushback.
Just the will to be.
It’s gone now.
I’ll go now, too.
There is so much more to see.

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Subjunctive Text–The English Answer to a Lack of Emotion

Apr 25, 2017 by

Subjunctive Text–The English Answer to a Lack of Emotion

Saturday in Montgomery, Alabama, famed novelist Rita Mae Brown spoke during a workshop at the Alabama Book Festival about the hole in the English language caused by our vocabulary lacking the adequate words to “articulate emotion.” She says Subjunctive Text is English’s answer to our language problem.

Rita Mae Brown at the Alabama Book Festival April 22, 2017.

I had expected a lecture on how to get published as a writer and got 50 minutes of mind-bending perspective on the tools we writers have–think of a mechanic with a red Craftsman box.

We have a “warriors’ language,” she said. It’s not equipped to describe emotions. At least not like Spanish or French.

Thankfully, Ms. Brown says we have an answer to this problem–the subjunctive text–what is imagined, wished or possible.

Her challenge to all writers: “Can you put the truth on the page?”

Hmmm.

The Close Your Eyes In A Restaurant Test

Ms. Brown offered writers a great tool about observation. “Go to a restaurant, close your eyes, and then listen to the falsity in what you hear,” she said. “You’ll hear people change their voice, derogatorily, to talk to children. You’ll hear the fake laugh of conversation. You’ll be amazed at the anxiety of social situations,” that you can hear by sitting there with your eyes closed.

She said men drop their voices a half octave to talk to women they’re interested in wooing. “It’s natural, like the male pigeon fanning his feathers, he can’t help it.” Women, she said, raise their voice, look upward, and raise their hands to gesture.

“Listen to the pauses and how people breathe when they talk. See how many of them talk from their diaphragm and mean what they’re saying.”

Governments and Passive Voice

Ms. Brown talked about the use of active and passive voice, saying men use active voice a lot, and governments use passive voice to cover their tracks. “Bombs went off earlier today,” she said. “That doesn’t tell you anything about who made that order, who set them off, who got bombed, or even the time it happened. Government makes use of passive voice to cover its tracks. Never forget that “language can be used to conceal as well as reveal.” 

Dramatic Epiphanies 

A real epiphany in life she says is something dramatic, though some are indeed quiet. “But they almost all paralyze us for a few moments when they happen.” Her point was that we, as writers, should pay attention to this in our characters. These events are like “faces falling off Mount Rushmore.”

There are times when epiphanies are “quiet and you suddenly realize you’ve changed and have either been deepened by pain or enlarged by success,” but they happen and when they happen in writing, we should give them the space they are due. “But then you must start again with a subtle pause in the action.”

Ms. Brown says people read because they need a break from the miseries of the day. So that we can learn how to survive the situations that life throws at us. “People look for curious characters,” she said.

Animals

During her first workshop and a later presentation, she spent considerable time talking about animals. “All higher vertebrates have their own language,” and she encouraged the study. “The fox is a vermin,” she said. “It’s hardly been studied at all, but don’t you think it’d be wise for us to spend some time trying to figure out how in January the fox seems to know what the food supply is going to be like in May?”

Another curious observation–“Animals, like your dog and unlike humans, don’t lie.”

Writers We Should Read

Ms. Brown said there are certain examples in the English language that we should all strive to emulate, but most likely will never achieve. Virginia Wolf was the top of the list. She loves Faulkner and then said Toni Morrison’s Beloved is crucial reading for its literary elegance and use of the English language.

I really enjoyed what she had to say. She bordered on controversial political jabs here and there, but no one seemed to mind, even in a Southern town like Mungumry.

She said some good things to know as a writer.

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Opioids–The Exit Strategy

Apr 12, 2017 by

Opioids–The Exit Strategy

During the past 10 months I’ve been on all kinds of pain meds. After the installation of a Abbott Pain Stimulator, I’m doing everything I can to get off the opioids. At present, I’m down to 1/2 a 10/325 pill in the morning and 1/2 of one at night. I am doing everything I can to get OFF these meds. The problem, most people are not like me. 

PAIN is a HUGE problem in America. When I first called a Pain Management doctor’s office in June of last year, the scheduler told me that doctor in North Dallas receives 50 new referrals a day. FIFTY new patient opportunities a day. FIFTY. That’s 250 a week. That’s 1,000 per month. Now I doubt the numbers are 1,000 new patients a month, but I can believe the numbers are that staggering.

From the picture, these are all meds I’ve been on during the duration. Most of them did nothing to stop my pain. Having a pain stimulator surgically implanted in early March 2017 has helped.

I was on Fentanyl patches and three Percocet a day from December 2016 to February 2017.  I still felt my pain, but my GiveADamn about it was broken. I was in true pain. That’s when these meds are most needed and they do help. But they are highly addictive and what didn’t come with any of them was an exit strategy.

WEANING

I’ve been cutting my consumption myself. That’s probably not a wise thing to do, but it’s what I’ve had to do because my doctors have not given me a written plan on how to get off the meds.

THE AMERICAN OPIOID CRISIS

Having been a consumer of opioids for more than 10 of the last 12 months, I can see how easily this can become a problem.

This post is just the beginning in a series. It is my intention to raise awareness about the dangers of using opioids. If you have a family member, friend, or you yourself have had issues with these meds, getting off of them, I mean, I’d like to hear from you. You can email me at DC at GrammaticArtist dot com.

It’s time to take action about these meds. Let me be clear. I am for their use when a person is in pain. But there needs to be better understanding among doctors about getting off of them, as well as just getting a script written and off you go to the pharmacy for more.

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