Affirmations and Blurts

by Elouise

It’s September 2009.  I’m beginning a long-overdue sabbatical, and am determined to get back to personal writing.  I’m excited about using The Artist’s Way as my guide.  Twelve weeks of structured exercises every day.  I love it!

Well, maybe not all of it.  It sounds great, but will it work?  I can do morning pages (750 words each morning).  I’ve been journaling for years, and already have a pile of empty spiral notebooks ready to go.

You say I’m also supposed to do one ‘artist date’ a week?  Spend 2-3 hours of time just with myself?  Doing something just for me?

Sometimes I’m an obedient woman.  The first exercise is about affirmations.  Dutifully, I choose one affirmation from the author’s list of 20, open my first workbook exercise notebook, and begin to write.

I am allowed to nurture my artist.

I write the sentence down ten times over, emphasizing different words each time.  Sure enough, the Censor begins to blurt out objections.  I barely have time to get one down before another hits me:

  • You can’t!  There’s work to do.  There’s not enough time to do everything!
  • You can’t!  That’s irresponsible.  What will people think???
  • There are so many others who need your nurturing.  You’re such a good and wise nurturer.  How dare you let all those people down?!  They’re depending on you.
  • You’ll never have enough time!
  • There’s always someone else you need to nurture first.  Why don’t you spend time with me? Don’t you care about me?
  • What a monstrous waste of time!  Just think of all the other things you could get done.
  • What makes you think you’re still an artist?
  • You’re 65 years old!  It’s way too late for things like this.

Thankfully, I’m not left hanging.  I turn these ‘blurts’ into affirmations and post a synopsis above my desk:

As God’s beloved daughter child,
I nurture the creative energy God has entrusted to me.
It’s never too late.
It’s never a waste of time.
It’s never irresponsible.

Then I decide what I’m going to do on my first artist date.  After all, I am depending on me; I can’t let myself down!

Why am I going back to this?
It’s simple.  I still struggle to believe I’m an artist.  A painter of words, images, pictures.

It’s easy for me to say I’m a theologian.  Why?  Because that’s what I am, as a layperson and as a professional.  Nothing will change that.  I’ve known for years I wouldn’t be at peace until I put my father’s theology to rest.  Not by exorcising it, but by telling the truth when I speak, behave, and write as this theologian.  This woman.  This survivor.  This writer!

There’s the rub.  The writing.  Few things give me as much pleasure as writing something I enjoy reading.  Not just silently, but out loud.  Is there a writer who doesn’t understand that?

Yes, I care what others think.  But most of all, I care what I think and feel as I read what I’ve written.  Sometimes it seems that my writing is, in fact, my life.  Or at least a way of knowing myself better.  More revealing than picture albums.  More exciting than a biographical account of my life—where I’ve lived and what I’ve done and what I’ve learned or not learned.

Until recently, my public writing has been consciously theological and administrative.  Not bad.  I managed to turn some of my theological writing into personal narrative and self-reflection.  It was wonderful.

Yet I long for more—not simply because I have a story to tell and explore, but because I love creating any combination of words that sing.  Words that make music, that evoke my joy, tears, deep feelings, whatever.

So here I am, finding my way as the kind of writer I’ve always wanted to be.  Not bound by others’ expectations and judgments about its contents or my motives or my grammar or even (this is hard) my spelling.

OK.  I know.  I’m a bit of a perfectionist.  Which, ironically, is why I want to revisit my journey with The Artist’s Way.  I wrote things in my spiral notebooks that I’ve now ‘forgotten.’  Some might help me understand better how to tell the truth about myself and discern where I want to go next.

My first task:  Schedule an artist date with myself this week!

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 November 2014

Julie Cameron, The Artist’s Way:  A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, © 1992, 2002 by Julia Cameron; a Tarcher/Putnam book, published by Penguin Putnam Inc., NY