Saturday, 24 December 2011

After the Artist's Way — Week 5

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, 17 December 2011

After the Artist's Way — Week 4

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, 12 December 2011

After the Artist's Way — Week 3

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

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

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

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

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