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Animas River, Durango, CO

I’m the kind of person who makes her therapist cry. Not really, but I think I’m driving her nuts—which seems a little backwards, doesn’t it?

I started seeing her because part of her expertise is in helping adults who have ADD and I wanted to figure out how to live better with my ADD. Mind you, I didn’t go in to deal with my emotions about ADD, but to learn how to handle my everyday life in ways that my emotions wouldn’t be so much of an issue.

Maybe I should have told her that upfront!

The bigger part of our work together has been helping me figure out how to handle everyone else in my life who has ADD tendencies and who needs my help without all those needs driving me crazy. Sure, this may just be denial on my part, but that’s what I think we’ve been working on.

Anyway, as I am facing Mom’s final illness, my therapist worries she’s not doing enough for me psychologically. The practical person in me is thinking how much can she do? I’m going to have to let go of my mother and deal with how hard it is to do so. She can’t change that.

See the funny thing about me is that I don’t go to a therapist to mourn my losses or grieve through my problems. I go to figure out what I can do about what I can control. And maybe, just a little bit, to understand how my emotions might get in the way of doing those things that I know would help me—if I could only get myself to do them.

In fact, I finally realized my therapist is worried that I am not facing my emotions because I am mostly level-headed in her office. And, without realizing just how crazy this sounds, I thought, “Well, if she’s not sure I’m facing my emotions, why doesn’t she just read my blogs?”

How’s that for not quite getting the therapist/patient dialogue? I want her to “read” how I feel?

Ah, but writing has been my therapist for much longer than she has. I only went to her after I realized that talking to myself, through writing, wasn’t going to be quite enough. Even if personal writing had gotten me through many dark nights of the soul, maybe it wasn’t going to be enough to move me forward.

But in combination with therapy, I’d say writing’s healing power is why I don’t need even more help. Really. It’s been twelve years since I finally committed to personal journaling after I began working through Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way program. That writing habit, combined with prayer, regular exercise, good company, and a commitment to doing other creative activities, got me through for many years.

Still, I came to realize that ADD was managing me. And that’s when I started treatment for the ADD. Good thing that I did since the lives of many I love blew off course soon after.

I promise I do cry and I do lose control of these emotions that can seem so measured to others. I do get down on my knees and wail over my losses—just not in a therapist’s office. Ask my dogs if you don’t believe me.

This post marks a milestone: my 200th post since I began this public blog of my personal writings. Blogging has been one of the best things—psychologically and otherwise—I’ve done for myself throughout the difficult odyssey that has been the last two years of my life.

Now, would it be considered denial just to print out these words and hand them to my therapist?

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That’s right, today, October 20, is National Day on Writing, a day established by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) “(t)o draw attention to the remarkable variety of writing we (Americans) engage in and help make writers from all walks of life aware of their craft . . . .”

Perhaps you forgot to wrap up gifts of pens or journals for all your friends? Didn’t get around to buying that new laptop to celebrate National Day on Writing? Don’t worry—as part of the day’s celebrations, today the NCTE unveiled The National Gallery of Writing to the public.

What is The National Gallery of Writing and why should you care? You supply the why, but here’s the what, according to words from the website:

The National Gallery of Writing is a virtual space—a website—where people who perhaps have never thought of themselves as writers—mothers, bus drivers, fathers, veterans, nurses, firefighters, sanitation workers, stockbrokers—select and post writing that is important to them. The Gallery accommodates any composition format—from word processing to photography, audio/video recording to text messages—and all types of writing—from letters to lists, memoirs to memos.

The ways we share our words continue to evolve through time, but the need for effective communication will never go away.

I write for a living, but hardly notice how often I use my writing for daily life. It’s easy to think only my formal writing counts, sort of like the way I count the miles I run but forget all the miles included in warm-ups and cool-downs, walking to and from the car, around the house, etc. All the informal work is part of honing my abilities.

I’m sure my writing skills improved a lot from doing Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way program and finally being able to stick with a journaling habit. Julia’s admonition to write as a matter of clearing your brain for further creative projects gets you in the habit, whether or not you choose to express your creativity in writing. As much as she said not to worry about what or how I was writing, I have gotten quite a few really good works—some that have been published with minimal edits—from that writing process.

Another benefit of regular journal writing is the ability to have a record of my life in all the ups and downs and in-betweens. Previously I tended to journal only when I was upset. Anyone reviewing those journals would think I led a very unhappy life!

As old school as I am, I am much less revealing in my “public” private writings, such as my blog or the essays I do publish. I don’t use my blog as a way to “out” businesses—I think organizations deserve the respect of a personal complaint before I blab to millions of my “closest” friends. I know, thanks to the digital age, we live in a time of TMI—too much information—but having multiple forums does get people to reach out to others! It’s too soon to tell yet if the lack of concern for personal privacy or treating others with respect will remain at the current level, or if, as we get more used to this type of writing lifestyle, some of the rough edges will smooth out.

If nothing else, all the digital options get people to write who might not have done so otherwise. Christiana’s typing (keyboarding?) skills improved rapidly as she began to do more online social networking. And, as much as people lament the denigration of the written language through chatting and texting, I haven’t seen a lot of that from the young people I know—sure I can’t keep up with the speed of their texts, but I don’t have to know a code to read them. The Word feature for texting actually improves my daughter’s not so natural spelling instincts.

As for myself, I think sometimes it takes me longer to write an objective e-mail than to write a personal essay. Almost always, I write as a professional writer and do not hit “send” until I have proofed the message several times, both for grammatical and/or spelling errors, as well as content errors. I try hard to keep any of my bylines from being besmirched by errors, although sometimes I still miss a few.

However, I’ve learned the hard way that in this age, if you do slip and send out an e-mail in the heat of the moment, it may get passed on before you’ve had time to compose the more measured message you intended to send, kind of like when your note gets intercepted in algebra class. Digital writing can develop a life of its own!

So today, reach out to someone with your writing. Feel free to text or e-mail, but please—talk to me in person if we’re together! Even writers like to talk, something that’s incredibly obvious when you get us out from behind our computer screens and into a room together. On second thought, maybe you will have to text me if you want me to “hear” you at our writing gatherings!

May you write often and prosper!

(c) 2009, CBL

(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert

It’s been ten years since I worked my way through Julia Cameron’s Artist Way 12-week program. Happy 10 Year Anniversary to me!

Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, says we all need to restock our creative ponds regularly. It’s ironic how often while I am in the middle of creative projects that I ignore her advice because I think I’m too busy. And then I wonder why I’m experiencing a creative block . . .

One of her main tools for creative maintenance is at least weekly artist dates. Artist dates, according to Cameron on her website, “are times for receptivity, preplanned solitary hours of pleasurable activity aimed at nurturing the creative consciousness.” That means you don’t have to do anything particularly artistic.

Sometimes an artist date can just be a visit to a store that brings you joy, even if you don’t purchase anything there. Just Saturday I visited a Party City store and knew that was my kind of artist date store. Toys, decorations, confetti, candy, tiaras, Mardi gras beads, monkey masks—you name it. Yet the only things I brought home, beyond the jumbo glasses my daughter needed for her own artist date (ask her about the project!), were stocking stuffers for other people.

Maybe the store visit restocked my pond just enough that when faced with a cold, gray afternoon on a difficult day, I thought, “I should paint.” I don’t think I’ve painted in decades. Luckily I live with a young artist who has many supplies. Of course, all I needed was her cheap grade school watercolor set.

She came home and found me deep in concentration, paintbrush in hand. She got out her supplies and sat down to finish a school art project while I pondered the simplest of techniques. Still, I didn’t ask for help—this wasn’t about doing things the “right” way. It wasn’t even about the end product. It was about giving in to the process and filling that pond.

But you’ve got to wonder, if the pond is my creativity, do I now have a head full of fish??

Well, fish oil is good for improving concentration and mood, so that works for me!

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Blogging AtoZ Challenge 2012

(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert

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