Friday, 30 September 2011

Week 5, Day 5 — Reaching for the Sky

I'm going to rattle off a short post today. I need to stay focussed on my work; the play is just days away, I have checklists to go through, risk assessments to complete, lines to finish learning... I'm getting there, slowly but surely. I have an overwhelming sense of reaching skywards (I wonder if that's why I keep taking photo's looking up this week?) and must stay firmly grounded.

I've been reflecting on a comment David made and have finally made sense of where I've been going wrong. Quite simply, I haven't been going wrong. As he correctly pointed out, I've just been finding things difficult. There's nothing wrong with that. A lot of the situations and challenges I'm up against right now are brand new to me. That is exciting! I'm an adventurer exploring vibrant new territory — just because others have walked the path before me doesn't make my journey any less valuable. This is my experience, my version of events. I'm learning lessons for the future every single day.

Just slap some "L" plates on my back and remind me that everything will be okay.


Thursday, 29 September 2011

Week 5, Day 4 — A Greater Good

This week I am reconnecting with my spiritual self. I am exploring how the Source (be that God, Fate or the Universe) provides if we simply know how to ask. I'm no stranger to this concept; I've encountered The Secret and other such teachings on manifesting, and have my own beliefs on how Flow works. I should, therefore, be primed, mentally prepared for these tasks.

I'm not.

My inner cynic is afoot. Every day this week he has jumped out and screamed "sabotage!" in my face. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to believing in myself, never mind in a greater good. My confidence is continually being tested, my ability questioned along with my worth.

But I know something greater than myself has to be at work. I feel and see the changes. When I create I have purpose, my life has meaning. I am happiest when writing, performing or singing — being my creative self.

I've spent the night pouring my heart out to David who understands my frustrations and concerns. He reminded me that little of it actually matters. The things I've been fixating about are in fact low priority goals for the future or experiences best left in the past; what matters right now is staying grounded and doing as good a job as I can of what's happening in the present.

I'm very grateful to have supportive people in my life right now. I don't have to struggle on my own.


Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Week 5, Day 3 — Lucky?

The sun has come out to play.   I spent my lunch hour in the park at one of my favourite spots near the Kennedy monument, watching the world go by.

The park's full of traffic again, suddenly busy after the couple of wet weeks that brought summer to an early demise: students going back and forth to uni, others heading to the new art school campus, plus people out enjoying the simple pleasure of a sunny autumnal stroll.

I felt a strange detachment from these happy people around me as I sat there.   My morning had been particularly stressful with venue and funding woes threatening the tour of my play next spring; I've valiantly battled to get as far as I have yet feel like the support I had in place is crashing down around me.  This may sound crazy, but I almost felt bereaved, as if the life of my pet project was ebbing away before me.  My head felt like it might burst with tension as I sat there feeling powerless and inept, wondering why yet again the universe was conspiring against me.

A wee Jack Russell ran towards me, the owner shouting after it as it gambled ahead.  It stopped obediently in front of me, panting, tongue waving and chest heaving from the run, eyeing me and clearly looking quite pleased with itself.  I noticed that it only had three legs; the back-right one was missing.  The owner called out "grab her for me" as he jogged up the slope, so I patted her head and held her collar to keep her from running off again.  As she cuddled into my leg to be clapped, I spotted her name dangling from a little gold plate round her neck — it was Lucky.

Synchronicity?  Coincidence?  Who knows.  At least it made me smile.

I'm summing up with 3P's:  perspective, priorities and perseverance.


Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Week 5, Day 2 — The Virtue Trap

“An artist must have downtime, time to do nothing.  Defending our right to such time takes courage, conviction, and resiliency.  Such time, space, and quiet will strike our family and friends as a withdrawal from them.  It is.”
I read this paragraph this morning and had one of those eureka! moments where things suddenly started making sense.  You see, despite how crazy my commitments have been, I've been dutifully catching up on my Artist's Dates and trying to snatch a bit of time to myself whenever I can, but for some reason have still been getting cranky, stressed and angst-ridden.  Why?  Well, it turns out I've been doing it all wrong.  I've been doing them out of necessity rather than actually being kind to myself.  Dates are a compulsory part of the process; I've been routinely slotting them in like trips to the dentist or testing the smoke alarm, so my lack of commitment has been manifesting as The Grumps.  Once the lightbulb went on, I recommitted myself to creating proper windows of space and slowing down the pace.

At lunchtime, whilst fully enjoying some me-time (a latte and slice of lemon drizzle-cake at the library), my mobile rang.  I looked at the screen and saw it was a call being returned by someone I've had difficulty getting hold of for the past week, an associate who went incommunicado after running late with a job I paid them to do.  I had under 10 minutes of lunch break left, only 3 pages of scene left to complete a read-through of my play, and knew the phone call was likely to be stressful and lengthy.  Remembering that I have a right to protect my downtime, I decided not to take it.  I'll no doubt end up chasing them again for a response, but my attention at that particular moment was dedicated to myself and not the caller.

I felt good rather than selfish.

After years of working towards super-productivity and interconnectivity, there's something hugely empowering about going off-the-grid and reclaiming my own space.  I feel like I've been given permission to abscond from the trappings of daily life at allotted intervals, and — dare I say it — enjoy being on my own with no responsibility for a wee while.  I've become less inclined to constantly check in on social networks and have only done so when appropriate, and am less reactive to jumping on emails as they trickle in.  I've reduced push notifications on my iPhone from instant to 15 minute intervals, and may set it back even further as I continue to unwind.  After several days of reading deprivation I've found I no longer want to read many of the things that I was wasting my days digesting.  Just like the physical clutter I felt the need to be rid of at the weekend, I now find myself ready to clear out mental clutter and give myself space.

Julia joins all these dots together in The Artist's Way.  She identifies that we feed a false sense of spirituality grounded in being good and calls it the Virtue Trap.  That's what I've been caught up in, blundering along ticking off the must take time out box on my to-do list every week.  I've been doing for doing's sake, but not actually connecting with why I'm doing it.  The shift that's now taking place, this sense of having permission to be kind to myself without feeling selfish, is a big deal for me.  I've long recognised that my past behaviours were self-destructive as I crashed around helping others pursue their goals with a desire to please them:  somewhere along the line, I lost focus and stopped pursuing my own.

Thankfully, that's not a new discovery; I became aware of that trait a while back and have taken steps to protect my own interests already, although I confess the transition has never been fully completed.  I still find myself having to think and justify myself when I'm asked if I'll do a favour to help someone out when I really don't want to commit myself to things, and feel guilty until I remind myself it's okay to say no.

Week 5 is about recovering a sense of possibility, connecting with a deeper, more spiritual self who is ready and willing to open up to the plentiful supply of opportunity presented to us by God (Fate, or the Universe, or whatever your theology might be).  For the first time in 10 years, I feel grounded enough to say yes, I'm ready, and I've made space for it whatever it may be — bring it on.


Monday, 26 September 2011

Week 5, Day 1 — Harrumph

I'm just going to come right out and be honest.  I read Week 5's chapter on the bus this morning and felt my defences go up.  It pushed lots of buttons I'm not ready to have pushed.  It questions my beliefs and my spirituality, but moreover it questions my belief in myself.  This week is going to challenge me.

I can't say for certain if it was as a direct result of my early-morning resistance to the tasks or not, but my day gradually deteriorated into a fug of annoyance and disappointment.  A few people I've been depending on let me down, then one of the venues for my tour contacted me as they've had their funding cut and have to cancel my booking, and to top things off the printshop belatedly revealed a bit of a stooshie which has resulted in my marketing materials going out very, very late — so late, in fact, that I risk playing to a half-empty house next week.  I was determined not to get angry or emotional and to be passively accepting of all these circumstances, but as the day went on I felt like it was Kris v. The World:  and I was losing.


I'm lucky I have good friends and acquaintances.  I had a catch up on the phone with Karen, I received encouraging words from Linda and David.  All three of them are right.  Shit happens.  It's how we deal with it that's the real measure.  Some of the things don't actually matter.  I'm an interminable perfectionist and idealist, and I sometimes set my sights too high.  It's a good quality to have, but it really is to my detriment when I'm not seeing the results I'd hoped for.

Would could be done?  Well, by that point in the day when I'd gotten my knickers in a knot, nothing much, to be honest; it all has to wait till tomorrow.  When I finally accepted that it was out of my control, I went for a walk, enjoyed some fresh air and a beautiful sunset, ate my favourite noodle dish then had some coconut ice-cream for dessert.  All was suddenly well with the world!

I'm going to re-start the week tomorrow with a fresh outlook and a more optimistic demeanour.  I might even tackle this first set of tasks.


Sunday, 25 September 2011

Week 4, Day 7 — Double Date

I finally caught up on my Artist Date with the big double I've been promising myself.  :)

After today's rehearsal, I headed into town and saw not one but TWO movies, broken up with dinner between screenings.   One of last week's tasks asked to identify a favourite film from your childhood. Jurassic Park is in my top ten:  it was one of the first movies I ever saw on the big screen, and I wrote it down — by sheer coincidence (or is it synchronicity?) it has been re-released at the cinema this week for it's 20th anniversary.  So, bag of popcorn in hand, I spent this evening reliving part of my youth.

I'm home now and starting to think I'm a little bit too relaxed.  I should be intimidated by the sheer volume of lines I still have to learn.  I should be concerned about tackling my to-do list.  I should be panicky about my backed up emails and feeds from my days of reading depravation.  But I'm not intimidated or concerned or panicky in the slightest.  I feel okay with everything.  I've reached a point this week where I trust things are progressing at the right pace.  They seem to be coming together of their own accord.

I just hope I can carry this quiet confidence over to next week, as the pressure is really about to pile on.

I had a go at writing my Artist's Prayer today.  I found myself slipping into perfectionist mode, and started to resent everything I put down.  I scored out, I scribbled, I got annoyed.  Then one line jumped out at me from the page, and it seemed familiar.  I realised I had stolen (well, borrowed) it from my buddy Linda who has plied me with encouraging words via Twitter recently.  It deserves to stand on its own right now rather than being worked into something else, so I'm going to adopt it verbatim.
Relax.  Everything is going to be alright.
That'll do me nicely for now.  If something else decides to replace it, I trust it will come to me in my morning pages.


Saturday, 24 September 2011

Week 4, Day 6 — Cleaning Out My Closet

Something shifted today.  Julia predicted it, and it happened.  Week 4's tasks have unsettled me.

I woke up this morning at 6am (yes, even on a Saturday), wrote my morning pages then promptly zonked out again, exhausted from yesterday's travels.  When I next roused it was 10am, and I'd had a very strange dream.  An answer seemed to come to me to a question that's been bothering me for some time.  I'm still not quite able to articulate it so I won't share it yet, but I knew what I had to do today regardless.  It's time to take action and commit to change.

I got up, walked to the wardrobe, pulled out the contents and filled two bin bags with clothes.  Most of the stuff doesn't fit me now — I lost 3 stone in weight at the beginning of the year and dropped between two to three sizes, but I clung on to everything and have bought only a very limited selection of new clothes so far.  You see part of me is still convinced I'll fail at some time and relapse then pile all the weight back on, so I kept it all to save me buying bigger clothes all over again.  Today, I decided that's not going to happen.  The changes in my life are permanent, and they're only the beginning.  If I haven't worn it in over 6 months, it's gone.  The charity shop will receive them next time I pass.

When I finished I had brunch, learnt some lines for the play, then looked around me.  My book collection caught my attention.

My books are a great source of personal pride.  I have several thousand (3,418 at my last count in May) packed into my tiny one bedroom flat, all of them neatly organised across walls of bookshelves.  They represent my many varied interests; textbooks on subjects I've studied, subjects I'd like to study, over a thousand play scripts, librettos, biographies, anthologies, fiction.  They reflect a large part of my personality and my thirst for knowledge and entertainment.

Well, that's how I've always justified them in the past.  The truth is, they don't represent me at all.  They represent parts of me that existed in the past, or versions of me that didn't exist at all as I didn't get to complete a course or degree, or they reflect a part of me that's afraid to allow myself to be who I really am as I still clinging on to these piles of unfinished business.  These books are not even on to-do lists to catch up on at any time.  They're just there.

I've been an avid fan of Brooks Palmer's Clutter Busting for a couple of years now, and once a week I settle down and read a round up of his clutter busting blog posts.  I read it, yet I deny it.  I tell myself I'm different from the people he works with, that as someone with literary passion I need my books to prove myself.

Today the shelf that particularly caught my attention was my collection of counselling and psychology books.  I trained as a counselling skills practitioner before moving on to study diplomas in training and development then coaching; yet I continued to acquire further psychology texts as I had a notion that I would one day go back and complete a degree in psychology.  It made sense, it would be a good backup plan if my artistic career failed to take off.  I am now fully committed to my writing and performing career, and it is highly unlikely that I'll go back and study psychology now.  Most of the books are brand new, unread.  That bookshelf represents unfinished business.  It fills me with a mixture of guilt and (dare I say it) regret when I look it, in spite of the fact I know it's not what I want to do.  I think it's time to close that chapter and move on.  I've listed every book on that shelf on eBay today.  If they don't sell by next week, I'll take them to the secondhand bookstore and see what I can get for them there.  After that, I have a busy period coming up with the play now looming dangerously close, but once it's over, I'm going to move to the next shelf, then the next, until I'm left only with those books that in some way enrich who I am now.  No more excuses for some past, future or non-existant version of myself.

As I said earlier, I feel like some answers are forming, bubbling away in the background.  Change isn't just on the horizon, it's happening.  This is preparation, groundwork for something bigger.  It's time to clean out and make room for whatever it is I'm heading for next.


Friday, 23 September 2011

Week 4, Day 5 — Resistance is Futile

Day 2 of my trip away has been just as peaceful as yesterday. I spent most of it researching in a records office so had no media contact for most of the day, and my 7 hour commute home has been almost equally as blacked out (I've hopped online for half an hour on the train to post this). I've been on Twitter once or twice during breaks today to reply to messages, but have avoided Facebook, emails and feeds completely; by and large, I've managed to avoid a lot of unnecessary reading, and I'd say my success rate has been about 80% cutback from normal. It's interesting what happens during this quiet time. I took a lot of photographs again today. I wrote in my journal and found the plot of not one but two new stories forming themselves. I suspect one may become a short story or novella, while the other will hopefully develop as a play.

Reading depravation and social media blackout are confirming what I've secretly known and feared for a while... I waste a hell of a lot of my time procrastinating. It's an addiction. I get antsy when I don't know what's going on. And what's worse, half of it's not really of interest — I just like knowing. Is it curable? Well, I managed to go analogue once before in Australia, so I'm certainly capable of it. I'm going to set myself a set of strict restrictions to gradually reduce the amount of time I spend online, with windows of no more than 10 minutes twice or thrice a day, and possibly cut it even further. I will commit to this change.

It's interesting thinking back to Julia Cameron's comments on the reading depravation task. She talks about the fact there's always that person in a group who thinks they are super important and can't get by without completing duties and obligations that include reading. I started this task by listing all the super important things I had to achieve this week that meant I couldn't commit fully, and as a result kept my 20% window of opportunity open to allow myself to dip in without feeling guilty. Thinking back to her comment, I now do feel guilty. Have I simply been resistant to the task, resistant to this change? I like to think I've been practical, realistic — after all, I can't exactly afford to risk my job or have my artistic project crash around my ears as a result of not meeting tight deadlines that were already in place. But am I, in reality, being that person she predicts? The reality is, having spent most of the past 2 days in the silence of my own company, I've become alert, awake and artistically aware. I've felt like the 21-year-old Kris again, the one who headed off to explore the world with a backpack, a notebook, a camera and a keen sense of adventure.

That's what's been missing the past few years. I need to stop resisting and let him out to play. Adventure Kris is back!


Thursday, 22 September 2011

Week 4, Day 4 — A Different Journey

I’m almost completely off the grid today. I spent 7 hours travelling by train to Mansfield where I’m conducting research for the next few days. I managed to hop online for a few snatched minutes between train changes, but other than that have had no internet access all day. I’ve had no emails, and no texts or phone calls either. My social blackout has been more successful, and the funny thing is once the initial itch to check wore off, I started to feel calm and serene. The background chatter of the world gradually disappeared and I found myself instead with my face pressed against the window watching the landscape and scenery flash past. I took pictures of the sea on the northeast coast of England, the countryside of Yorkshire, castles, houses, lighthouses, farms, towers, hills, bridges and buildings. A different type of artist came out to play today!

I’ve only got a very brief window of internet time to write and post this blog (I’m not checking emails or anything else, honest!), so I’m going to leave you with a few window-shots and sneak off again to enjoy the big, comfy hotel bed that’s waiting for me with a mountain of fluffy pillows.


Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Week 4, Day 3 — If Not Now, When?

I know I'm not supposed to be reading blogs or news feed items, but out of force of habit, I found myself reading a post over lunch before I had a chance to catch myself.  I must be honest, I broke the rules and spent most of the day on Twitter, but I've at least managed to avoid Facebook, TV and unnecessary email.

Anyway, the article I read resonated with one of the tasks on this week's list:
Look at one situation in your life that you feel you should change but haven't yet.  What is the payoff for you in staying stuck?
The article I'm referring to is today's Tiny Buddha contribution by Laura Fenamore.  In it, she talks about being overwhelmed with feelings of desperation for years as she tried and failed to implement change in her life, until one day at a conference a speaker asked the question "If not now, when?" which triggered an intense emotional response in her.

The truth is I have several situations in my life that I've been putting off dealing with for a long time.  I am terribly guilty of not dealing with stuff — a shameful admission as it kicks against my work as a life coach.  Learning to practice what I preach should be high on my list of things I should be implementing!

I've spent some time tonight writing in my journal about a few of the situations in my life at present.  None of them are new.  Some of them I've been putting up with since 2005, others since 2008; one I've been dealing with on and off since 1999!  All the time I was writing I had those words in my head from earlier in the day:  if not now, when?

When am I going to deal with these things?  The one consistency I spot between the various situations is financial; I am ruled, by and large, by my fear of money and the burden of debt I have inherited.  Without getting sidetracked or into too much detail, I'm keen to point out that I didn't run this debt up myself; I lost a large sum of money when the property market crashed, and the problem was exacerbated by my partner breaking our engagement.  I'm trapped by circumstance, and realistically it could last for up to five years.  What is the payoff for me in staying stuck?  Absolutely nothing.  I already find myself deeply unhappy, maudlin about things I feel I have no control over.  Take, for example, my elation at being accepted to study a Masters degree in Creative Writing.  It was my ideal degree.  It was part time, I didn't have to give up work to do it.  But I couldn't take up the place this month as the bank refused me any further assistance, and the various places I applied to for help with funding turned me down.  Completing my degree is high on the list of things I want to achieve; it's an immediate priority that could add value to my work and help steer my career.  Yet again one of my dreams has been denied because of money.  It's why I can't move house.  It's why I can't study.  It's why I couldn't go to drama school.  It's why I can't change jobs or take risks with projects.  Money holds me back.  I feel trapped.

If not now, when?

I get terrified when I think about life marching on regardless.  What if I find out in 10 years time that right now is when I was in my prime, and I let it pass me by?  What if I lose my singing voice and have to give up performing?  What if my writing hits a wall and nobody wants to commission me?  What if things never happen for me because I was consistently afraid of money?  I've analysed this fear, and I know where it comes from:  it was instilled in me by my parents.  It's an old-fashioned mindset I'm going to have to work hard to correct, because I have ambitions that have to be realised.  Things might not all happen at once, but every day I should be doing something that takes me another step closer.

I appreciate I haven't really answered any questions in this post.  It may be no more than a rant about my situation rather than an attempt to analyse it.  The truth is I've worked on these situations already in a coaching capacity but still haven't taken the right action to resolve them.  My Artist's Way journey feels different, though.  I agreed to share my experiences here, and by making them known I deny myself the opportunity to sweep them back under the carpet again.  The time to tackle things is now.  I might not have a magic wand, I'm probably not going to win the lottery (though it would certainly solve a lot of problems if I did) — what I do have is a resourceful mind and a goal in sight.  Surely that's got to get me somewhere?

Writing today dragged up a lot of negative energy.  To counterbalance it, I'd like to share one of my positive affirmations:-

I work hard, I'm honest, and I've never missed a payment in my life.


Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Week 4, Day 2 — Playing Catch Up

I had my long over due date night tonight.  My 9 hour shift of solid research reading at work was followed by a mad dash commute across town to a line-run and blocking rehearsal for the play, followed by another mad rush back in to town to the theatre where I hoped to catch a work in progress; sadly I missed it spectacularly thanks to a signalling failure on the line.  So instead I decided to use the remaining 2 hours of my night to go a walk, have a good meal and read the last 2 chapters of the book I've been putting off finishing while I've been busy.  I went to one of my favourite little secret places in Glasgow.  (I would tell you where it is, but I don't want to run the risk of people turning up looking for me next time I'm hiding out there!)

You'd think after a day filled with words I'd have had enough of reading, but I then came home and spent time reading online before finally turning to The Artist's Way to get caught up on Week 4's chapter.  That's when I discovered this week is supposed to be about not reading at all — oops!  Given the type of work I have to do this week, there's no way I can afford to shut out all written materials and media as the course suggests.  I'm only 2 weeks out from the play, so I need to be social networking, marketing and dealing with emails, it would be highly irresponsible to have a total media blackout.  I am however going to commit to not reading anything unnecessary for the rest of the week, such as feeds or blog posts (with the exception of Debbie's as part of our shared journey).  I won't waste time reading the news, I won't start a new book and my TV is now officially off and won't go back on until this week is over.  I'll also try to avoid getting sucked into Facebook or Twitter and only make essential contact (though this might prove difficult — I treat them as an extension of my day-to-day communication with people, and I don't want anyone to feel like I'm ignoring them!).  I do need to continue learning lines for the play and my research at work is essential, so there will still be a chunk of external words entering my bubble.  I wonder if I'll still benefit from this experience as a result?

The task is called Reading Depravation.  The idea is to shut out the world of external influence and focus on our inner silence, from which we grow and nurture our art.  The book says it's scary — let me assure you, I find it utterly terrifying.  It's a long time since I was last fully disconnected from the world.  Debbie has started this task in France where she is already a little bit cut off from the world but still has internet access; she is equally as plugged in to The Matrix as I am usually, I wonder how we'll both survive!

Since I've been playing catch up the past few days, I'm hoping this enforced space will help me get on top of the Week 4 tasks, on top of plans for the play, and help create a cushion around my busy working week to help ease some of the pressure of my research.

I'm going to bed early tonight (well, early for me!) as tiredness is catching up with me.  Tomorrow I need to re-plan my diary to accommodate Week 4's tasks and see what I can come up with.  The thought is already making me uneasy!


Monday, 19 September 2011

Week 4, Day 1 — When Things Go Right

Today I'm starting Week 4 by finishing off Week 3.  Yesterday was an epic day in which I spent 10 straight hours at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall with a tech, soundcheck, rehearsal and full gala concert all in one day.   It was a brilliant experience.  I enjoyed singing to such a huge audience with a talented line up of performers, plus of course the wonderful sound of a 50-piece orchestra as accompaniment.  I felt elated as I sailed through my role as Valjean in the Les Misérables section, the grand finale of the evening.  Singing brings me so much joy — I found myself questioning, "Why did I think I could ever give this up" at the end of the night.  The answer, of course, is that I can't, and I never will.  Regardless of how far down the line I make it with my writing career, or even if I find myself in an every-day humdrum job for the rest of my life, I will always find opportunities to sing.  As I become more aware of my artistic self, I realise that I have a responsibility to find the right outlets to express myself artistically while properly supporting myself, and hope that I can strike a happy balance of all these things that will help me fulfil my potential.  I still think I've only scratched the surface of my talent and have so much more to give.

Week 3 is about recovering a sense of power, and going through all the emotions that it expects to drag up.  Now that I've gone back and completed the tasks I purposefully skipped when feeling fragile at the beginning of the week, I can see that I certainly covered the full spectrum it predicted.  I spent some time analysing myself this morning using the Dealing With Criticism pointers:  this task was much easier to complete fresh from a night like last night which was filled with positive feedback and compliments compared to when I tried it a week ago while feeling like utter crap!!  So I guess it's about perspective.  It's about finding a way to channel those feelings during the periods when things are scary and unknown and unpredictable, about reminding myself that yes, things do go well when I work hard.  And regardless of my faults, no one can deny that I try, and try again, then work triply as hard to do my best.

By the end of Week 3 we're expected to have recovered a sense of power.  I do feel stronger and more capable today.  I doubt I would have come so far in a week had I not had the opportunity to throw myself out there in such a hugely challenging way and come out the other end feeling euphoric.  A big chunk of this journey therefore has to be about practical application, about actually doing and experiencing, and not just reading and thinking my way forward.  The more I do, the more capable and powerful I will become.

I've been told in the past that I need to move out of my head space and live in the real world, come back to the present and stop dreaming about what things might be like in the future.  Today I appreciate exactly what that means.

There's a lesson in there.


Sunday, 18 September 2011

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Week 3, Day 6 — Putting it Together

If you've been reading this week (not sure anyone else is out there other than myself and Debbie, but to be fair I'm only writing for our benefit) you'll know it's been a week of ups and downs — and most of it down, if I'm completely honest.

Week 3's about recovering a sense of power, though I don't think I've let myself feel quite so powerless in a long time.  My week started badly due to a crazy combination of illness and work pressure, so escaping into my wee artistic bubble every day should have given me a reprieve from the madness.  But it didn't.  In fact, when I finally started to get stuck into the tasks this week they made me feel worse.  Rather than empower me, they unlocked insecurities I didn't even know I had, dragging up things I've dealt with in the past and long moved on from.  I started viewing things I'd previously been accepting of in a whole new light, filling myself with conflict and creating a whole new series of blurts for myself in the process.  I've started to doubt my writing, worried about my performance when rehearsals started, got myself annoyed and angry when trying to organise things:  I barely recognised myself at one point in the week, I was a monster!  I could quite happily have thrown in the towel, locked myself in my living room with a pint of tea and a duvet.

Today I decided to cancel everything and spend it at home.  I even cancelled my artist's date — sacrilege, I know, given it's only Week 3 and I missed Week 2's due to illness (I don't feel totally cheated though as last night's trip to the theatre nourished my creative self).  I just needed a day to myself.  I've spent some time learning lines, stopping only to watch a movie and some TV for a break.  The sofa has very much been my friend today.  I feel grounded for the first time this week.

Putting it all together, I realise exactly what's going on.  The week got out of control because I was run down, stressed and filled with anxiety.  It's getting close to the production now, and I will be exposing both my writing and my acting to an audience in a big way.  The part of me that was scolded as a 17 year old and told you'll never make it is screaming at me to run and hide and spare myself humiliation.  That's why the tasks were crippling me.

Nobody said this journey would be an easy one.  If I have to drag myself kicking and screaming to the stage in two and a half weeks time I bloody well will.  I've been working towards this goal for such a long time:  it's not even the finish line, it's barely even the first milestone.  These doubts need to be kicked to the kerb now or I risk derailing my career.  I've allowed myself to have a panic and tantrum, now it's time to say down with fear, down with not being good enough and down with anger.

I have one more distraction to get past.  Tomorrow night I'm singing at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall with a 50 piece orchestra to an audience of around 2,000.  Oddly, I'm not worried in the slightest about this gig in spite of the week I've had:  I have faith in my vocal training and am very much looking forward to it.  I'm sure it will give me a much needed confidence boost and get the adrenaline pumping again.  All I have to do is work out how to carry that conviction over and use it to power the next fortnight.

Once more unto the breach.


Friday, 16 September 2011

Week 3, Day 5 — A Quickie

I had a hectic day at work followed by a night of artsy fartsy schmoozing at the theatre, so I've had a wee day off from doing tasks.  I still did morning pages and affirmations, so I've not skived completely!  I'll check in properly tomorrow.

At least I can say I'm in a better mood tonight. :-)


Thursday, 15 September 2011

Week 3, Day 4 — Nurturing

I'm struggling this week.  I'm recovering now from this ear infection, but very slowly.  Work has thrown me in an unexpected new direction and piled on a bit of pressure right at the time when I'm already busiest and most committed to other pursuits; as a result, today has been spent rejigging my diary and plans for next week as it looks like I'll be heading out of town.  It's such bad timing as it conflicts with rehearsals and plans for the play, and also means I can't sing in a charity concert next week:  but it's work, it pays my bills, and it's necessary.  People are depending on me.  I've had other plans fall through today too, got a bit of bad news mid-day, then came home tonight to read Debbie's sad news on her blog.  All in all, today has been a bit of a downer.

I picked up The Artist's Way tonight and though, heck, I have no notion of doing this for a second night running.  It fell open, however, at the page about nurturing friends.  I stopped for a bite to eat with Campbell tonight after work, and although it was rushed and we both spent time offloading about our respective jobs, I realise on reflection that I felt much better just having spent a bit of time in his company.  He is one of my most nurturing friends.  He reminds me of the things I'm good at, defends me when I sabotage myself with self-doubt, and shows genuine concern for me when I'm stressing myself out.

Where would we be without friends?


Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Week 3, Day 3 — Anger Week

This week is timetabled in the book as 'anger week'.  Now I'm pretty sure it's by coincidence that I'm in a very turbulent mood tonight, as the feelings and emotions I'm seething with have nothing to do with my creative journey... unless, that is, the exercises and readings are having more of an impact on my moods and demeanour than I've credited.  Instead, I'm going to put it down to having a bit of a 'life catching up with me' day.

I'm afraid I've been left with little time to read or reflect as a result.  I've still got work to do, so I'm going to head to bed early and hope for a better day tomorrow.  I'm taking fifteen minutes out to blog, write my affirmations, make a pot of tea and maybe even steal five minutes to just sit, breathe, and recentre myself before going head first into another set of facts and figures.

Here's hoping for a magnanimous Thursday.


Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Week 3, Day 2 — Phone a Friend

It has been a dull, grey and gloomy day, the type where you want to curl up under a duvet and not have to deal with the world.  Scotland is being battered by the remnants of Hurricane Katia, and I'm still under the weather fighting off this infection.  Feeling a bit demotivated, I found myself picking the easiest task on the list (I promise I'll get down to the tougher stuff soon).  It was time to phone a friend.

This stage of the creative recovery process includes reaching out for support.  Putting a support network in place is critical as I prepare to undertake new risks.  So today I had a long chat with a friend and put the world to rights.  It was a bit shouty at times due to my dodgy ear infection, but we laughed it off and talked through the list of challenges I'm up against trying to get my play on the road.  I feel a lot more positive about things having talked them through. I've been reminded that there's nothing on the list I'm incapable of doing, everything's on schedule so far, and whilst it's frustrating that I'm spending a whole lot more time doing admin and production jobs rather than focussing on writing and creativity, at least things are happening for me and I'm making progress, slowly but surely.  I've already acknowledged that in an ideal world I'd have a producer doing much of this work for me, but right now my reality is I need to make these things work for myself.  If I pull it all off, it will hopefully help establish me as a credible theatre-maker and act as a springboard to further my career.  And I'm probably doing a better job of it than I've been giving myself credit for; I need to focus on the things I've achieved so far rather than dwelling on the ever-growing to-do list or getting stressed at the dozens of emails that people haven't replied to.  They'll get back to me in their own time, and if they don't, I'll keep on chasing.

I may still be weak in body, but I'm ending the day stronger in spirit and mind.


Monday, 12 September 2011

Week 3, Day 1 — My Bad Habits

I'm still not feeling 100% Kris with a K today.  I almost wasn't going to post at all, that old adage "if you haven't got anything useful to say, don't say anything at all" ringing in my broken ears; but while re-reading Week 3's activities, I spotted a task I figured I was up to.  In what is perhaps a bout of schadenfreude, I'm going to tackle three of my bad habits.

I don't like having to air these habits.  Mostly because I know they're bad habits that as a life coach and trainer I've helped other people to overcome.  Why have I been incapable of heeding my own good advice?  This is a private source of shame, something Week 3 will tackle full on.  Confessing my bad habits here as part of this task will hopefully exorcise them and encourage me to take positive steps to develop better habits.

Social Networking
I spend far too much viewing the world vicariously through the posts, pictures and status updates of friends, family, peers, contacts, connections — even people I don't know.  At night I can easily while away 2-3 hours reading, replying, refreshing, retweeting; updating myself on actions and activities that have no actual relevance to me.  I no longer look out windows and watch the world while travelling, instead my head stays bowed to my iPhone as updates flash past before me.  Why do I do this?  I complain about not having enough quality time to write, to catch up on the shelves of novels and plays I'd like to read, or to get started on the projects and ideas I'd love to be working on.  Social networking isn't something I'm going to give up on completely; it does, after all, have its uses in staying in touch with people, keeping up-to-date on events and opportunities.  I do need to cut back on the amount of time I devote to the internet and spend more time present in the real world either being creative or quite simply having space to do the things I enjoy.

Putting Things Off
I make to-do lists.  I commit to lots of things.  I have great intentions of getting all these things done.  I've read at least a dozen books on productivity and have actively coached people to help them achieve more of their own goals.  Yet I am the King of Procrastination, and I put things off for as long as I can.  Part of me enjoys the rush of doing things with a bit of last minute pressure, that rush of adrenaline as you race towards the finish line.  Overall I know it's not the best way to work, I know I am capable of achieving more than I already do by making better use of my time, and that I could eliminate a lot of stress and tension by getting things done in a more constructive manner.  Not getting things done is one of my sources of shame:  I start to feel useless when things go unfinished for too long, like I'm not achieving anything at all.

Putting Other People First
This is a tough one.  I'm the type of person who will always put other people first.  I'll stop what I'm doing and help someone out if I know that I can, regardless of how tight a schedule I might be on.  I've missed out on opportunities to do some of the things I've always wanted to do — work, dreams, ambitions — because I've been asked to do someone a favour, or felt obliged to do something else because it was charitable or I thought it was the right thing to do.  I've said already in the blog that I'm the type of person who tries to live a life of no regrets, but the deeper I analyse my past actions I realise I've probably given up on more chances than those I've pursued.  These detours are the sources of some of my blocks and blurts.  I need to be more sensitive to my needs and desires, I need to start putting myself first and focus more fully on doing those things that help me achieve my own goals and ambitions rather than always contributing to those of others.

Julia Cameron forewarns that Week 3 of The Artist's Way can be an angry week.  I figure by starting where I have and taking an inward look at myself and my habits, I might remember to go easy on the world as the week progresses.


Sunday, 11 September 2011

Week 2, Day 7 — Stood Up

I was due to have my Artist's Date for the week last night:  but was stood up!

My Saturday night was spent in A+E with a suspected perforated eardrum.  The doctor couldn't be certain what was going on, so I had to be discharged and returned to hospital this morning to have it checked over by a specialist.  My ear canal was siphoned and they discovered a pretty nasty infection underneath, but thankfully not a burst drum.  Steroids, drops, antibiotics (plus a stern warning not to stick anything bigger than my elbow in my ears in future) and I was soon on my way home — well, via brunch in the West End with M+D which made up for getting off to such a rotten start.  I should recover my hearing fully over the course of the next week.

Meantime, I've missed my date, and had been looking forward to it.  I probably can't squeeze one in today as I have a concert rehearsal followed by a script recording session for my play (both of which are going to be a challenge with my earache and dull hearing).  So I've resolved that if I can't fit it in tonight, I'm going to have two next week instead!

This week has been a week of ups and downs.  It has been good for me.  I've been reminded that for all my strengths, I'm also human and vulnerable.  I need to look after myself and my interests, know who to keep in my inner circle (my Team K supporters) and be mindful of those I need to self-protect myself against right now.

During the short period I spent waiting in A+E last night, I watched people come and go, saw mini-dramas and tragedies played out before me:  but I couldn't hear a word of what was being said.  I had to rely on my sight, my other senses and my instincts to guess what was happening.  I became acutely aware of how disconnected I was from the people before me.  I started to piece together their stories in my head, what I imagined was happening.  This morning as I wrote my morning pages a huge chunk of unexpected creativity was regurgitated based on these scenarios I had created.

There's a lesson in there about slowing down, being present in the now — remembering to be open, observant and connected to the world around me.


Saturday, 10 September 2011

Week 2, Day 6 — Back to the Future

Yesterday was a very rewarding day.  As I mentioned on the blog, I was invited to take a creative writing workshop at my old secondary school for the Higher English class.  It's amazing how quickly the period flew by, but I managed to stay present in the now and enjoy the time I had with them.  I loved it.  The students were more enthusiastic than I anticipated, and seemed taken with the fact I write and perform in their local dialect.  The feedback afterwards was positive, and they've gone away with fresh ideas to start working on their portfolios; I'm claiming it as a small victory!

Being back at school (as brief a trip as it was) was a funny experience.  The decor has changed a bit, many of the staff who taught me have retired and been replaced with new faces, but on the whole it isn't all that different.  Except smaller:  the corridors and rooms seemed much smaller!  While I have many fond memories of my schooldays, my last year at school was a dramatic one after I suffered a serious accident and was challenged to play catch up on several months of lost time.  I had a hearty discussion afterwards with my old English teacher (and Team K supporter) Mrs M about the fact I've now found myself precisely where we both hoped I'd be one day:  pursuing writing and performing as a career.  When I told her I felt lucky to finally have achieved some success this past year after the difficult periods of hardship I've been through, she reminded me that it has nothing to do with luck at all — it's over 10 years of hard work and trying finally starting to pay off.

It was a good time for me to have this chat.  At this stage in my creative recovery on The Artist's Way, I was ready to hear someone tell me that they've believed in me for as long as 18 years, even through those periods when I didn't believe in myself.  We also had a chat about the decisions I've had to take since leaving school; the type we're often forced into making and the paths these decisions can lead us down.  I try to live life with no regrets, but I do still wonder where I would be today if I'd stuck my ground and gone through with some of the more ambitious plans that well-meaning people in my life advised me against.  Despite being independent and strong-minded, I've more than once given up as a result of taking on board other people's fears.

I thought about that a lot last night.  I spent the night at my parent's house and had a long walk round the village at night with my dad.  Even now I can tell he worries that a career in the arts isn't a sensible occupation to be pursuing, especially when he hears me talk of feeling ready to drop the hours I spend committed to my day job and start taking financial risks with new artistic projects.  On the one hand I have a voice of reason reminding me to stay grounded and not let myself fly off on a risky flight of fancy that could leave me in ruin; on the other hand I feel someone else's fears being projected on to me, fears that I've heard time and time again and allowed to affect my past decision making.  This is a blurt, one that goes right back to my school days when I was struggling to decide what path I wanted to follow.

So I found myself right back where it all started, trying to make a similar set of decisions in pursuit of the same set of goals.  I've taken the time travelling task to extremes by not just mentally challenging my blurts this — I've physically gone back to the places these blocks first started and confronted them.  This time, though, things are different.  I'm older and wiser, as the saying goes.  I've had a taste of success and know writing is not just a childish dream; my potential has now been recognised, opportunities are opening up before me and people are willing to support me.  My dad knows I share his fear of risk and ruin, but I can't let it define me any longer.  I'm not about to take silly gambles, but I'm not prepared to sit back and let another decade pass by only to find myself wondering "where would I be if I'd given it a go that time?" — no regrets, remember.

It's time to stop time travelling and bring myself back to the future.  It's time to ground myself in the present, in the here and now.  My name is Kris.  I'm a writer and performer.  My goal for the coming six months is to shift my work-life balance in favour of my artistic career, to reduce my dependency on a 9-5 job:  I will first aim for part time hours to support myself while challenging myself to earn a solid income from my creative talents.  This is possible, it is achievable, it is realistic:  thousands of writers and performers earn a living from their work, therefore it can be done.

The opportunity is there; it's up to me to make it work.


Friday, 9 September 2011

Week 2, Day 5 — Time Travel

I’m off to see a Team K member today!

I’m currently on the train heading home to visit my old school, where I will be taking a creative writing workshop this afternoon with the Higher English students.  Part of the session will be a reading of the short story I won an award for earlier this year, followed by an analysis of the writing and the creative process.  I’m quite excited about it.  I feel prepared for the first part given I’ve been doing similar readings over the past month at my coffee shop exhibition, but the second part is what’s going to be interesting.  I haven’t had my work critically analysed in this manner before.  Yes, I’ve had assignments and had feedback on writing from peers, publishers and agents I’ve sent material to, but I’ve never heard a group discuss the merits (if any!) of my work in an open forum.  That bit I’m nervous about!

The invitation came from my old English teacher, one of the first people to tell me I had a talent for writing.  As young as twelve she was encouraging me to write prose and submit my work.  I did quite well as a teen; I had two features published in regional newspapers, winning a teen-journalism competition in the process, had a handful of articles published by my local newspaper and was a runner-up in the international Pushkin Prizes competition with my portfolio of work written in class.  I also wrote the scripts for the local pantomime and drama group in my latter years at school.  Thinking about these achievements now, it makes me wonder when exactly in my personal history I stopped believing in myself and started to think my work wasn’t adequate?  I may have to do a bit more of the time travelling exercise to investigate this further; it’s important that I’m able to recognise when my belief in myself is lacking to prevent future crises of faith.

On the subject of time travelling, I best go read my notes for this afternoon before it’s time to traverse those lost corridors of my teens.


Thursday, 8 September 2011

Week 2, Day 4 — Ten Tiny Changes

I've managed to recover a spot of calm in my week after getting off to such an insane start. My sleep pattern is still a bit disjointed, but I'm back in check with a full compliment of morning pages, and have resumed my daily affirmations to get those blurts back under control.

I've just had a nice, leisurely dinner (I had a voucher to use up from months ago) and am now enjoying an espresso macchiato (a freebie I've been carrying around in my wallet in case of emergency) and feel quite content. Yes, I said it — I feel content! I finished making edits to the play last night and have a working version ready to go into rehearsal with. Mark, my director, seems happy with it and I feel like we're in a good place to build from. I completed a major task at work today that has been draining my energy for over a week, and although I know it will need a bit of tidying up once it's been checked over by a colleague, I feel quite accomplished having got the main bulk of it off my to-do list. It's the sense of space that I'm enjoying. It's the satisfaction of ticking big things off, making room for whatever comes next.

As I've reflected on the past few days, I've realised that — regardless of how much I've protested to the contrary in the past — I do take too much on. I assume that because of my broken sleeping pattern I can just fit everything in, I try to do more than the average person because I have so many more hours to fill in my day. It's this constant filling up that's putting pressure on me. I need to create space, find harmony in my day, and give myself room to have the opportunity to do things spontaneously that make me happy; like tonight's impromptu (and free!) mini-Artist's Date of dinner and coffee. I'm heading off to a singing rehearsal now feeling a lot brighter than I did when I ventured out to do the same thing on Tuesday: what a difference in just 48 hours!

This all falls back neatly to the Ten Tiny Changes task. I've listed in my journal ten changes I'd like to make for myself in the coming weeks and months, some small, some significant. The one I'm going to share here is this:-
I would like to create more space in my life to allow me to be spontaneous, to do the things I enjoy most on a whim, things that relax, refresh and re-energise me.
I read Debbie's blogpost at lunchtime today with great interest. She's been up, down and all around this week too and I quickly realised that the feelings I've had this week are far from unique. They're common to all artists. She has recruited supporters and champions to Team Debbie, and I quickly realised that three people in particular motivated and encouraged me this week when I hit the wall. They are the first recruits to Team K, and I'm going to take time out to acknowledge and thank them for their support.


Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Week 2, Day 3 — Confessions of a Crazymaker

Okay, I admit it.  I let myself become a crazymaker yesterday.

Lack of sleep, weeks of busyness, pent-up stress; they're only partly to blame.  I have strong coping mechanisms given I deal with both insomnia and stress to extremes on a daily basis, yet somehow I managed to tip myself over my tolerance threshold.  The real issue yesterday was lack of mindfulness.  I failed to recognise early enough that I was run down and take appropriate steps to protect myself; I didn't have the luxury of being able to wrap myself up in a duvet and hide away for the day.  I had to just get on with things.

But I didn't just get on with it.  I put my rubbish feelings out into the world believing it would set a boundary and give me space to lick my wounds until I felt better.  That was an act of crazy-making!  I failed to acknowledge that people around me were having the same kind of day I was (maybe it was the awful burst of autumn weather we were hit with in Scotland?) and instead may have left people who look to me for support feeling worse than I did.  I dragged several others into my whirlpool of craziness in the process.

So today is about mindfulness; being mindful of myself and mindful of others.  It's about bringing my emotions back in-house, and not transferring them.

I got 4½ hours sleep last night — not perfect, but I'm a bit more refreshed than yesterday at least.  I ate a good meal with my best friend before our concert rehearsal last night, somehow managed to do a quick once-through edit of the script I'm working on, and drafted a short proposal for a project I'd like to be involved with later in the year.  The day was more productive than I expected it to be, and all achieved while running on low!

Now that I've identified and expelled my own crazy-making, I'll be back on track tomorrow to deal with the real task at hand:  working out where my energy is being sapped, and who is doing the sapping.  Crazymakers beware!


Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Week 2, Day 2 — Dip

I'm having a bit of a dip today.  The warning signs were there at the weekend after I felt so exhausted, and I can't help but think I've been carrying some low-lying bug or a cold of some sort that hasn't fully revealed itself.  Last night I hardly slept, insomniating for hours on end, drifting in and out of sleep for barely under an hour and a half in total before forcing myself into the shower and out to work.  Morning pages skipped, morning walk skipped, breakfast skipped — I haven't even had coffee yet.  My whole routine is out the window.  As I commuted to work I felt miserable, a failure, like I've let myself down.  Two of my blurts kept playing on my mind:  "You never finish things" and "I knew you wouldn't make it".  My energy is so low that I can't work out how to claw back some productivity and be creative on a day like this.

Deep breaths.  Relax.  Positive affirmations.

I resign myself to the fact that big to-do list jobs need to be put off today; there's no point trying to tackle them and risk doing them badly.  I'll challenge the smaller things on my list and build myself up by achieving wee goals instead.

If the rain stays off I'll go a walk at lunchtime to clear my head.  Fresh air and light will refresh me; maybe I'll find something tasty and reinvigorating for lunch.


Monday, 5 September 2011

Week 2, Day 1 — My Favourite Things

I read Chapter 2 of The Artist's Way before going to bed last night and spent most of it cringing.  Crazymakers are back in my life!

No, crazymakers aren't like vampires who create zombies.  Crazymakers are people who drain you, people who create drama, people who are expert blamers and have no respect for schedules or order.  The reason I cringe is because I recognise I went through a protracted period of being a crazymaker myself.  Now that's not such a shameful thing:  Julia Cameron recognises that everyone is a crazymaker at some point.  I think what makes me cringe is the fact that I went through my particular period at a time when I was retraining as a life coach and counselling skills practitioner and should have known better!!

I decided when I got up this morning not to get drawn on this task straight away.  It's one I want to think about properly and come back to, as I acknowledge there are several areas of my life that would benefit from being clutter busted right now to create space and order.  Instead, I decided to indulge in the task that asks you to make a list of twenty things you enjoy doing.

So (to borrow a lyric), these are a few of My Favourite Things:

  1. Enjoying good coffee
  2. Writing letters
  3. Writing stories
  4. Listening to acoustic music
  5. Watching live theatre
  6. Performing live theatre
  7. Taking photographs and capturing memories
  8. Freshly baked bread with butter and herbs
  9. Getting lost in an absorbing book
  10. Reading to people
  11. Singing at the top of my lungs
  12. Letting chocolate melt in my mouth
  13. Ice-cream!
  14. Baking cookies
  15. Walking in the park or city (depending on the weather and my mood)
  16. Trips to the seaside
  17. Going to the movies
  18. Exploring places I haven't been before
  19. Walking barefoot
  20. Learning new things 

Those are the first things that came to me; I'm sure I've missed something obvious!  I then had to identify when I last let myself do these things.  I've done quite a few of them recently, and some of them I do regularly, so that's probably a good thing.  One I haven't done in over two years is go to the seaside, and that's something I miss a lot.  I like walking on the beach and feeling refreshed by the sea air, then having a treat such as a fish supper or an ice-cream to finish the day off.  It's not as easy to do now that I don't have a car, although not impossible if I put my planning head on and take the train down the coast.  I sense a future Artist's Date in the making...

I've picked my goals for this week and know which I'm going to try and squeeze into any windows of opportunity that arise.  Wish me luck!


Sunday, 4 September 2011

Week 1, Day 6 — My First Date

I’ve just been on a date.  </blush>

Now, don’t get too excited if you know me (or if it’s you reading, Mum) ­— I don’t mean the that kind of date, although to be fair one of those has been a long time coming.  Today was my first Artist’s Date.  A properly blocked off period of time in my diary where I took myself out and treated myself, spent some quality time on my own.  I did something we often forget to do these days in our busy lives:  I switched off my phone and shut out the rest of the world for a whole three hours.

I hadn’t planned anything in advance.  I should have, but was convinced I would cancel on myself so hadn’t bothered.  I publicly promise I won’t let that happen again.  As a result, I wasn’t sure exactly where I was going to go or what I was going to do when I left home, but after spending all day yesterday cooped up in the flat I was ready to do something.  I could easily have been talked into meeting friends, but faithfully stuck to the window of time I’d allocated and spent it on my own.  And I kind of enjoyed it.  I caught the bus to town, listened to a new album on the way, walked among the late afternoon shoppers and then headed to the cinema to see if anything took my fancy; a few things did, but rather than think it out I bravely ventured straight into the first thing that was starting.  I ate popcorn.  I drank fizzy juice.  The movie was a teen comedy that part of me found hilarious and part of me loathed.  It didn’t matter.  I just let myself enjoy the simple pleasure of being on my own for a while.

When the movie finished, I took another walk through the city which still had a fair bit of bustle for early evening on a Sunday, and soon found myself enjoying a tasty smoked chicken salad for dinner with a refreshing iced water on the side, followed by an affogato (espresso with ice-cream to the uninitiated) for dessert.  It was a decadent treat.

Now this part of The Artist’s Way is one I never really got into the first time I attempted the programme.  I am persistently busy, so rarely have time to catch up with simple home chores or get the chance to see friends, never mind force myself to go out and spend time doing something just for the sake of it.  I do go to the cinema or the theatre on my own if I get the chance, but usually on a whim or if I happen to find myself between jobs, rehearsals or events rather than something planned in advance.  Today was a bit of an unusual experience, in that regard.  I felt like I was meant to be with someone, or be somewhere else.  I felt guilt creeping in for the second time this week and had to reassure myself that whilst I could have been tackling my to-do list, this me time is a compulsory and necessary part of the programme.

Just as I finished eating, I checked my watch and realised I only had 20 seconds to go until my three-hour window closed.  I made it.   I enjoyed it.  When it finished (and not one second before), I fired up my MacBook and have been writing this blog entry since; offline, I might add, I haven’t checked Twitter or Facebook or emails — I’m still disconnected from the world right now and feel reluctant to plug back in.  I haven’t switched my phone back on either.  So when you read this it will be a few hours later when I’m home and back online.

What was the point of all this?  The interesting thing is I’ve re-read the section on Artist’s Dates around six times over the past eight years.  I like to think I’m a smart guy, but I’ve never 100% got it.  Obviously it’s about forced down time, forced me time.  Part of me feels a little less guilty about the fact I fill my waking hours with ‘stuff to do’ if I’m allowed to take a compulsory break from it all — maybe that’s the point?  Maybe Julia Cameron recognises that artists fill their lives to the brim with stuff, leaving little room to just enjoy themselves without commitment to others or their art.  After all, time spent with others can be quite draining at times rather than leisurely.

So the Artist’s Date must be about me, and me alone.  I like that idea.  I like the idea that I have permission to pause my hectic life one a week to just enjoy myself.  Can I keep it up every week once I start to get snowed under with stuff and things to-do?  Well, I’m going to have to.  The dates are in my diary now for the next 11 weeks; and when they come close to running out, I’ll be scheduling them in for the next 3 months.

This is the end of Week 1 for me; I started a day behind Debbie, so had to work the tasks around a 6-day week.  We have our first check in tonight by email which will give us a chance to talk a bit more personally about how our week has gone (we’ve both been keeping blogs so we already have a rough idea of how we’ve been progressing).  Week 1 has been about recovery.  It encouraged me to re-dredge thoughts and emotions that I had in many respects worked through already, so I’m conscious of the fact that I’ve perhaps covered some of the ground superficially this week; I need to keep working on those affirmations, but for now, I’m happy with how Week 1 has ended.

Bring on Week 2…

(Someone please remind me I said that with gusto when my alarm goes off at 5:30am tomorrow.)


Saturday, 3 September 2011

Week 1, Day 5 — Routines and Resting

It's Saturday.  It's the day I expected to be most creative and productive.  But here I am, 6pm, still on the sofa with no motivation to do anything.

I haven't mentioned my long-term insomnia yet in this blog, though if you're reading and know me in person you're probably already aware of it.  I've been getting 4-5 hours sleep a night recently, which is good for me.  That is being upset now I'm rising 45 minutes earlier to work on my morning pages and affirmations as part of my new routine.  So far, I'm finding it exhausting.  I spent most of yesterday like a zombie:  work dragged by in a grumpy haze, then I was singing in concert at night, which went really well but was an effort as I felt so sleepy.  Supper and drinks was laid on for us afterwards, and it was after midnight before I got home.  It was a great evening, but I was so tired I found myself almost nodding off in company.  How rude!

Today I was due to meet a fellow writer to talk projects (cancelled due to a last minute family commitment), followed by a script editing session, some marketing and production work for the play, time was set aside to write a short story submission, I planned a leisurely lunch and coffee after a walk round town, and have tickets for the theatre tonight to round the day off.  It just hasn't happened.  When I finally got to bed in the early hours I crashed out and slept till till after 2pm today.  My morning pages were late-afternoon pages, but at least they're done.  I feel a bit better having caught up on sleep, but my plans for the day are right out the window and — despite the fact I've not actually let anyone down or caused any commotions — I feel guilty about not getting things done.

My creative, productive day hasn't happened.  My Artist's Date isn't happening.  I've resigned myself to an at-home day instead, taking some time out.  Perhaps it's not a bad thing to rest and recuperate then pick things up tomorrow.


Friday, 2 September 2011

Week 1, Day 4 — My Secret Lives

The latest task has been to visualise myself living one of five secret lives:  living and doing the things I've always dreamed of doing.  Some of these might not surprise you if you know me!

My first secret life... is not so secret.  I love to sing and entertain.  Singing fills me with joy and has the power to leave me feeling euphoric.  I would love to have been a crooner in a 1930’s jazz club with my own Big Band, making occasional appearances in Hollywood movies — or a leading light in a Broadway musical of the 60’s or 70’s.

My second secret life... is the one where I'm a published author who enjoys tapping away at my keyboard creating characters, worlds and events; I labour away at my latest novel satisfied that it will storm the bestseller charts if I hit the nail on the head.  I write from my high-rise apartment in New York overlooking the city vista, or from a country retreat in the Scottish Highlands, or at a desk by a window in a hotel in Paris or Rome, or in Australia close by a beach that I walk along each day after writing, enjoying the fresh air and the beautiful sunset.

In my third secret life... I own an old bookshop stacked with shelves that overflow with hardbacks, paperbacks, journals and magazines.  It has beaten leather chairs and regular customers who come to read, recite and relax in a world devoted to words.  I serve artisan coffee and high teas, homemade food, bakery and treats to entice people in.  In the winter there is eggnog and gingerbread, a roaring fire and a warm welcoming place for people to meet.

My fourth secret life... is the one where I am a journalist, a roving reporter, part of a Pulitzer Prize winning news team.  I investigate crime and corruption, helping expose injustice to make the world a better place.  I am the real-life Clark Kent!

In my fifth secret life... I am an old man.  Yes, believe it or not, I dream of the days when I have retired, reached an easy pace and look back fondly on my years with content.  The fact I am old does not phase me, as I have led a full and fulfilling life of pursued and achieved goals and ambitions, I am still regularly invited to work and share in the things that made my career so successful, and I do — for fun — because I can, rather than because I need to.  I enjoy simple pleasures such as walking in the park, saying hello to strangers and sharing our life stories, reading books on long bus trips to places I’ve never been before, and I sleep happy at night knowing each day is a blessing.

Now, the next part of this task is to actually go out and do one of these things, to try to live part of these lives that I can play with and experimentally live for a day.  Tonight I’m singing at a charity concert, so I will visualise myself on Broadway while I perform – and perhaps even steal an extra bow!  I will inevitably take a  bus journey this weekend (perhaps not a long one, though) and start one of the books on my reading list, then find a wee bookshop to hide away in and ruffle through the old books for an hour or two.  I’ve still to have my Artist’s Date this week (which I’ll talk about soon), so may even treat myself to high tea.

What do you dream of doing?  Can you do something this weekend that helps you live part of that secret life?