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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Week 8, Day 3 — Time + Space = Creation


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Week 7, Day 2 — Nothing to see here

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


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.


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!


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.


Friday, 7 October 2011

Week 6, Day 5 — Playing Catch Up

Now that the madness of launching my solo show has passed, I'm playing catch up with Week 6.  This is the week I probably fear most in the course.  It's time to talk about abundance, about an artist's relationship with money.

As much as the situation displeases me, I'm not ashamed to admit that I've spent most of my adult life in debt.  You see I'm currently going through my second cycle of debt; on both occasions, it's been the result of unfortunate circumstance rather than financial mismanagement on my part.  I was the victim of an accident first time round for which no-one was held accountable, while most recently a break up in a long term relationship left me financially responsible for previously shared commitments.  I'm proud to say I've never missed a payment in my life, though, and despite being unlucky with where I have placed my trust, it hasn't prevented me from budgeting to do many of the things I've wanted to do.  It has, however, been a barricade that has stopped me progressing in several areas of my life where money is the key to taking things to the next level, such as going to drama school or university.

That probably sounds like an excuse, but I won't hide behind it.  I think I've done a good job of finding constructive ways around this blockade:  I've found sponsorship to help me with projects and always given something back in return.  Whenever I've really wanted to make something happen, the universe has provided.  And on the occasions that it hasn't, it has usually revealed that it had something else in the pipeline for me.

I'm going to plough through all of the week's tasks tomorrow.  It will be interesting to see what they might reveal.  In spite of my current positive attitude to my overall financial affairs, I know that my inner sceptic has always been most deeply rooted in my fear of both financial loss and gain, and it's the area I am most challenged in when it comes to making important decisions.

On a lighter note, I experienced some synchronicity today!  I read the zen habits blog, and today's post is a feature by Leo Babauta titled Become a God of Learning Your Trade.  The article opens with this sentence and these six bullet points:
It’s not always easy to do what you love, because:
  • You aren’t sure you’re good at it.
  • You don’t know if it will work.
  • You don’t know if people will like it.
  • You don’t know how to get better.
  • You doubt your ability to succeed.
  • You might spend months working on something, only to have it fail.
I read it and thought — wow —these are exactly the thoughts and fears I've had stewing in me for the past few weeks.  I've been counselled and mentored and received kind words from several of you reading this blog, including Debbie, Linda, David, Campbell plus my director Mark — but I still doubted my ability to pull the project off.  My blurts would jump out at me, and fresh ones would create themselves each time I faced a hurdle or thought too far ahead to the prospective outcomes.  I was most worried that my writing wouldn't be well received, or that my ability as a performer would be limited by my lack of training.  Leo's solution to these fears is:
Do it in public, and get immediate feedback.
And he's right!  I was overwhelmed by the response from the audience last night.  There was uproarious laughter, not just the odd titter.  The material worked, the performance came over the way I hoped it would.  I should have tried more of it out on people in advance instead of working so privately to protect 'my baby'.  It's comedy, for goodness sake, of course it needed an audience to determine if it was any good; with hindsight, that seems really obvious.  Suddenly any lack of training seems totally irrelevant; I've put in years of personal study, practice, research, attendance, reading, writing, workshops, performances, acting, singing — I have trained for this.  I am ready.  I might not be as polished as someone who has spent a few years studying, but I've got life experience and elbow grease on my side, and that's worth its weight in gold.

I've been in a really good place today, more happy and content than I can remember feeling in several years.  For the first time I don't just think I'm on the right path; I can feel my new career path taking shape and rolling out before me.  I've experienced the high of a job well done and feel hungry for more.


Thursday, 6 October 2011

Week 6, Day 4 — And Breathe

I've just come off stage and feel totally pumped with adrenaline (though this isn't posting, it may appear later when I finally find wifi!).

I did it!  I pulled it off!  Mark my Director, Sarah the Co-ordinator and Louise the Tech kept me calm, put in their hardwork and within 4 hours had the show on the road.

I'm still buzzing from the audience reaction.  Part of me was convinced it might not be well received, and I was worried about the ticket sales despite being assured a lot of "walk-ins" were expected; it was genuinely a surprise to find a full house roaring with laughter!

This whole production has been a very humbling experience.  If you've read my blog posts you'll have shared in my highs and lows while getting the play on stage.  Thanks to my great friends, supporters and a hell of a lot of elbow grease and man-hours on my part, it's finally happened.

I can once again say "I'm Kris — I'm an Actor & Playwright" without feeling a fraud.  ;-)


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Week 6, Day 3 — Here We Go

20 hours to go...
  • Set — ready
  • Costume — ready
  • Lines — kind of ready
  • Programmes — to-do
  • Kris — terrified


Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Week 6, Day 2 — The Lights Are On

I'm here, but not here.  The lights are on but nobody's home.

I'm drained after 8 hours of solid rehearsal.  The sheer cognitive load of trying to remember all these lines is taking its toll on me.  It's only 8:50pm, but I've brought myself to bed early with the script loaded on my Kindle, a mug of tea on the bedstand and the intention of reciting this problem scene repeatedly until it sinks in or I crash out asleep:  whichever comes first.

47 hours to go and I'm not yet ready for public performance.  Someone please save me from the spotlight.

I'm totally detached from The Artist's Way and find I'm really missing it.


Monday, 3 October 2011

Week 6, Day 1 — AWOL

Sorry, my dear Artist's Way.   I am abandoning you today.  A whole page of cuts, some minor rewrites, a full scene still to learn, set to be built, bedding to stitch... 67 hours till the play opens and so much to be done.

I'm going AWOL and will resume normal service if I can snatch some time tomorrow.


Sunday, 2 October 2011

Week 5, Day 7 — Are you listening?

"God Week" is finally over.  Well, not entirely; the spirituality theme will carry on right through the course and beyond, but I can't help feeling a sense of relief that the focussed period of questioning is over.

You see, I don't adhere to a fixed idea or notion of God in the conventional sense.  I'm a free spirit who believes in the existence of a universal Great Creator, but I don't buy into the doctrines of the God of organised religion.  My beliefs allow science and art and spirituality to sit comfortably side by side — something has to have kicked it all off, right?

Spirituality aside, I think I've skated my way through this week's tasks a bit too casually.  My inner sceptic has dominated:  I'm under extreme pressure to produce the play, which is now terrifyingly only 4 days away, and as much as I've screamed PLEASE THROW ME A FRICKIN' BONE HERE all week, my Great Creator doesn't appear to have been listening.

Okay, I'll admit that may not be the most tactful Artist's Prayer ever spoken.

So, for the love of all that's good, if you are listening:  please, please, please help me get things on track.  I have a lot riding on this week going well — more for my sanity and self assurance than anything else.  I'm praying to catch the bus, and getting ready to run as fast as I can, as Julia put's it in The Artist's Way.

I'm about to take my last break before the week gets truly crazy.  Tonight's Artist's Date is a trip to the cinema to watch The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary Concert beamed live from the Royal Albert Hall.  As a huge fan of the show I'm inordinately excited about seeing it.  I will need to make the most of this little outing, though, because the second it's over, it's time to work more intensely than I ever have.

In under 100 hours I'll be on stage with an audience in front of me...


Saturday, 1 October 2011

Week 5, Day 6 — Panic

Having a nervy-b.  My lines aren't sinking in; if anything I'm forcing the ones I thought I knew back out!  Should've been out socialising at a housewarming party tonight, but instead it's nose in script until I'm off book.

A quick reminder to say my Artist's Prayer.
Relax.  Everything is going to be alright.