Saturday, 24 December 2011

After the Artist's Way — Week 5

It's Christmas Eve and I'm home with my family for the holidays.  Sitting here in my old bedroom has given me an opportunity to reflect, not only on this past year, but also on life in general.  I know I've banged on about it a few times in my blog, but 2011 has proved to be a blessed year.  Don't get me wrong, I've had more than my fair share of hardship and low points—I've avoided broadcasting much of that online—but on the whole it has been counterbalanced with a healthy dose of things going well for me in my creative life.

Last year I had a bit of a health scare.  Not my first, for that matter; for the second time in a twelve month period I was faced with life threatening surgery, which thankfully I made a full recovery from.  It marked a turning point for me in many ways and helped me get my priorities straight.  This year I've lost weight, improved my sleep (not dramatically, but enough to make me feel better about managing my insomnia) and my general fitness and stamina has improved.  I have more energy, more drive, and I feel happier.  Yes, there's still room for me to do better, but I've made significant advances that even this time last year seemed impossible.  I still have days when I struggle and feel down, but I now see the bright side to many of my problems—even those really difficult financial ones.  My mental health is in as positive a state as my physical fitness.

Why mention all this?  I guess I made a connection in my reflective state.  Things going well for me creatively has improved my general happiness, and being happier has helped motivate me to improve my health and wellbeing, and that in turn has helped boost my creativity.  I find myself in a cycle of artistic happiness, one that has without a doubt been fuelled by my commitment to The Artist's Way programme.  The rude awakening I had last year forced me back into action; I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started trying to get somewhere again.

Julia Cameron talks in the The Artist's Way about simply turning up to the page, and making a point of doing so every day, no matter how difficult.  That is working for me right now.  No matter my mood, I aim to write my morning pages every single day, and when mornings don't work out, I write in the afternoons or evenings.  It's not always art:  hell, it's more often than not a ramble about the crap I've gone through during the course of the previous day, but the point is I do it.  I try.  I write every day.  I turn up to the page.

I don't intend to blog over the holidays, so I'll wish all friends and readers happy holidays now.  Here's to a creative and successful 2012—and to keeping trying.

K

Saturday, 17 December 2011

After the Artist's Way — Week 4

This has been a great week.  Busy, productive, creative, focussed and full of enthusiasm.

First I finished editing a couple of short stories I'd left resting for a bit, before making a breakthrough with the new play I'm writing following last week's mentoring session.  On Wednesday I enjoyed a festive night out with other writers, actors and freelancers from the arts community, followed by a trip with my fellow playwright mentees to Edinburgh on Thursday.  We had introductions with the literary representatives of both the National Theatre of Scotland and the Traverse Theatre to talk about their submissions processes, before catching Jo Clifford's latest play Tree of Knowledge.  Afterwards we indulged in a brilliant Q&A session with Jo herself to learn more about her creative practice, and followed that up with a trip to the Scottish Parliament to be part of the audience of NTS's rousing Staging the Nation event on political theatre.  Friday night found me performing in my last gig of the year with two festive concerts at the new A' the Airts theatre space in Sanquhar.  I had time to catch up with friends and family throughout the week, found a production assistant (my lovely friend Karen, no less), and tentatively confirmed the last dates and venue for my spring tour—by this time next week, everything should finally be in place.  The week was full of action and activity:  things are happening.

Amid all that busy-ness, I've been reflecting on how 2011 has gone, and made a few of those big decisions for the future that I've been hinting at in my blog for a while.  I now have a clear set of goals to work towards in 2012.  It doesn't matter that some of them are terrifying and involve major change, nor am I concerned about how difficult or unattainable they might seem right now—they feel right, they will motivate me, and they excite me.

For this week's artist's date I went right back to the roots of The Artist's Way and did one of the first things Julia suggests in the book—stationery shopping!  I've been on a stationery ban for most of the year; I must plead guilty to the crime of buying far too many notebooks and pens in the past, to the point of having a stockpile that would put WH Smith to shame.  This week however I decided to treat myself and went off in search of a 2012 diary.  I already have my Equity one for throwing in my bag, and inevitably keep track of most things electronically anyway, but I do still like to have a decent journal to write in.  I found the perfect companion in Paperchase, a smashing brown leather page-per-day diary.  This might not sound like your idea of an exciting day trip, but the simple pleasure of this purchase followed by coffee and a mince pie while watching the madness of Christmas shoppers bustling by outside really cheered me up.

There's still half of December to go, but I'm ending this week with a fresh optimism for 2012.

K

Monday, 12 December 2011

After the Artist's Way — Week 3

Goodness me, another fortnight has flown by.  Is it just me or does life suddenly hit fast forward during the winter months?  Where does the time go?

As you might guess from the tardiness of this post, my intention to update weekly following the end of The Artist's Way slipped already with me missing Week 2.  Keeping on the straight and narrow when the daily focus of completing tasks has shifted hasn't been easy.  I've lacked enthusiasm at times and felt a bit creatively strangled, but a bit of refocussing and a motivational chat and check in on the phone with Debbie got me back on track.  I repeated a few of the early tasks to recentre myself, said my affirmations and reminded myself why it's important to not lose faith in what I achieved during my three months on The Artist's Way.  My morning pages are flowing, I've been back on my artist's date and (despite the awful Scottish weather) have restarted my daily walks in the park; rain, hail, hurricane or shine!

Not that I've been unproductive, I'd like to point out.  In fact I'm busier than I have been all year.  My mentoring sessions at the Playwrights' Studio are now in full swing and going great.  I had my second session with Isabel last week, and it couldn't have come at a better time.  I had reached a point where I was seriously considering jacking in the piece I've been working on; the material I've been researching isn't exactly cheery and it had started to drag me into a fug of depression the more I read up on the topic.  I should have known better and gone on my artist's date when I started to feel down.  Maybe if I'd been a bit kinder and distanced myself from the mental weight I was accumulating I wouldn't have ended up as miserable as I did for several days last week.  Isabel helped me find reason, reassuring me that the material shows promise and it would be a shame to throw away the work I've done.  So it's onwards and upwards with it—but this time with a reminder to separate work from life and to establish better boundaries.  We've got a bundle of activities planned this week, including introductory meetings with a few key figures in the industry and a theatre trip to Edinburgh, which I'll no doubt update on later.

My plan for this week is to dip back in to some of the goal related tasks.  A number of new opportunities are on the horizon, and now is as good a time as any to review the direction I'm currently heading in.  There may need to be sacrifices in 2012; that's both exciting and terrifying in equal measure, but not without reward if things go to plan.  I will also be revisiting and redressing my Week 10 Bottom Line statements, as I've let some of the commitments I made to myself slide.

I'm going to cut this post here as I'm attempting to streamline my online media intake again, and the bell on my pomodoro has just rung!  Yes, it's that dreaded deprivation task from way back in Week 4.  I'm reviewing a new book titled The Digital Diet by Daniel Sieberg for a coaching magazine, and it has uncanny parallels to Week 4's content.  It has served as a timely reminder that I've let myself slip again, especially on the social networking front.  Less time online and more focus in my days is the challenge for the coming week!

K

Friday, 25 November 2011

After the Artist's Way — Week 1


A week has passed, so I figure it's time for my first check in to blether about what's been happing since I finished The Artist's Way.

It's been a funny old week.  There were days when I found myself feeling like I had forgotten to do something.  I'd check my to-do lists to no avail, or I'd sit in at night with spare time wondering why I felt a bit grumpy.  The truth is those little gaps where I felt bored or miffed were the times I'd usually be doing tasks, reading chapters or writing my blog.  That's time I should now be using productively or creatively, but I've kinda failed on that front so far.  I haven't made the smooth transition I expected from creative recovery to artistic motivation—that'll be my first challenge for this week!

I also let my guard down and didn't do my morning pages twice this week.  The first was accidental (I overslept and wanted to be on time for work) and the second was the following day when I hopped out of bed on autopilot and found myself going about the old routine I've not followed for over 3 months!  As I sat eating breakfast with 15 minutes to spare before leaving the house, I realised my brain was bogged down with a million things running through it.  Why did I have that feeling again that I'd forgotten to do something?  Quite simply:  I had!  The reason my mind was racing was because I hadn't spilled my thoughts on the page when I woke up.  It's a funny ritual, and I realise now it's one that serves me well.  I won't go as far as saying it's completely necessary for me to function, but it certainly does help me organise my thoughts and guarantees that I will write something constructive during the course of a day.  I went on to feel blocked later in the day that I didn't do my pages; inspiration wouldn't play fair when I tried to work on my play, and I eventually conceded why.

I've discovered this week that 3 of my Twitter followers are now having a bash at The Artist's Way.  I hope their decision might in some way have been influenced by my blog, if indeed they've been reading my posts.  I'm quite happy to endorse it as a means to get creative people working through their blocks.  I must try hard not to jump in and ask too many questions though—I'm not part of any of their creative clusters after all—but I am really curious to know if it inspires them in the way it did me.  Maybe they'll be happy to share in time.  :-)

Debbie and I have agreed to keep our little creative cluster going.  We're checking in weekly and doing some of the tasks again over the winter months to keep us ticking over.  Lord knows I need someone to kick me in the butt and make sure I don't start procrastinating again!

I've been good in other areas this week.  I've kept up the habit of my artist's date, plus I had a mini-date mid-week.  I'm going to have a second one tonight and may even squeeze in a third over the weekend.  I'm finding it much easier to be kind myself on that front, and the things I'm doing rarely involve spending a lot of money.  I'm being much more creative in finding things to do that excite and stimulate me.  My downtime is mine, it's precious to me and I will make sure I keep enjoying it.  I find myself being drawn to arts and crafts or photography these days; I'm continually updating my image file with clippings whenever I find something that catches my eye.  I'm sure it would make no sense to any who should happen to discover it, but to me it's a mish-mashed collage of the eclectic things that reflect what I like and love about life.

I think that's all I've got on my mind right now.  I'm aiming for a much more productive week this week, and I'm looking forward to catching up with Debbie to find out what she's been up to.  Other than that, I have a hit list of things I've been putting for a while that I finally feel ready to tackle; for better or for worse, I intend to make a start on at least one big thing this week and see where it leads.  I've learnt a lot about myself and the things I'm passionate about over the course of The Artist's Way, and I want to constantly be striving toward making those things the main focus of my everyday life.  I'm pretty sure that, in a nutshell, is the key to happiness itself!

K

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Week 12, Day 7 — And Finally

Well, here we are then.  It's the last day of the twelve week programme.

If you're reading this and you've completed The Artist's Way before, you'll understand the emotions I'm feeling.  Happy, proud, scared, curious—a whole mixed bag.  More than anything else I feel satisfied and pleased with myself for making it right the way through.  It took a lot of commitment, especially after my previous false starts, but once I began to experience the changes for myself this time I knew it was going to be worthwhile.  I was always going to get there.

I had my wonderful Artist's Day today.  A big long extended Artist's Date to myself to celebrate reaching the end.  I spent several blissful hours doing some of my favourite things one after the after, many of them simple pleasures that might seem so little to others but make me feel really happy, and have consequently found myself in a very peaceful and relaxed mood tonight.

By the time I sat down to write this post I thought I'd feel a bit sadder—like something good was coming to an end.  The truth of the matter is I recognise that this isn't really the end of the journey; it's only the beginning.  The ground work has now been done, and it's up to me to live these positive changes I've made in my life and continue on my path of creative discovery.  I will write my morning pages.  I will go on my Artist's Dates.  I will look out and be thankful for synchronicity, I will keep building my network of supporters and nurture my friendships and relationships, and most importantly, I will continue to believe in and be kind to myself.

Debbie and I have agreed to keep our creative cluster going, so we'll be checking in once a week to see how life after The Artist's Way is faring—it sounds like we'll also continue with a weekly blog on an “After the Artist's Way” theme, with a view to us having a crack at Walking in This World, Julia Cameron's follow up programme, in 2012.

If you've stumbled upon my blog because you're researching the book or the course and want to find out more about it, then I heartily recommend that you give it a try.  The fact you've decided to look it up means some part of it has already resonated with you, and your curiosity means you're ready for it right now.  You owe it to yourself and whatever creative passion you have to unlock.  My one suggestion is to form a supportive creative cluster; I found the journey so much easier having Debbie to share it with rather than dealing with lots of change on my own.

I could get sentimental and reflective at this point, but I don't see the need.  It's after 10pm on a Sunday night, and I, my friends, am about to end the day by doing another of my favourite things:  an early bed with a large mug of hot chocolate and a good book.  ;-)

K

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Week 12, Day 6 — Family Time

I'm writing this post from the comfort of the sofa at mum and dad's house, where I'm sprawled out feeling pretty full and content. We've been out tonight for a family meal at Lochside House Hotel in Ayrshire, and what a feast we were treated to. The occasion was Aunty A heading back to Australia this week after several visits with us over the past few months; she's been using us a base for her worldly travels after finishing up her most recent job, and has been to Turkey, Spain, Marrakech, Brazil and made several trips to London in between.

I've talked about Aunty a few times in my blog; she got a mention right back on Day 1, in fact, and I wrote about the great weekend she spent with me in Glasgow last month. We really are kindred spirits, and I always go through a period of mourning when she leaves. I'm very grateful for the brilliant relationship we have and all the time we've managed to spend together this trip. I'm going to miss her as always.

I wrote for a few hours this morning before leaving for the train, and managed to finish the first draft of my new play. I already knew I wasn't happy with the direction I took it in and suspect the last two scenes will get the chop during editing, but it still felt satisfying to bring it to a conclusion and draw a line under it. In the past I've been guilty of excessive idealism, editing my writing as I go along to the extent that I sometimes lose sight of what I wanted to achieve and never finish at all. This time I felt happy to just go with the flow, experiment a bit even when I wasn't keen on it, then say nope—must try harder! I think I'll let it rest a week before attacking it with a red pen in preparation for a major rewrite.

I've got my big Artist's Day to look forward to tomorrow—I've been storing this one up for weeks to celebrate reaching the end of the journey. It's probably something a lot of people would scoff at as it's so trivial, but to me it's a decadent treat that takes me right back to my childhood. Let's just hope I don't feel as full and bloated as I do now by the time I get to Glasgow tomorrow, or I'll need someone to roll me around town!

K

Friday, 18 November 2011

Week 12, Day 5 — The End is Nigh

I met my friend Angela in town earlier for a three-tier high tea of sandwiches, cakes and scones (a big treat for us both courtesy of a deal voucher I procured months ago) then took a walk round Glasgow city centre, which is hanging under a low cloud of autumnal grey gloom today.  I'm now sitting in a coffeeshop playing out my favourite cliché:  strong black coffee, notebook and pen at hand (not forgetting my laptop, of course).  I've been scribbling away for over an hour now, some of it just for fun, some of it developing into more serious sketches I might use later.  I enjoy this time of year when it's nice to hide away somewhere snug and do something just for yourself.  And I enjoy nothing more than having free time to experiment with my writing.

I've found myself in a funny sort of reflective mood.  I think it's because I sense the end is nigh with The Artist's Way drawing to a close.  It's been twelve significant weeks of ups and downs, highs and lows.  Some weeks have been very powerful and uplifting; others have at first seemed difficult and obstructive, only to later feel like important lessons were learnt.  I guess more than anything I've realised that I have a great network of friends and supporters around me, people who fill my life with kindness and consideration.  There are people out there who want to see me do well.  This might sound a bit melodramatic, but I genuinely feel less alone than I did three months ago.  I felt like I was fighting a losing battle to get where I wanted to be, and was continually sidelining many of my ambitions as I was afraid of failing.  For want of a better expression, I finally plucked up the courage to go "balls deep" and did something about it.  I didn't write a bestselling novel in a weekend.  I didn't write a groundbreaking play and get picked up by a national theatre company.  I didn't win the lottery and gain the financial freedom I always longed for to set me free from responsibility and let me be a humble writer.  No, I achieved something much bigger than all of those things:

I learnt how to believe in myself.

Yes, it's perhaps the biggest discovery I've made, one of the toughest lessons I've had to learn in all my years of struggling away.  It turns out success isn't the product of things that happen to you, or things you make happen for yourself, or what you might earn along the way; it's a state of mind, a way of being that can be programmed into your every day routine.  I still have problems and hurdles and barriers in my life—hell yes I do, perhaps bigger than I did even twelve weeks ago—but now I feel like they are simply inconveniences to be overcome as part of the background noise of life while I continue on this artistic journey I set out on.

Back at the beginning I mentioned that I'd started The Artist's Way before, but on previous attempts I bombed out.  I would convince myself I was too busy, or I wouldn't commit to the tasks when other things got in the way, or I'd feel confronted when trying to express my hopes and dreams to the people I had in my life at that time.  This time round I had a fab creative cluster partner in Debbie, whose kind words and encouragement have kept me on the straight and narrow.  More than anything else though, I was ready this time.  Good things have been happening in my life.  I've ticked off several major goals as this year has gone by.  I don't want to be a writer or performer any more:  I am a writer and performer, and I'm proud of what I've managed to achieve in a relatively short space of time.  I might not be the next big thing, I may not have earned a fortune, I might never do anything more significant than what I'm already doing right now:  what matters to me is the fact I'm doing it at all.  I am truly grateful for all the opportunities I've had this year, and can honestly say I feel content.

I have faith that this isn't the end of the journey.  It's just the beginning, the opening chapter.  Every day that I wake up and commit to my morning pages I will be writing a fresh page in my development as an artist.

I'm ready and prepared to tackle whatever challenge comes next!

K


Thursday, 17 November 2011

Week 12, Day 4 — Homework

Tonight I took a trip to the RCS (RSAMD) to visit their library; my mentor Isabel had recommended I read a play for research and I've been struggling to get hold of it online since.  Luckily a quick search of their catalogue revealed they had a reference copy on the shelf, so I was able to go spend an hour reading it there and taking notes.  I felt like I was doing proper homework.  I'm researching, I'm learning, I'm developing; I'm a student again.

I met a couple of actor friends while there and adjourned to the pub for a catch up.  We ended up in a passionate conversation about plays, projects, writing and life in general.  It was great!  I even slipped on my life coaching cap and found myself giving guidance and imparting words of wisdom.  Yes, it's easy to forget that I can actually be a pretty useful guy to know if you're only used to reading about my more vulnerable explorations of self through this blog.

Did I mention I've actually been writing writing this week?  I say that as a lot of the time I get trapped experimenting with notes and scribbles, but this week something's clicked and I have actual material rolling out.  Loads of it, in fact—I've now got two respectable plays in progress, plus I've finished two decent short stories too.  They all need editing, but the raw material's there.  I haven't worked out where the motivation or flow is coming from, but whatever it is I've tapped, I'll have more of that please.

Today was a synchronous day; I kept meeting people I was happy to see.  I like when that happens.

K

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Week 12, Day 3 — Do Not Disturb!

I've been working with the affirmations from earlier in the course tonight.  Week 12 encourages you to go back and laugh at some of your old fears before revisiting the affirmative mantras that helped you blast some of those fears away over the past few weeks.  It's interesting to reflect on the changes I see over the past 3 months.  There are areas where I've certainly grown in confidence and self-belief, but others where I'm perhaps just as awkward as I always was, if not more so in some cases.  I guess that's all part and parcel of the journey, and I'm happy with that:  one area of change at a time is a good enough pace for me.  I know what I need to continue working on moving forwards.

After finishing the exercise I checked my emails and found positive messages from two people I count among my supporters—yet more affirmation if ever I needed it!  Both of their names are neatly written on pieces of paper I've folded into cranes (yes, paper cranes!) and placed in jars where I'll be keeping them safe.  I like this little task and will secretly be continuing it long after The Artist's Way has drawn to its conclusion… ;-)

I've also been enjoying lots of micro Artist's Dates this week.  I've scheduled a little one into every single day this week, with some days even having two or more.  I have a big one planned for Sunday to round off and celebrate reaching the end of the 12 weeks.  I'm about to indulge in today's third mini-date… a long soak in the bath with a new album and a mug of hot chocolate, followed by an early bed with my new book.

Please—Do Not Disturb!

K

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Week 12, Day 2 — Eh!?

I've said this right through The Aritst's Way, so it's no surprise to find myself saying it again.  I got stuck into this week's tasks tonight, and one of them asks you to repot any pinched and languishing plants (I won't explain the logic behind it though—you'll need to take the journey and find out for yoursel!).  Just last week I asked the girl who comes in to the office at work to water the plants for advice about my Madagascan Dragon Tree, which sadly started to shed its leaves and look a bit sorry for itself at the end of summer.  I've been really worried it might be dying.  Her reply?  Repot it and move it into better light.  The further into The Artist's Way I've delved, the more I've found myself saying "eh!?" when something like this happens; it's as if the book was specially written for me to cater for whatever's going on in my life at any given time.

I'm going to miss it after this week.

Another task was to write any fears or resistance I might have moving forward after this week.  I have plenty, but I also have optimism that the new routines and good habits I've developed will keep me on track.

I've done as many of the tasks as I want to for today.  I'm holding two or three back for now.

K

Monday, 14 November 2011

Week 12, Day 1 — The Heat Is On

Week 12 — the final week.  I'm excited, I'm sad, I'm curious, I'm relieved.  I have more questions than answers and can't help but feel the heat is on to make a final push in this journey of creative recovery.

As I read this week's chapter I came across the line “Hatching an idea is a lot like baking bread”.  I must confess it got me sidetracked from researching the play I'm working on and I ended up in the kitchen with my sleeves rolled up being a different manner of creative.  I baked a batch of treacle biscuits and a batch of Scotch pancakes; they satisfied a wee sugar rush and gave me a feeling of achievement having made something from scratch.  The warm air from the oven served a timely reminder that yes, the heat really is on.  But that doesn't mean I can't take some time out to be kind to myself.

K

Week 11, Day 7 — Honest Changes

I finally got round to tackling this week's tasks.  I haven't completed all of them yet, so I'll spill over to tomorrow and pick up the rest then.  In the meantime, I have a few things to share.

5 ways I have changed since beginning The Artist's Way:
  1. My daily routine has changed, and my lifestyle has changed; I write every single day between my morning pages and my blog, and find that I'm more inspired to write out with these tasks too.
  2. My daily walks and fitness level have changed.  What started as simply walking to and from work with walks at lunchtime to keep fit has now become a daily pilgrimage of exploration; I love spending time in the ever-transforming park as the seasons unfold, I love traversing the streets of the city and drinking in architecture and details I previously would have sped past on public transport, and I love that even in the big anonymous city some of the people I regularly encounter now say a cheery hello as we meet.
  3. I'm not as afraid of being an artist.  Most of my life has been spent worrying about how I would support myself, or how my work would be judged or received, or whether or not I was good enough to even bother.  I now feel confident enough to just let it be, to simply commit to the act of creating.  Anything else that follows will happen of its own accord.
  4. I value talent.  Not just the talents I've been guilty of squirrelling away and not using to their full potential, but those of the people around me.  I recognise the work, effort and the journeys other artists have taken to get to where they are today.
  5. My priorities have changed.  There has been a definite shift in my motivation and attitude.  On the whole I am much more positive about the direction my life is taking.  I recognise that some people in my life are kicking against these changes and perhaps seek to derail me out of fear.  This will pass.  It is temporary, part of the rebirthing process.  I must stay committed to my journey and focus on my goals; those who support me will always respond with kindness.
5 ways I will change as I continue:
  1. I will continue to grow in confidence.
  2. I will continue to grow in fitness and physical awareness.
  3. I will continue to build relationships and strengthen those friendships that support and nurture my career.
  4. I will continue to work towards living as an independent artist.
  5. I will continue to grow as an artist and seek out opportunities to develop as a writer and performer.
K

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Week 11, Day 6 — Closed Windows

I was back at the RCS (the RSAMD) to watch another student play on Saturday afternoon, and was surprised to find a dear friend in the cast.  In all my recent busyness I had completely overlooked the fact she is now in her final year and is of course at the production and presentation stage of her degree.  She gave a beautiful performance, as did the rest of the cast, leaving me quite moved.  We met briefly afterwards and promised to see each other soon for a proper catch up.

When I got home I found myself in an odd mood.  I felt a bit sad, if truth be told.  Now I know Medea isn't the cheeriest of plays at the best of times, but it wasn't the material that had gotten to me.  The realisation had dawned that if I'd been able to commit to my plans a few years ago and hadn't had the opportunity snatched from me, I could well have been completing an acting degree this year myself.  You see Amy and I were the only two mature students on the RSAMD's audition and interview prep course a few years ago—we were also appearing together in a musical at the time, that's how we'd gotten to know each other—but it was during that year that I took grievously ill and underwent the first of two rounds of major surgery.  It was also during that same period I split from my ex and found myself in deep financial trouble.  I wasn't able to complete the night classes, and any thought of me auditioning to study full time was put to bed.

I've spoken a bit about these hurdles in my blog before.  As much as I would love to have studied and fully pursued an acting career, I accept that particular window closed for a reason.  And others opened for me.  I still perform.  I'm still working in theatre.  My strength lies in writing and theatremaking, and right now I am being presented with all the right opportunities, support and good fortune that I need to develop and forge the career I've always wanted for myself.

And for that I am both happy and grateful.

K

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Week 11, Day 5 — Living It

I'm being immersed in theatre this weekend.  It's that first point in the year when the local colleges and drama schools start putting on productions with their final year students, and I've kindly had a ticket bought for me to see several of them (thanks Margaret!) over the next few days.

As I sat tonight in the auditorium I melted away into my own wee world—at least I assume it was my own, I might well have been sharing it with other members of the audience.  I love theatre.  I state this, obviously, just in case you've been reading my blog with your eyes closed!  I love the whole act of creation, I love watching strong performances, I love really observing other actors as they become believable characters, I love when excellent lighting and sound and staging and design come together to fashion delicious imagery you will never forget, and I love listening to the nuances of dialogue and text.  When I get in the zone, I'm not just loving it—I'm living it.  I am at my happiest and truest when I am locked in a space making or partaking in great theatre.

In this week's chapter Julia tells us that “creativity is oxygen for our souls”.  That totally rings true with me (even if I must naughtily confess I loved it so much that I said it out loud to savour it, but in my funny Scottish accent it sounded slightly rude and made me snigger as the alternative version is probably also true—I'll let you do the math and work it out!!).  Creativity IS my oxygen.  The inner cynic I carried with me at the beginning of this journey wouldn't have let me get away with saying something like that in the past.  I realise what a huge shift has taken place in my life that I now give myself permission to be true to myself.

I leave you with this thought from this week's chapter:-
If you are happier writing than not writing, painting than not painting, singing than not singing, acting than not acting, directing than not directing, for God's sake (and I mean that literally) let yourself do it.
K

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Week 11, Day 4 — New Chapter

This week got off to a rubbish start—a total nightmare, in fact.  I've been in disarray for days as a result.  But tonight I got to start a fresh chapter and put all of life's distractions out my mind.

And I'm excited.

I had my first mentoring session at the Playwrights' Studio.  We had a meet and greet first between mentors and mentees, found out a bit about where we all are and what we hope to achieve over the next six months.  Douglas Maxwell said something very encouraging and motivational during his wee spiel—that we should all congratulate ourselves on having arrived and look forward to what the industry had to offer us.

We then broke off to have our individual sessions, and Isabel Wright, my mentor, got straight to business.  I presented her with my worries, concerns, ambitions, obstacles—she listened to it all, took it all on board, then reminded me that none of it is actually important right now.  What's important is writing!  I've been so caught up in the melee of pitching ideas and trying to produce plays for the past few months that I've completely neglected the most obvious part of the whole process—actually committing work to paper.  We've set some homework, a pile of targets and I'm going to get stuck right into one of the projects I've been putting off working on for too long.

And as I've said, I'm excited.

I finally read this week's chapter on the commute home.  I'm so used to receiving positive signals and synchronicity now that I wasn't surprised in the slightest to read this on the first page:
“I must learn that as an artist my credibility lies with me, God, and my work.  In other words, if I have a poem to write, I need to write that poem—whether it will sell or not.”
If ever there was affirmation that I'm on the right path and getting the best guidance available, then there it is.

No, my problems haven't gone away.  But they don't define who I am.  If anything, they will make me stronger as an artist.

K

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Week 11, Day 3 — Inspiration

“Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.” — Eckhart Tolle
Here's hoping, Echkart.  Here's hoping.

K

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Week 11, Day 2 — An Opportunity

I've decided to see this week as a learning opportunity.  I wrote one of my best pieces of prose last night after struggling through the toughest day I've been faced with in a long time.  More than two months into The Artist's Way and I should be able to handle difficult circumstances better; perhaps in my artistic life I will should they arise, but back in regular life, I was left feeling savaged yesterday.  It serves as a timely reminder that I must continually strive towards achieving my artistic goals because they mean far too much to me to give up on.

K

Monday, 7 November 2011

Week 11, Day 1 — 1 Step Forward, 2 Steps Back

Today's been one of those one step forward, two steps back days.  I'm behind starting Week 11 as a result—I'm smarting right now and can't concentrate on reading.  Let's hope tomorrow is a better day.

K

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Week 10, Day 7 — Easy Does It

Wow.  I just lost a whole day, one that ironically I'd planned to be super productive.  I slept for 11 hours last night, had breakfast in bed, read for about an hour then dropped off again and napped for a further 5 hours.  My body seems to have gone into catch up mode combined with seasonal hibernation.  I obviously needed it.

I guess at the end of self-protection week it serves as a timely reminder to be kind to myself and recharge the batteries once in a while.  I'm so used to coasting by on 2 or 3 hours a day with my insomnia that I forget it's normal to need more rest every now and then, especially this time of year when the cold dark nights are drawing in.

I'm now sitting here after 10pm with a pile of missed calls, texts, emails, 5 unchecked items on my to-do list and a target of 12,000 words between 3 different tasks I'd intended to complete today.  I'm not going to do any of it, it can all wait until tomorrow.  Right now I'm going to make a pot of tea, head back to bed and read Week 11's chapter of The Artist's Way, then hopefully get another full night's sleep.

Unashamedly putting myself first and not worrying one bit.

K

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Week 10, Day 6 — Satisfactory

Today's been a satisfying day. Writing group this morning, coffees and catch ups in the afternoon, my Artist's Date, dinner with Lynn and a trip to the theatre to see friends in a very funny production. I've walked about 6 miles in between and enjoyed being out and about in a very autumnal Glasgow. I'm on the last train home feeling very tired but very happy. It's exactly the kind of day I needed to unwind after a full week.

I think I'll sleep well tonight.

K

Friday, 4 November 2011

Week 10, Day 5 — Writing Cap On

Okay, I think it's happened:  the long overdue creative U-turn I've been waiting for.

I'm excited about a project!

A while back I wrote to people involved in an event that took place in the early 1950's asking if they could help me with my research, explaining my relationship to one of the people involved and laying out my motives.  I've also made a few trips that I've hinted at on here to various regional archives and records offices across the country to glean background information, though so far I've kept schtum on what I've been working on as I've never quite been sure it would amount to anything.

Today I got a fantastic response from one of the gentlemen who is now in his late 70's.  He has sent me 95 pages of notes, news clippings, inquest reports and diary entries spanning over a decade after the event took place.  His cover letter ended with this sentence:-
"I've never spoke about this to family, friends or the papers. I kent your Papa. He'd be proud of you for doing this."
I'm so pleased to get this kind of support, and obviously feel quite moved at the personal response.  I had to resist the temptation to tear right into the materials this morning as I have a busy day, but couldn't resist a sneak peek at the first diary entry.  Reading it, I felt a huge wave of responsibility wash over me.  It has suddenly turned in to a real, tangible, mammoth project to work on, and has the potential to be much bigger than me and my humble ambition—I just hope I can do justice when the time comes to pull my writing cap on.

At this stage in The Artist's Way I feel my confidence growing.  Just a few months ago I was still a bit of a wallflower, and would have faced the thought of tackling a project of this scale with uncertainty and doubt.  Now, the first questions that hit me are who am I going to pitch this to and how will I fund it if I go it alone.  It's not will I get this project off the ground, it's how am I going to make it happen.

As part of this week's tasks Julia asks us to consider our artistic droughts.  While I've been pottering away with my morning pages and scribbling in my notebook, I've felt like I haven't worked on anything substantial for months, other than the last minute edits to my solo show.  She says droughts do end.  With this much source material and insight at my disposal and with a wealth of support behind me, I feel like mine might finally be breaking.

Who am I going to pitch this to?
How will I fund it if I decide to go it alone?
How am I going to make it happen?

K

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Week 10, Day 4 — What Would Jesus Do?

It's been a funny 24 hour period.  I have good things happening, I have bad things happening, I have things trying my patience (don't we all?), I have things I'm looking forward to, I have things I'm afraid of, I've had some good fortune, I've had bad luck—a whole mixed bag of stuff is going on.  Most importantly, though, I've learned some important things about myself today.  I won't bore you with the details (for once), but I'll admit that I do like a good lesson. ;-)

Tonight I went to meet David at his office before seeing Liz Lochhead's new play.  I had a an outpouring.  I needed it.  And he had an ingenius solution—we asked Jesus!  No, we didn't pray... he keeps one of those pink plastic Jesus dolls on his sideboard which acts as a Magic 8 ball.  We asked him my most pressing questions, and the response was...

"I died for this!?"

It put a much needed smile on my face.

Liz Lochhead's play Edwin Morgan's Dreams and Other Nightmares had a few revelatory moments for me.  I've long enjoyed Morgan's poetry and was fascinated to see aspects of his life played out.  I identified with the period in his life when his writing dried and he 'had to wait for the good stuff to come again'—I just hope the good stuff does come at some point in my career.  I also identified with some of the dream states; it would appear he too experienced lucid dreams, convinced he was falling asleep in one reality only to wake in another and play out a whole separate life.  I've been there.  During one of the sleep research trials I participated in for my insomnia, I underwent hypnosis and became convinced some of my more lucid dreams had actually played out.  This continued into normal life and for years I've had the odd occasion when I've been part way through drinking a coffee or having a conversation with someone only to suddenly wake up in bed and discover the event wasn't actually taking place.  I want to find out more about Morgan to find out if his experiences really were similar to mine or if I've simply read too far into a dramatised version of the events.  Either way, I enjoyed the play tonight.

As I walked home I got to thinking; here I am, 30 years old, still trying to find my place in the world and work out who I am and what I do.  Edwin Morgan was still writing into his 90's.  That's another two lifetimes if I'm blessed to live to a ripe old age.  Now that is inspiring.

I wonder what his response would be if I had the opportunity to ask him the same question I'd asked Jesus earlier night?  Would he too exclaim "I died for this!?"

K

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Week 10, Day 3 — Eye Off The Ball

OH ****!!

I took my eye off the ball this week and ran square into the goal post.

Last night I wrote about being on top of things for the first time in ages, but had a niggling paranoid feeling as I was convinced I should be doing something.  Turns out I was right not to feel Zen about my free time—the writing assignment I have due has a deadline of tomorrow, not next week as I originally put in my diary.

Yes, the Award for Monumental Cock-Up of the Week goes to...  Me.  :-/

Fingers crossed I'll be able to grab an extension, as I've now committed myself to a wee job recording vocals over the next few days seeing as I had the spare time on my hands to fit it in.  Oh the irony...

In other news, I've managed to fail on almost all counts of my Bottom Line resolutions from Monday within the first 48 hours of making them.  I need to try much harder this week as I'm clearly being tested; they are for my own good, it doesn't bode well to be caving in and resorting to old habits.

Meanwhile, a niggling wee voice is chewing away at the back of my head, singing "neh neh, neh neh, neeeeeh neh—told you so".

Harrumph.

K

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Week 10, Day 2 — Cinderella Complex

It's only Tuesday night and I've somehow managed to complete all of this week's tasks somewhat prematurely.  I'm sitting tonight twiddling my thumbs a bit; for the first time in ages, I'm totally up-to-date with things (other than a wee writing assignment that's due in a few days, but that's under control and I'm not going to panic about it).  The dishes are done, the housework's done, I've read all the blogs and news feeds I'm subscribed to.  Even my inboxes are tidy—I only have 8 emails left to chase up (to put that in perspective, just 2 months ago they were in chaos with over 4,200 messages to sift through).

I'm so used to having to cram the things I need to achieve around long working hours that inevitably things get put off then rushed last minute.  Now that my working hours are shorter and more leisurely, I find I've managed to get everything else done quickly.  It's so unlike me that I feel really agitated, like I should be doing something, anything, just to feel productive.  It's like the Cinderella Complex Julia describes in the book; work, work and more work, with only fleeting moments of dreaming about going to the ball.

I better get used to this because this is how things are going to be from now on.  I need to fight the urge to be super-productive and try to relax.  I'm going to go make a pot of tea and settle down to write just 750 more words to meet my target for the day, and once they're out of the way I'm going to read Act One of Taming the Shrew in prep for a Shakespeare short course I signed up for.

After that—well, I might actually go to bed early for once.

Oh my.  I think I'm changing.

K

Monday, 31 October 2011

Week 10, Day 1 — The Bottom Line

I'm about to make a few declarations that I fully intend to keep.  Some of them will be difficult; I've always been the caring, sharing and responsible type who will jump to support or help people out whenever I can.  But straight off the bat with Week 10's tasks, I've identified a few things I need to correct to keep me grounded on my creative path.

Disclaimer:  there's some very personal stuff in here.  I'd appreciate you reading on with sensitivity.

The Bottom Line
  1. I will no longer make sacrifices and work 'pro bono'.  I make myself available too willingly to do last minute favours for others that don't serve my own needs or goals.  I now have a very clear definition in my head of my work and my personal worth; while I've been happy to freely participate in projects in the past to gain experience, I must now think of my career and my survival.  I will still volunteer my talents from time to time for worthwhile causes that share my values, but my first commitment must be to myself, and I should never feel obliged to work for free.
  2. I will no longer live my life through other people.  I realise that I still spend too much time social networking and reading about other people's lives through status updates.  While social networks are valuable tools, they are not a healthy medium when it comes to procrastination.  I will live a more present life in the real world and stop living vicariously through my virtual persona.
  3. I will first and foremost support myself.  I dedicate a tremendous amount of time to supporting needy acquaintances.  While I'm not going to stop caring about people, I do need to protect myself.  This may seem a little callous, but I recognise that my own health and well-being is suffering due to the emotional intensity of some of the relationships I maintain and the subsequent volume of stress I carry around by taking on board other people's problems.  The counsellor in me needs to reinstate personal boundaries and remember that sometimes it's kinder to take a step back.
  4. I will no longer sacrifice my health.  My insomnia has been problematic again recently; I've been left feeling exhausted as a result.  My reduced working hour contract kicks in from tomorrow, however, meaning more dedicated time for freelancing and writing.  I have a unique opportunity to redress my work-life balance as part of this shift, and I will take positive steps to develop a healthy new routine that will hopefully lead to my sleep pattern improving this winter.  I already feel more positive about my health given I now exercise regularly, walking outdoors for a minimum of 40-60 minutes every day, plus my eating habits have improved this year (I've lost 3 stone in weight since January).  I want to maintain this healthier lifestyle and pave the way for getting fitter and even more active in the coming months.
  5. I will learn to love again.  This may sound cheesier than a three-cheese pizza with an extra helping of mozzarella and a sprinkling of Parmesan, but I've punished myself long enough.  After my long-term relationship ended three years ago, I convinced myself no-one would ever be interested in me again, instead channelling all my time and energy into being creative and pursuing the artistic goals I had set myself.  While that may have paid off in the form of the wee successes and victories I've enjoyed along the way, I realise that it was a huge sacrifice to make and I've missed out on the opportunity to share my experiences with someone else.  I think feeling lonely may be one of the reasons I procrastinate so much; I'm not getting a healthy quota of human interaction.  I'm going to put myself back out there, make myself available and hope that in time I'll meet the right person.
There's some tough love in these actions, but I recognise they'll benefit me in the long run if I start putting myself first again.

K

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Week 9, Day 7 — Compassion

You know it's funny, I got really into the tasks this week — I dug through my morning pages, analysing some of the actions and insights I came across, before working on busting blocks that have acted as barriers to some of the projects I've been putting off — yet I hadn't really considered what the aim of the week was.

Recovering a sense of compassion.

One thing I've learnt is that I need to be a lot kinder to myself.  I've learnt that I put myself under a lot more pressure than is necessary at times.  And I've learnt that in spite of my fears and angst, things usually work out in the end — often exceeding my expectations.  Some of my ingrained negative believes are still hanging over me, so I'm going to need to continue my work with the affirmations.

Tonight I had set aside an hour to reply to letters I received from school kids in England who had written to me as part of a project.  I was pleased as punch when their teacher contacted me and invited me to take part, so wanted to make sure I did them justice with my responses.  One wee boy wanted to know where I got my ideas from when writing, while another had questions about the different ways people train.  While I'm by no means an expert in the field, I found myself imparting what wisdom I have.  I enjoyed it.  I think after 9 weeks of The Artist's Way I've reached the point where I can take my own positive personal experiences and supplement them with a healthy knowledge of the other options that are around — that's my carefully worded way of inferring stuff I might once have regretted not being able to do.  I hope there's some useful advice in there somewhere.

The last part of my night should have been spent on my Artist's Date.  Unfortunately, I've found myself sniffling and feeling under the weather, so I had to sacrifice my trip into town in favour of a nice long soak in the bath.  It was very relaxing, but I don't feel like it has did the trick.  I'm going to email my weekly check-in to Debbie then head to bed and hope I feel a bit better in the morning.  I have a busy week and a huge month ahead of me, so let's hope I can get things off to a good start.

K

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Week 9, Day 6 — Blockbuster

Today I spent some time busting blocks.  I took what's left of my to-do list and reviewed how many of the things on there are actually good for me right now.  Some of them have been scrapped completely as they don't serve me any more.  Some of them I've been procrastinating and avoiding, and it's time to deal with them.

First, I listed my fears.  Then I listed my resentments.  I asked myself what I stand to gain from not completing the work.  Finally, I wrote out the deal from the book:
Okay, Creative Force, you take care of the quality, I'll take care of the quantity.
Now fully committed, I sat down with item one from my list in mind and started writing.  I produced over 5,000 words in one sitting, the best output I've had for quite a while.  It's not just quantity; a cursory read back has revealed a few good quality sections that I'm happy with.

I feel ready to start work on some of the new projects on my list.

K

Friday, 28 October 2011

Week 9, Day 5 — Retro

I'm home at mum and dad's for a visit.  After a wee spell of writing in the early evening I ventured to my old room and started pulling out boxes of things I've had in storage.  I found my old Commodore 64 personal computer and got it all wired up to see if it would still work — and, remarkably, it does!  I spent a wee while playing retro games and reliving my youth.  I then popped in one of the 5¼" floppy disks I found in a carrier bag and discovered some of the very first BASIC programmes I wrote at the tender age of 11.  I also found a disk with text stored on it — it's some of my very earliest word processed writing.  What a find!  I'm going to have try to rescue it all for posterity, even if it means re-typing it all.

I'm planning on letting all this stuff go, you see.  The clutter bust I've been enthusiastically engaging in at my flat is going to be extended here; there's no point having stuff needlessly squirrelled away in a cupboard.  I'm glad the Commodore 64 still works.  I think it would be best passed on to someone who can enjoy it rather than letting it spend another 15-20 years in a box.  I'm sure there must be retro gamers out there, or a computer fanatic who'd like to get their hands on it.  I also have a ZX Spectrum but sadly it doesn't seem to have stood the test of time; it may need to be consigned to PC heaven.

I've also come across some very old diaries I've not read in over 15 years.  I will have a nosey through them tomorrow and do an extreme version of this week's Morning Pages task; though it might be more like archaeology!  That's the period when I first knew I wanted to be a writer and won my first couple of competitions and awards.  I wonder if I'll find any interesting insights or actions from my teenage years?

I'll be sure to share if I do!

K

Week 9, Day 4 — A Breakthrough

My name's Kris, and I believe in the power of the Morning Pages.

It's Day 60 of The Artist's Way, and I've spent the past few days reading back 8 week's worth of my early morning rambles.  I know I said it the other day, but it really is amazing what I'm finding; because they're written stream of conscious in a state of flow in those wee dark hours when your brain is first engaging, they seem to unlock a lot of things that you might otherwise bury.  On a few occasions I've written the pages in the afternoon when I've been busy or straight off to work in the mornings (as an insomniac, I've got to balance my commitment to the programme with managing my sleep patterns) and I can really see a difference in the style, form and content of those days:  they become more structured and stylised and are less valuable than the nuggets of wisdom I'm finding in the random chaos of the true morning pages.

As part of the Week 9 tasks I've been picking through and highlighting any actions or insights I stumble upon.  I've groaned at some of the ridiculously obvious recurring themes I've picked up on.  Take these snippets:-
“...getting myself really stressed out about everything.  Will people turn up?  What if they don't like my work?  What if I look an idiot?  I'm not looking forward to reciting stuff face-to-face in such an intimate space.  Actually that's not true, I AM looking forward to it.  But I'm anxious.  I don't usually get nervous about performance stuff but this is different.  It's my writing being judged in a public forum for the first time... I really could use someone to sound off to, work out if I'm on the right track, someone who's been there, done that and gets how I'm feeling...”
(From Week 1 when I was preparing for the first recital of my work.)
“...I feel stupid for letting myself get so stressed.  Why do I let myself get stressed these days?  I never used to get so stressed.  Yes I have my rants and Krissyfits, but actual stress, NO, I deal with stuff, I get on with it.  I usually have great coping mechanisms.  This is all so new to me though and I'm trying to do everything on my own.  I should've had help to do more of it.  Actually, some things aren't that new.  I'm just layering pressure on myself.  I want to do well and am probably setting the bar too high.  I think it's because *I* feel new to things.  I'm the problem.  I'm too worried about what people think, I'm worried people judge my lack of credentials.  I feel like a fraud.  What if I'm just coasting by here and none of this stuff actually amounts to anything, it's all just pomp until eventually I get found out and revealed as a Charlatan, a talentless wannabe who tried to play games with the big boys.  Argh!!!  Does everybody go through this in the beginning?  Is this simply a painful birthing process?  I need guidance.  I need someone to tell me I can actually pull this off.  I need to know if I'm kidding myself on...” 
(From Week 5 when I was in the thick of producing my solo show.)
There's a couple of clear actions in there.
  1. Get help.  Stop trying to do absolutely everything on my own.  I'm not Superman!
  2. Manage stress.  This is new to me, I'm usually on top of stuff.  Committing to my Artist Dates over the past few weeks has given me breathing space and time to relax, so I think I'm already on this one.  I need to identify quickly when the heat is turning up and call time out.
  3. Work on my self-belief and affirmations.  Looking at these snippets now when the events have passed successfully I feel a bit sheepish, more so having shared my fears publicly.  I realise I'm very hard on myself.  I need to silence my inner self-critic.  I've been working with affirmations for weeks now and think I'm learning to lighten up.  I need to trust in myself.
This is all very insightful as there are clear underlying messages here too.  I've been crying out for guidance.  I'm very fortunate to have Linda send me encouraging messages of motivation from time-to-time, and David who has latterly imparted his wisdom, and of course I have great friends and supporters in Debbie, Campbell and Daniel amongst others — but I've still allowed myself to pile on the pressure.  In total, I've identified 46 occasions in my pages where I've subconsciously pleaded for support.

The universe heard me.

I got the most amazing news yesterday, and it was announced today.  I've been selected as one of the Playwrights' Studio Scotland's Mentees for 2011/12.  As part of the mentoring programme I'll be paired with playwright Isabel Wright, who I'm really looking forward to meeting and working with.  I will receive the guidance I have been calling out for, and have someone take an active interest in the development of my work.  It feels like a huge breakthrough, my hard work and perseverance is paying off.

I've come to this career from a very different angle to many of my peers — yes, I finally have the confidence to think of other writers as my peers.  My attitude towards my "lack of training" is finally changing; I don't have the same regrets about university or drama school.  They're still out there.  I can pick up on these options if I really feel they'll benefit me in the future:  it isn't too late.  For now, that's not my path.  As Linda eloquently put it last week, "few of us came up that way - it's still possible".  I find that reassuring.  I'm doing fine as I am.

I may not have done things the easy way, and I might've gotten myself a bit stressed in the process, but I'm proud of what I've achieved this past year and am hugely excited about the prospect of what's next.

K

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Week 9, Day 3 — Approval

I'm posting Wednesday's blog post retrospectively — I was out very, very late after a trip to the theatre turned into an unexpected full on night out.  And on a school night, what on earth was I thinking?!

While out I took the opportunity to pitch one of the projects I've been toying with to David.  He saw a few potential hurdles, but overall seemed to buy it.  I think it might be a winner.  It's interesting the effect this simple nod of approval from someone in-the-know has had on my psychology; the concept feels tangible, a prospective work in development rather than just an idea locked somewhere between visions in my head and scribbles in my notebook.

Time for action.

K

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Week 9, Day 2 — Crikey

Just a quick check-in again tonight. I've been reading and highlighting more of my morning pages. I'm still finding it a hugely curious task. I'll turn a page and think, crikey, I never saw that coming. Think I'll read another day or two's worth before bed.

K

Monday, 24 October 2011

Week 9, Day 1 — Where did that come from!?

I'm not going to say much tonight, except this — WHERE THE HELL DID THAT COME FROM!?  I've started re-reading my morning pages as part of this week's tasks (something I've never done in all the years I've kept them) and there's stuff in there I have absolutely no recollection of writing!!

Some of it is ranting, some of it's useful, some of it shows tiny sparks of creativeness with the odd fleck of potential, and other bits are Oh My God moments of revelation that solve problems I've clearly had bubbling in my subconscious.  It turns out I've been having moments of genius and inspiration and burying them away.  The mind really is a crazy machine.

I think this week is going to be both terrifying and fascinating.

K

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Week 8, Day 7 — Phew

Phew, I made it through Week 8!!  Two-thirds of the way through The Artist's Way now and I feel like things are changing.  I feel more positive.  I feel empowered.  I'm doing small things rather and feeling happy with a little progress at a time.  It's definitely been an interesting week.

I'm absolutely exhausted.  My trip today turned out to be a longer day than anticipated (despite some initial drama, craftiness and luck) and was a very different experience to what I expected.  As a result I haven't gotten my tasks finished or completed the writing work I was due to do this evening, plus I missed out on my Artist's Date!  I did have a great day with Campbell though, we had some fun and larks travelling together and hanging out in between the business we were up to.  I'll maybe write more about it in the future but for now I'm going to have embargo it.

Anyway, Week 8 will need to end tomorrow as I don't want to skip the tasks I had left to do, and right now bed is calling on me.  Night night.

K

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Week 8, Day 6 — Filling the Form

I've had a really positive day today, that wave of energy and optimism having washed over from yesterday.  I had a fairly relaxing day with no commitments and didn't go throwing myself into anything just for the sake of doing something.  I actually relaxed for once!  I wrote a couple of lines of blurb in preparation for a writing project I'm planning on taking up next month.  I hardly put any effort in to it at all, but it's done all the same.  I was "filling the form", making that wee contribution that shows yes, you did something towards achieving that goal.

I have an audition tomorrow.  I really should be treating it as a major event, but in reality it's nothing, regardless of who it's with and what it's all about.  It's a turn-up-and-do-your-best-and-don't-even-think-about-it-afterwards audition.  You see there's no guarantee of getting anything of it (is there ever?), so I'm kind of just going along and aiming to have fun with it.  It's a chance to do something with no real pressure, kind of a practice audition.  Ticking a box, filling the form.  We'll see how it goes.

I've got my outfit ready in advance and I'm about to hop in bed and listen to the backing tracks.  Let sleep find me and take me to a happy place.

K

Friday, 21 October 2011

Week 8, Day 5 — Kris Almighty

“Like the career of any athlete, an artist's life will have its injuries. These go with the game. The trick is to survive them, to learn how to let yourself heal. Just as a player who ignores a sore muscle may tear it further, an artist who buries his pain over losses will ultimately cripple himself into silence. Give yourself the dignity of admitting your artistic wounds. That is the first step in healing them.”  Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way
I get it.  I finally get it!  Week 8 makes sense!

I didn't get that part time job I applied for — you know,  the lifeline, the one thing I've been depending on to protect my income and make sure I didn't start losing money and falling further into debt when I get put on a reduced income just 10 days from now.  I was a shoe-in for the job, referred by a friend, overqualified, well-liked during the interview and told so by the interviewer.  But the job is no longer open to me.  It has been snatched away.  I wish I was exaggerating or being overdramatic when I say this, but I actually almost blacked out when I found out.  I felt nauseous, cold sweats.  What the hell am I going to do?  I tried to block out how I felt, only to have my emotional state overwhelm me — how on earth could I not get a stupid piddly call centre job?

That's when it hit me.

I was wounded.  The very emotions I've been reading about this week in The Artist's Way were manifesting.  The key thing was the way I reacted; I was telling myself the job was beneath me anyway, just like a poor wounded artist who has read a bad review and vows never to work again.
Most blocked creatives have an active addiction to anxiety. We prefer the low-grade pain and occasional heart-stopping panic attack to the drudgery of small and simple daily steps in the right direction. Filling the form means that we must work with what we have rather than languish in complaints over what we have not.
Right again, Julia.  That's how I've always reacted around money:  anxiety.  Deep, terrifying fear, in fact — and understandable given the circumstances and problems I've experienced over the years.  But as Julia says, we can languish over what we don't have, or we can concentrate on what we do have.  There are other part time jobs out there if that's really what I need to do.  I can try again until I find something that suits.

Or...

I can focus on what I have.

Here's my new reality:

  1. I have a reduced income.  I need to deal with it.  Things might get tough, but I'll survive.  None of my friends or family are going to stand by and watch me starve.  There are people much, much worse off than me.  Perspective, Kris.
  2. I didn't get a job that ultimately I didn't even want:  it was a short-term means to an end, one of many possibilities I could explore.  The truth is I've probably been spared months of exhaustion and stress.  Phew.  Move on.
  3. I suddenly have a whole extra day in my week in which to be creative.  The hours of my day job might be decreasing, but the real Kris — the writer and performer, the theatre-maker — well, he just got his hours extended!  How exciting!
  4. I have a lot of opportunities open to me right now.  I need to cast the net wide and snare a few projects to work on.  I need to do these well and aim for success.  My first proper year of freelancing as an artist hasn't been so bad — in fact, the past 9 months have been awesome.  I need to build on this and make my artistic career profitable:  it's time to focus wholeheartedly on my creative goals and move away from dependence on a second income.
My sense of power is building.  I may actually be starting to believe in myself!

K

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Week 8, Day 4 — Rewriting History

Part of me has enjoyed doing some of the tasks tonight; part of me has been left feeling quite sad by them.  It's specifically the rewriting history task that's bothered me.  I've always tried to live a life of no regrets, but still find myself asking "what if" and being held back by my fears.  I know it's not healthy, and as much as I try to stay present and live in the now there are still those doubts that niggle.  I wonder if I am where I'm meant to be today, or had the right mentor or opportunity appeared in my life at the right time could I have made something more of myself.  It's perhaps something for me to mull over on my own though so I'm not going to blog about it at length.

I was faced with more bad news today.  Dear Universe, if you're holding out on me for a reason, now would be a good time to show your hand.  I need something positive to grab on to.

K

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Week 8, Day 3 — Time + Space = Creation

Wow.

I came straight home from work tonight and had one of those exceptionally rare nights in my life where I was in the house with nothing planned and nothing to do.  A luxury of free time and space fell right into my lap!

I could have caught up with last night's writing, but instead, I wrote a poem for a friend.  I baked treacle oat biscuits.  I made a pot of tomato, garlic and herb soup.  I drew a sketch of a set design for a play I read while commuting earlier.  I feel creative and relaxed; so relaxed I'm about to hop in bed and have an unusually early night.  And — shock horror — I think I could actually sleep for once!!

There's just time to re-read Week 8 before I drop off though.  I've not started the tasks yet and I'm keen to get a move on with them.  I'll hopefully be caught up by tomorrow.

K

Week 8, Day 2 — Weakness

Recovering a sense of strength is the theme this week, yet I've kicked proceedings off with a moment of weakness.  For the first time in over a year, I said Yes and agreed to a project when I wanted to say No.  The people who asked have done a lot for me in the past; they've really supported me and helped me get where I am today, so I always feel a small debt needs to be repaid when they ask me for help.

I feel a bit guilty tonight as I prepare for bed knowing I gave up 5 hours of precious time that was dedicated in my diary to writing to do this last minute favour for them.  My writing time is already under threat, I shouldn't have sacrificed it so willingly.

One good thing that came out of it?  I got to design some artwork and my creative juices were flowing.  I started my career off in graphic design and web development many moons ago, and when I get the chance to dabble, I find I still get a satisfying kick out of creating a finished article that looks great.

I'm not going to let that detract from the fact it was technically still procrastination though, skilled favour or not.  Tomorrow I pledge to throw myself back into Week 8 with much stronger resolve.

K

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Week 8, Day 1 — Eureka

I had a bit of a eureka moment today.

I realised that amidst all my grumbling and fear of financial woe, the Universe or God of Abundance has been looking after me and I've been turning a blind eye.  My main worry has been how I'm going to feed myself this winter when most of my reduced income is going straight out on bills and debts.  My food budget may end up as little as £50 a month, and that terrifies me.  It occurred to me that over the past week I've been treated to dinner by my aunt, had a free meal using a voucher I had saved, was treated to dinner tonight by my friend Andy who is working as a food critic, completed two mystery shopping visits and got dinner on both occasions, won a hamper with two vegetarian pies in a competition, and today the survey company sent me three new varieties of wholesome soups to sample for lunch and review over the next few days (I'll be paid for doing this too).  All this free food is finding its way into my belly at a time when my brain is screaming out to the Universe to feed me.  My wee prayers and needs have been met one day at a time.  I'm not going to go hungry after all.

As my granny would've said — I'd get a piece at anybody's door.

Thank you friends, family and Universe for watching out for me.

K

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Week 7, Day 7 — Change

Week 7 is about recovering a sense of connection.  I'm glad I managed to achieve this over the weekend with my Auntie.  Good quality nurturing time is exactly what I needed.  She left this afternoon, though, and I spent a few hours going through a wee spell akin to grieving; I feel it every time we part company, and have done every time we've said goodbye since the year I spent living with her in Australia.  We're exceptionally close and it's always a trial when our time together comes to an end.

I had my Date for the week after leaving the bus station.  I wandered through the city, which is cooler and getting darker early now that autumn is really drawing in.  Finding a good hat, scarf and gloves as part of this week's tasks was a timely pleasure.  I sat and read a book with a never-ending cup of coffee (only £1 with unlimited free refills thanks to my Starbucks card), before treating myself to a free dinner using a voucher I've been hoarding for a while.  It was wholesome, nourishing and warmed me, but I felt a combination of guilt and sadness while sitting there among the other diners; despite the fact I wasn't actually spending money, it felt wrong to be doing something that seemed frivolous in the face of the fact I'm about to lose a significant chunk of my income.

I know I've gone on a bit about it this week on my blog, but worrying about my situation really has dominated many of my waking hours.  I'm caught between a rock and a hard place, and despite the fact I've taken positive steps and already had interviews for part time jobs to supplement my income, I still feel terrified about what lies ahead — more so because the effects will kick in immediately.  I already lead a frugal lifestyle and have little to cut back on.  I reduced my responsibilities and commitments quite a while ago to free up money to repay some of my debts faster in the hope I'd be able to scale down work commitments and eventually be able to focus on my writing career.  I'm just not quite secure enough yet for this to be happening now.

Part of me is tempted to take a risk with it all.  What if the Universe is pushing me in the direction I need to go by freeing up this time and forcing me to concentrate on making a success of my creative work to survive.  Is pursuing part time work and running myself into the ground in the process a silly thing to do?  Am I ignoring signs and limiting my opportunities when I should be paying attention and taking a leap of faith?

Such is my quandary.

On the way home I picked up a couple of free magazines and postcards to work on my collage.  I've not really gotten the tasks this week.  I've tip-toed around them, actively avoiding some of them.  It's not that I don't like the art and crafts element, more that I feel a bit childish or stupid doing it.  That's no good.  I need to get over it.  I noticed that I actively sought certain types of image to include, but sometimes by the time I had cut them out and stuck them down, they felt a bit strange being there.  I think I'm changing.  My tastes and desires are changing.  It's possibly in direct response to the major changes I'm experiencing in other areas of my life; suddenly things I've always considered part of my personality, my likes and my dislikes, are starting to feel irrelevant.

Saying goodbye to Auntie today was a significant milestone; an occasion to mark the changes I'm going through.  The play has come to the end of its current run, my writing projects are tied up for the year, I'm about to embark on a new creative writing course, my work routine is changing, my home-life is changing, my finances are changing, the seasons are shifting — it feels radical.

I realise that this week I got so absorbed that I failed to really reconnect with myself.  Perhaps as Week 8 rolls in and I start recovering a sense of strength I'll find the confidence to be kinder to myself.

K

Week 7, Day 6 — Reconnecting

Today has been a day of reconnection. Quality time spent with Auntie: we walked round the Gallery of Modern Art, casually strolled round the city centre and some shops, had coffee and then dinner — it has been great to wind down and relax.

I also feel reconnected with my artistic self. Immersing myself in images and art for a wee while today has nurtured the part of me that had been left a bit wounded this week while disaster was unfolding; that part of me that fears he is about to be locked away and sacrificed in the pursuit of money and labour.

I feel less pressured tonight. I know I have a reality check waiting for me in a day or two, but for now, I'm at peace.

I picked up a few postcards and photographs today that will help me with the tasks I've been putting off. I intend to play catch up tomorrow after my Date for the week. I also plan to indulge in some writing. The storm that's been brewing in my head and keeping me awake at night feels like it's finally ready to break.

Yes. Things are reconnecting.

K

Friday, 14 October 2011

Week 7, Day 5 — Friday

It's Friday. I've never looked forward to the end of a week as much as I have this week.

I had the day off work to prepare for a performance of the play tonight — it was hard work compared to last week, totally different energy, but overall seemed to go well again. After the week I've had I was just glad it went at all!!

My wee Aunty from Australia is here now for a few days. I'm so glad she got to see me perform. I'm looking forward to a relaxing mini-break and catch up together this weekend. I'll deal with the world and my responsibilities next week.

K

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Week 7, Day 4 — Suffocated

My inner sceptic is totally suffocating my creativity this week.  I feel like I'm getting nothing done.  Other than the 4 tasks I managed to complete accidentally, I've not really invested much enthusiasm in Week 7 so far.  It's not surprising given the amount of pressure I've found myself under this week, I have other priorities I've had to focus on; the fact I've even found time to blog is an achievement in itself.

Having said that, my flat is spotless for the first time in months.  Nothing like a cleaning frenzy to de-stress!

I really hope I sleep tonight.  I managed a wee bit last night, but it was broken with anxiety dreams.  I have a performance of the play tomorrow night and want to be fresh for it.  I've also got Auntie from Australia coming to visit this weekend — she'll be good for me.  She might not have an instant fix for the problems I'm going through, but she always helps find sense in the chaos.

The house is filled with the scent of cranberries and spice tonight, a Yankee Candle gift that was bought for me a while ago.  For some reason it's making me feel festive.

K

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Week 7, Day 3 — A Different Perspective

I'm hanging in limbo not quite knowing what's happening or which way things are going to go.  I've only had 4 and a half hours sleep since Sunday (not good), I'm grumpy, my head aches and I'm finding it hard to think, let alone make decisions.  I'm trying to stay positive.  Tonight I got to see things from a slightly different perspective.

I had a 2 hour interview for a new job.  It went really well.  I got on great with the manager.  I like the environment, the people seemed friendly, the job is precisely my skillset and if the terms work out the way they were pitched to me I may even end up slightly better off than I am right now.

It does mean I could be working two jobs right through winter and sacrificing all of my spare time for the 10 week duration of the contract.  I might be able to snatch writing time between jobs, and potentially in the mornings, though.  I'll still have weekends, and the play doesn't pick up touring until February.  It might work out.

Short term pain, long term gain.

It's frustrating knowing that my creative life is the one I need to be shifting focus to, yet I'm being forced to retreat from it for a while.

I finally read up on Week 7's tasks on the train home:  I figured I would at least get caught up on reading with a view to starting the tasks tomorrow.  Turns out I unwittingly completely 4 of them today totally by accident.  Synchronicity, or has Julia correctly predicted that by the half way stage we'll be going through the mill and in need of mollycoddling?

I'm staying optimistic.  I trust my instincts to guide me in the right direction.

K

Week 7, Day 2 — Nothing to see here

I don't feel like sharing today.  Will hopefully feel a bit more myself tomorrow.

K

Monday, 10 October 2011

Week 7, Day 1 — Bump in the Road

I should be celebrating reaching the half-way point of this 12 week journey, but I've hit a pretty major bump in the road today.  Not one I haven't had to deal with before, I should add, but it's pretty major nonetheless and is going to be difficult to work through.  It also smacks of irony after yesterday's post.

You see it turns out my God of Abundance actually was listening to me.  I declared yesterday I wanted less in my life, and he promptly delivered — unfortunately several months earlier than planned.  My workplace is struggling again and has been forced for a second year to reduce our working hours and salaries.  I'm not ready for this.  Yes, I asked for more space to write and create and for less financial commitment, but this was supposed to happen after I had spent a few months saving and preparing and squaring some debts.  What are you playing at, Universe?  I want to scream at you!  Are you trying to ruin me, or are you trying to tell me there's something I'm supposed to be doing right now that's more important than waiting for several months?

I know I'll get by.  I somehow coped last year.  And look at the success that came out of that period of enforced hardship.  Already I've made calls and have an interview lined up for Wednesday for a second job that would more than make up for my loss of earnings if I'm successful; in fact, I might end up better off.  The only issue is the fact I'll be sacrificing all of my spare time by working a 60 hour week the whole winter.  My creativity is on the verge of suffering in a major way.  Then again, it is only a 10 week contract.  Maybe this is intended to set me up ready for exciting things next year?  Maybe if I can save some of that extra money to see me through the spring I could do great things with all the extra time?

Yes, that's it.  Stay positive.  This could work out.  Try not to panic.

K

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Week 6, Day 7 — More or Less?

It's been a funny old week. I started it off in a heightened state of excitement and anxiety in the build up to the play, peaked when things went so well — beyond my expectations, in fact — only to find myself in a strange conflicted place of optimism mingled with doubt, fear and questioning this weekend.

Let me explain a bit.

I feel excited: excited that this crazy old journey I'm on actually feels like it is going somewhere. Excited because things feel like they're actually working out and going well. Excited that I'm receiving positive feedback, that I'm not just acting out some crazy whim to satisfy a bout of vanity. I'm optimistic that with the right support and lots of hard work I can continue on this path and strive for success. But I still doubt whether I can actually make a career of the work I'm doing because of my troubled past relationship with money and my subsequent dependence on having a day job and earning a good living; I'm attempting to sustain a level of income that is perhaps unrealistic for an artist like me should I attempt to live off my art full time.

It's no coincidence that I'm feeling all this during abundance week. The course has forced me to question my relationship with money and has re-stoked the fires of my financial self-worth.

The big question I've been struggling with the past few days (one I've struggled with for years) is: do I need more or less? I'm not just talking money here. I've come to realise that while my life was dramatically changing in direction over the past 3 years, I failed to keep pace. Without going into too much detail, the life I was leading was whipped away from me when I least expected it; but I'm still attempting to lead part of that life alongside the new artistic life I've succeeded in creating for myself. These are two very full lives I'm leading. That's why I have no free time to myself, that's why I'm always exhausted, that's why despite my successes I still feel unfulfilled and unsatisfied in certain areas. It's because I have no space left, no room in my life to enjoy myself.

While my finances could potentially be solved with more money, I realise that that is an unrealistic expectation. So in fact I don't need or want more in my life:

I need less.

I need to reduce my dependency on money. I need to free myself from the shackles of my debts, break away from the responsibility of owning a property with a low investment value which has consistently held me back from making important decisions, I need to wipe the slate clean and make room in my life and in my head that is free from the clutter and chaos of money worries. I can do this. I've done it before — twice, in fact — and I came out the other end both times a happier person. The only thing that didn't change was my naïvety; blind faith often guiding me down paths I could otherwise could have avoided.

I led a very simple life at age 21. I was in Australia, living rent-free thanks to the caring hospitality of my aunt. I performed with a local theatre company and volunteered a lot of my time to community projects, with no real dependence on money. I had enough to feed and clothe myself and enough left to do a bit of travel. My life was basic; at one point I lived in a cubby hut and walked everywhere barefoot — I was positively feral! And I was at my happiest then. Free from the trappings of society, existing in a bubble of creativity and spirituality.

That bubble burst, of course, when my stockpile of cash ran out. When the savings account was empty it was time for me to come home and start earning again. I've worked for the same company ever since. I've lived in the flat I originally bought for me and my ex for 7 years now; the past 3 of those on my own following the breakdown of our relationship, time spent wishing I lived anywhere but there but feeling unable to sell due to negative equity following the collapse of the property market. I've clung and clung in desperate belief that the market would bounce back and the problem would resolve itself, determined to make back my money and pay everything off once and for all.

The thing is, I'll never know what the situation is as I haven't even tried. I've never so much as asked an estate agent for an opinion or valuation.

Until now.

I finally made that call yesterday. The time feels right. In order to allow more into my life I first must have less to make that room. I've been heading this way for weeks without fully acknowledging it; the hints in my morning pages, selling off my books, shedding old clothes — it's not going to happen over night, but the wheels feel like they are in motion.

I have a clearer vision of the life I hope to lead. I can visualise what my inner artist does, where they might live, what they might need to get by. The outline is sketched and it's time to colour him in.

I am terrified. I might be letting go of my security, I might be losing my home, losing the privacy I value in favour of house sharing again, losing my foothold on the property ladder. The truth is, I'm also excited about it. I visualise myself and feel the sun on my face as I walk tall, debt-free and unburdened of these huge responsibilities. Yes, I will acquire new ones, but they will be within the means of this new life of Kris the playwright and performer.

I've shared this on my blog, dear friends, as I suspect I will need a hell of a lot of support in the next few months to make some painful decisions and transitions. I feel like my mind might finally be made up.

Well — more or less!

K

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Week 6, Day 6 — A Rare Day Off

Today I had my Artist's Date, a trip to the theatre (on my own) followed by dinner with friends, then decided to have the rest of the day off.  After weeks of being hectic and feeling exhausted I felt like I just needed to take some me time to myself.  So I came home, ate some chocolate (a real treat for me these days!) and watched TV.

This week's tasks have still been on my mind.  I'll share a bit more of what I've discovered tomorrow.  Right now, I fancy an early(ish) night.

K