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...”
There's a couple of clear actions in there.(From Week 5 when I was in the thick of producing my solo show.)
- Get help. Stop trying to do absolutely everything on my own. I'm not Superman!
- 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.
- 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.