A Creative Reboot

“We are never too old to be young at heart. Being young at heart means simply being willing to be a beginner.” ~ Julia Cameron.

On September 15, 2011, exactly seven years ago to the date, I picked up the book “Walking in This World” by Julia Cameron and began my creative journey in earnest. It was and still is a non-linear path of both self discovery and exploration.

Yesterday, I had the good fortune to attend an all-day intensive workshop led by Julia, one of the most inspirational authors in the creative world. The opportunity found its way to me as a part of a three day Creative Reboot workshop held in Santa Fe, NM.

Downtown Santa Fe NM

What an amazing and energizing day it was!! The time in Julia Cameron’s workshop absolutely flew by. It was worth every penny. Not only was she wonderful, the attendees were as well. The positive energy in the room was contagious and uplifting.

It’s hard to describe what it feels like to be surrounded by at least 200 creative, compassionate, caring souls. It’s safe, it’s comforting, it’s affirming and it’s rejuvenating. It’s just what the doctor ordered to help me break through the creative slump I’ve been experiencing for the past several months.

Every teacher has had a powerful message for all of the artists in attendance, each one of us connecting with the teachings in our own personal ways.

The final workshop on Friday night concluded with a Firewalk, yep, a Firewalk. Approximately 200 brave and more than slightly skeptical individuals, including your’s truly, walked over a bed of hot coals after chanting to the beat of a drum to raise the overall vibration and set individual intentions.

It took more than a few long moments for the first person to be brave enough to take the walk, but once she did it took mere seconds for the rest of us to follow suit and take our turn walking barefoot across the red embers.

It was empowering and thought shifting. From the time we are little, we’re told that fire burns. There’s no part of our rational mind that would say “walking across hot burning coals is a great idea.” But somehow being there, being caught up in the pulsing energy of the crowd, watching each novice firewalker be enveloped in hugs at the end of their walk made it feel like a very good idea.

We were all exhilarated afterwards. Each of us had been courageous enough to face and overcome a long held limiting personal belief, and not about the dangers of fire – the fire was the teacher.

Now, I’m not advocating for people to go out and try something like this on their own. It’s kind of one of those things that should be supervised by professionals. :). However, I am advocating, and recommitting myself to take a look at my own limiting beliefs – the “things” that are getting the way, to get back to creating powerfully and trusting in Divine timing.

The workshop is only half-way over. There’s another session led by Julia Cameron, entertainment this evening (I wonder what that will bring…) and more sessions tomorrow, but I had to take a few moments over my lunch break to celebrate my creative reboot.

I find it fascinating to know that this event coincides with the exact anniversary of my first creative reboot guided in part by the words of Julia Cameron; this time in person.

I’m back!

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You Can Tune a Piano, but You Can’t Tuna Fish

One of my favorite bands in high school was REO Speedwagon. They are no longer in my music collection, but to this day I crank the radio and  sing “It’s time for me to fly” at the top of my lungs whenever I hear the unexpected hit from the album You Can Tune a Piano, but You Can’t Tuna Fish.  I always feel a bit nostalgic as the lyrics take me back a few hundred years (Ok, only a few more than thirty, give or take).

I remember as a teenager being amazed at how the lyrics of many of my favorite songs from a variety of bands seemed to be written just for me, and I marveled at how the poems set to music expressed what was in my heart but I couldn’t find the words to say.  I would lay awake in bed listening to Dan Folgelberg sing of “Hymns filled with early delight” and “Acceptance of life,” [Netherlands] and I hoped and I prayed that one day I would find myself and my way.

As an adult I still find myself latching on to a particular song and playing it over and over because it speaks to me.  I find that music has a special way of helping me to understand that I’m not alone; it entertains and motivates me, it cheers me up and at times it calms me down, it inspires me.  More often than not I think it provides a medicinal backdrop that we aren’t even aware of as we go about the routine of our day.  No matter what the genre is, there are songs of love and heartbreak, anger and victory, being lost and then found, songs of hope and faith.

I began the twelfth and final chapter of Walking in This World [Julia Cameron] with mixed feelings.  The past few months have been packed with an intensity of personal change and growth that surpasses any other time in my life and I felt ready for a break, ready to get back to being “normal,” although normal now has a whole new meaning. On the other hand the book had become a guide, leading me through each week and I wasn’t sure that I was ready to do it on my own and I wondered what was next.

The final chapter is entitled Discovering a Sense of Dignity, and Julia introduces it with a philosophy:  “The key to a successful creative life is the commitment to make things and in so doing make something better of ourselves and our world.  Creativity is an act of faith…Our graceful ability to encompass difficulty rests in our ability to be faithful.”

I’ve always thought about the creative process as the logistics of coming up with an idea and using the tools of the trade whether it be a notebook, a canvas, a flowerbed, or an orchestra to bring a piece of art to life.  I also thought that if you had a day job you couldn’t be an artist first, that you weren’t a “true artist” until you reached a certain level of notoriety or fame and that the fame must be accompanied by money or it wasn’t real.  Julia has set me straight on this notion more than once, “Art is a vocation, a calling, and if no one hears the call as loudly as we do, that doesn’t mean it isn’t there, that doesn’t mean we don’t hear it, and that doesn’t mean we don’t need to answer when it calls.”

I think she’s right when she says we sometimes shy away from letting our true colors show and we tuck away our creative desires into corners and steal a few minutes here and there because we want people to think we are “normal.”  In reality we need to express ourselves to our families and friends and help them understand that our creative calling is real and it’s not “just a hobby,” it’s who we are.  That’s not to say we can or should cast aside the responsibilities of being a parent, a partner, or provider, it is saying that if we don’t communicate our needs, if we don’t set aside time to write, paint, sing, dance, cook- to create, we may find ourselves ultimately frustrated and resenting the very necessary and important roles we play outside of our artists world.

I think the author is saying that first we need to become aware of ourselves and learn what it is we need.  Do we need an hour each morning or one after work?  Is it an occasional Saturday escape from the “real” world that we need to be an artist?  We must learn to understand and recognize that emotions like anxiety and doubt, fear and anger, love and happiness fuel our art and we have the power to choose resiliency over defeat and depression.  We owe it to ourselves and our most trusted friends and family to share what we’ve discovered. 

I have a notepad on my refrigerator which says “Masquerading as a Normal Person Day After Day is Exhausting,” and I smile at its truth every time I read it.  But it occurs to me that maybe if we let those closest to us in on our “secret” maybe it doesn’t have to be quite so exhausting.

When I took my first writing class two years ago it was a distraction from some upheaval and turmoil in my everyday life.  As my interest grew it became a passion and a dream.  I dreamt of being a writer, of being published, which I equated with money and it being a full time endeavor with no need for a “day job.”  Time and time again, Julia has turned my thoughts upside down and inside out, and the final section called Service was no different.

We tend to equate art and culture, using Merriam Webster to define it first as “acquaintance with and taste in fine arts, humanities, and broad aspects of science” and forget that maybe more importantly it is also defined by Merriam as “the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.” 

Julia struck a chord when she said, “We have very strange notions about art in our culture.  We have made it the cult of the individual rather than what it always has been, a human aspiration aimed at communicating and community.  We “commune” through art…”  I felt like it was one of the chance happenings she often refers to when I experienced a Moment of Magic and community through music on the day I finished the book.

 My reasons for writing have changed; I’ve come to realize that it’s not about me.  Art, whatever form it takes, is not intended to serve the artist, it’s meant to serve the community. Its purpose is to entertain and motivate, provide optimism and solace, its purpose is to inspire.  I struggle with the notion that I have a “gift,” it seems conceited to say so.  Do I still hope to make money as a result of my writing? Absolutely.   Will I quit writing if I don’t?  Absolutely not.   

Gifts are for giving and I think that translates to our personal talents as well.  By reaching out to others, sharing what we’ve learned through our experiences, putting  our egos aside, and making our contributions not about us but about our community I believe we can and will experience greater personal  joy and the world will be a better place.

I’m sad that the book is over and I’m more than a little scared to be without my “guide,” but I know it’s time…

“It’s time for me to fly.”