Monday, March 7, 2016

Week 5: The Artist's Way


Week 5: 
Recovering a Sense of Possibility

I apologize for my hiatus. My husband had major surgery and it kind of threw me for a loop. So if there’s any time I need a creative recovery, it’s now.  Anyway, I hope to be back on my weekly or sort-of-weekly schedule of going through this program.

This past week we were supposed to examine our payoffs to remaining stuck. Julia Cameron said most of us have a limited notion to what we are able to accomplish. I’d agree with this. Lately, with my focus elsewhere and not on my writing, I don’t believe I can write at all. So I haven’t even tried.

Cameron suggests we look to our higher power (whatever that is for us) for help, saying that we must not set a limit on how much He can help us or give us. Here’s the thing, while I’m not a religious person, I am spiritual. And I’ve prayed every night for my husband’s healing. I haven’t thought to pray for my creative recovery—it sounds so trite and trivial in comparison. But perhaps I shouldn’t limit my beliefs to thinking I’m asking for too much.

Cameron says we need to stop discounting our dreams, and not be afraid to ask for help, guidance, abundance. Hmm. That’ll be hard for me, given my circumstances now, but I will try. I will try to be open to opportunities and at least try to write again.

She also says we must have downtime to do nothing. That withdrawal from others is a necessity to an artist. If we deprive ourselves of this, we feel “vexed, angry, out of sorts.” I can relate to this. I have had no time to myself for weeks. I don’t begrudge my husband or the situation, but I guess it makes sense then that I have no creative well to draw from when I barely have time to myself to think. I will work on this. I will try to tend a bit more to my needs as I’m tending to his.

So… no major revelations this week. If my life wasn’t so topsy turvy right now, I would have really enjoyed this week’s exercises and readings. I’m going to assume my subconscious is taking in all Cameron’s advice to use sometime in the future.

Weekly Check-in:

Morning pages: Except for the few days I stayed at the hospital with my hubby, I have done these religiously. In fact, I believe they’re what have kept me somewhat sane.

Artist Date: Ummm, not really. I have been coloring in my adult coloring book, which I find enjoyable and meditative. I feel guilty coloring for more than a few minutes at a time, but some is better than none, right?

Any synchronicity this week? If there was, I wasn’t paying attention. LOL. Maybe next week…



Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Week 4: The Artist's Way


Recovering a Sense of Integrity

This is the week we start sorting through the differences between our real feelings (how we really feel) and our official feelings (what we project publicly). Julia Cameron warns this may be exciting or really difficult, or both. Uh, yeah. This week was hell.

When someone asks how we are, we usually answer, "I'm fine," or "All good," or some other innocuous answer. But inside, are we really fine? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Our morning pages help us get to the root of how and what we are truly feeling, not just about our art and creativity, but about our lives. 

Life has been a struggle for me and my family lately. My husband has battled unemployment and now cancer. People are always asking me how we're doing, how I'm doing. I always say, "I'm fine. It's all fine. We'll get through this." I do believe we'll get through this, but am I fine? Oh, hell no. Inside my head, I'm curled up in a fetal position wanting to ignore the world because it's all so overwhelming. I've been writing down my thoughts in my morning pages, unraveling how I'm really feeling rather than the way I project myself to the outside world. I didn't expect The Artist's Way to help me get a handle on this most difficult time in my life, but it is. You can't hide in the morning pages. 

Thanks to this program, I'm trying to find more alone time--time to think, cry, write my pages, do my weekly tasks, whatever. I feel like I'm nearing a break-thru, that I'll be able to write again soon. Every time I try, I just stare at the blinking cursor and no words come. But I really don't feel stuck anymore; I just don't quite know where I am at the moment. Cameron says that's normal. . 

This is also a week where we work on our changing self-definition. It encouraged me to finally start working on my goals for the year, in my writing business, health and fitness. I've been redefining what health and fitness means to me. Before my husband's diagnosis, it was all about losing those extra pounds I've gained, upping my workouts, achieving new feats of physical fitness. Now, it's about my general health and that of my family. I want to eat healthier and work out more consistently to be healthier, live longer and feel better, rather than to lose weight or look better in my jeans. 

On a lighter note...Ugh. This was the week of reading deprivation. Luckily, it took me 3 days into the week to read the chapter, so I *only* had 4 days of this special kind of hell. According to Cameron, reading deprivation "casts us into our inner silence." Even though reading is vital to a writer, by depriving ourselves of this inflow of someone else's words, new words will begin to form inside of us. Hmm, didn't really happen like that for me. I kept forgetting and would find myself accidentally reading. Oops. Instead of reading, I watched more Criminal Minds reruns, listened to some podcasts, and almost shot myself out of boredom as I walked on my treadmill with nothing to read. 

Still, Cameron insists it's a powerful tool--"and a very frightening one. Even thinking about it can bring up enormous rage." Yep, that was me. Rage-aholic for the the last four days. LOL

All in all, it was an... interesting week. Glad it's over. Ready to move ahead.

Weekly Check-in:

Morning pages--Did these daily. I start the pages with 10 things I'm grateful for. Monday, #1 was "I'm grateful I'm allowed to read today." LOL

Tasks--I did most of them.

Artist Date--Nope. Why do I resist this? I have no idea.


How's the program going for you? Any breakthroughs?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Artist's Way--Week 3

Week 3
Recovering a Sense of Power

You may have noticed that Week 3 took me two weeks instead of one. While this program is 12 weeks in the book, I
figured there was no harm in going longer if I felt the need.

I ended up purchasing the workbook, and have been reading through it, doing some tasks from earlier weeks that I skipped. I think the workbook will be really valuable – I recommend getting it if you haven’t already.

Every section of this week’s chapter spoke to me. The first is about Anger. “In the recovery of a blocked artist, anger is a sign of health,” Cameron says. Well, good. Guess I’m healthy. She says with a little digging, we can figure out what our anger is trying to tell us, that it will always tell us how we’ve betrayed ourselves.

I’m angry at myself for all the time I’ve wasted over the last few weeks/months/years, worrying about this, that and the other thing rather than just writing. I spend a lot of time telling myself “I can’t” or “This is a waste of time” rather than just sitting down to write. I spend a lot of time being jealous and envious of others’ successes; if I spent as much time writing as I do comparing myself to others, I’d be way better off. If I could grab myself by the shoulders and shake myself, I would.

Cameron also talks about Synchronicity. This is probably my favorite part of this whole course, because it’s so true. “Watch out for what you pray for, you just might get it.” She says once we start our creative recovery, synchronicity (answered prayers, the open door, whatever you want to call it) will pop up everywhere. She says never to ask yourself if you can do something. She says to say instead that you are doing it. And amazing things will start to happen. 

“Let your hook always be cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish.”--Ovid

I haven’t experienced much synchronicity yet while doing this creative recovery, but I know I will. I just need to keep my eyes open to it.

Another thing Cameron talks about which really hits home with me is Shame. “What will the neighbors think” was my grandmother’s favorite saying. It must have sunk into my brain because whenever I write a steamy sex scene, I think my mom’s going to read this, or some of my co-workers might read this, etc. Why do I care? If I wrote graphic horror novels, I wouldn’t think twice about friends and family reading those scenes. Maybe it’s because I’ve gotten so many comments over the years about my choice to write romance. “I think it’s time you take your writing more seriously.” “Did you know Becky writes those smut novels?” “Do you actually read romances?” Yes. I love to read romance novels. It’s my favorite genre. It makes sense that I would write it. So what’s my problem?

I also feel shame that I spend so much time on my writing, when I could be spending more time with my family, or cleaning my house, or cooking, or any of the bazillion other activities I could be doing.

Clearly, I have some serious issues to overcome, LOL, thus this program and thus the reason for taking my time in completing Week 3.

Weekly Check-in:
Morning pages—I do these daily. They are pretty whiny and like a glorified To Do list lately, but my day would feel incomplete without them.

Artist Date: Last week, I spent about 45 minutes at the local Goodwill, looking at their huge selection of used books. I also like looking through the furniture and vases and pottery. This week, I didn’t do an artist date. I’m still resisting it. It still feels like a waste of my time, which means I really need it.

Tasks: I did the majority of the tasks. Now that I have the workbook, I plan to eventually go back and finish them all.

How’s your creative recovery going? Does my craziness make you feel better about yours?



Monday, January 18, 2016

Week 2: The Artist's Way


Week 2
Recovering a Sense of Identity

I just finished my second week of The Artist’s Way 12-week program. This week, author Julia Cameron talks about how we doubt our creative power. We question how on earth the “universe” might be cooperating with us as we strive to find our creativity again.

But I had at least one instance where this seemed spot on. I like to listen to writing podcasts while I’m driving. When one finishes, it immediately goes on to the next one. Well, one day last week, the podcast I was listening to finished and went right into the next. It was one about freelance writing—something I had no interest in listening to and normally would’ve deleted it and gone on to another. But I didn’t want to fiddle with my phone while I was driving. I ended up listening to that podcast twice, checking out the interviewee's blog and signing up for her newsletter.

Long ago I had a dream of being a freelance writer, but that dream got lost along the way of my life and my fiction writing career. But freelance writing makes so much sense—I have 14 years experience as a personal trainer/instructor/coach. Why have I not tried my hand at fitness writing? I have a background in graphic design and illustration. Could there be something in that industry I could write about? Hmm. The wheels in my brain are starting to turn…

Cameron wants us to set aside our skepticism. When a weird idea or coincidence pops up or presents itself to us, we should gently nudge the door open and peek inside, rather than slamming the door to new ideas and/or possibilities. Which is what I tend to do a lot. It’s all about being open-minded (or open-doored LOL).

She says creative blocks manifest in our fantasies, in our daydreams. We need to start paying attention to those. “Sanity lies in paying attention,” she says.

So starting today, I will pay attention. I will nudge that door open and peer inside.

What about you? What do you need to start paying attention to?

Weekly Check-in:
  • I did my morning pages daily (easy for me; it’s been my routine for 10+ years).
  • Tasks—I did a couple of them; resisted these for some reason.
  • Artist Date—I went on a 4-day writing retreat with six other authors. So I basically had a 4-day Artist Date, and it was fabulous, inspiring and humbling.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Week 1--The Artist's Way


Week 1—The Artist’s Way
Recovering a Sense of Safety

I just finished Week 1 of The Artist’s Way, a book/program written and designed by Julia Cameron. I’ve done this program before—the first time in the mid-90s, back when “everyone” was doing it. I’m doing it again now because life hasn’t been very kind lately and I really got away from my writing and my creativity. I’m hoping these 12 weeks will ease me back into a creative life.

So… week one. It’s all about feeling safe with one’s creativity, safe from others’ judgments and safe from my own. My internal editor is a total bitch (her name is Helga), and AW is all about learning to ignore Helga and be a bad artist for a while if that’s what it takes.

Julia Cameron says our biggest enemy is our negative core beliefs. She says if we are blocked in an area of our life, it’s because we feel safer that way. Hmm. This used to be my issue, which is why I’ve done the program before. But right now, I haven’t been writing (being an artist) for several months due to personal reasons that have nothing to do with writing. Back in October my husband was diagnosed with colorectal cancer after a routine screening. His prognosis is good, but our world went topsy turvy, and my focus turned far away from my writing to him and our kids. I haven’t written more than 2000 words since early October.

Normally, that would really stress me out, but I’ve been very patient with myself because I know I’ve been focusing on what’s important. However… now that my hubby is between treatments for the moment, I feel ready to get back to the page. I never feel quite right unless I’m writing. Unfortunately, when I sit down in front of the computer, Helga is screaming in my ear so loudly that all I can do is stare at my blinking cursor. She’s telling me that my writing isn’t important at all, my husband is. That if I focus on my writing, I’m not focusing on him. Or my kids.  Even though they all want me writing again.

I just can’t shut Helga up on my own. Thus, the Artist’s Way to the rescue. I can’t say I’ve made a ton of progress in one week, but I did my morning pages every morning (three pages of unedited, stream of conscious writing). I did most of the tasks, and even did my artist date—Cameron says in order to be a good artist, we must regularly fill the creative well. That means taking myself on a weekly artist date. I went to Ben Franklin, a craft store I haven’t spent much time in for years. I made myself walk down every aisle, lingering longer in the print art and gallery section, and the art supplies section. But I felt very antsy, like I was wasting time and should be doing something else, like being home with my family (I blame Helga again).

Anyway, doing this program makes me feel like I’ve come home again—maybe because I did it in the early days of my writing career, when I was 20+ years younger. I look forward to seeing what the program can do for me this time, now that I’m older and wiser. (Um… Older, yeah. Wiser? Ha ha ha ha.)

If you’re doing the program with me, let me know how you’re doing and if you had any a ha moments.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Becoming a less neurotic writer (is there such a thing?)




Author's Note: I will be starting the 12-week Artist's Way journey beginning January 4. I'll be blogging weekly about my progress. I'd love for some of you to join me.

In early 2015, I set a goal to become a less neurotic writer. Well, it’s been almost a year, and I still have a long way to go. I have a lifetime of bad habits and neuroses to overcome. Julia Cameron of The Artist’s Way calls this journey “creative recovery.” Hmm. That has a much more positive ring to it than becoming less neurotic, doesn’t it?

My personal journey involves daily journaling, meditating, yoga and nature walks. I haven’t been doing any of those things as much as I would like, but despite some personal life bumps in the road, I’m making progress (but not enough, which is why I'll be doing The Artist's Way again).

I have the meanest, bitchiest internal editor to ever walk the face of the earth. She is downright cruel. You should hear what she says to me. It’s not even printable. I call her Helga. Ugly name for an ugly being. (If your name is Helga, I apologize--I’m sure you’re a lovely person.)

Some things I’ve been reading in The Artist’s Way have really hit home. Cameron talks about how anger is at the root of much of our creative neuroses. She says that “in the recovery of a blocked artist, anger is a sign of health.” Awesome. I must be a flippin’ health guru, because I’ve been mad a lot lately. In fact, it seems I’m always ticked off about something or other in regard to my writing career. Recently, a couple of writer friends/acquaintances who just started writing achieved greater success (ie: big sales to major publishers or making oodles of money self-publishing) than I have in all my years of struggling. I went through the mature reactions of “It’s not fair!” and “They haven’t paid their dues!” and listened when Helga told me that I’ll never achieve similar success because I suck as a writer. Yeah, it was a really pleasant time in the Clark household.

Cameron asks us to pinpoint what it is we’re really mad at. She says anger is our friend—it will always tell us when we have betrayed ourselves. This was an aha! moment for me. I’m not angry at these friends or even the situation. I’m angry at myself—for the opportunities I didn’t explore, the countless hours I’ve wasted not writing, the wrong turns I’ve taken. It’s all about me. Now that I realize it’s me I’m pissed at, now maybe I can redirect that feeling into my work.

Cameron also talks about synchronicity, which is another word for answered prayers. Be careful what you wish for. Knock and the door will open. Ask and you will receive. However you want to say it. Cameron says once we begin our creative recovery, synchronicity will pop up everywhere. It’s happened to me—a few months ago, I was telling a friend and fellow writer that I wished I had some sort of group to keep me motivated to write on days when I don’t feel like it (like today). Well, she just happened to belong to an international group of women writers with a monthly quota of submissions and critiques, and a few days later I had an invitation in my inbox.


Try it for yourself. Put your wish or desire “out there” and see what happens. And keep me posted. And if you’re a writer who is not neurotic, please tell me your secret in the comments.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Interview with... CHRISTY GISSENDANER


Thanks for being here today, Christy. Would you please share a short bio about yourself?

Thanks for having me! I’m Christy Gissendaner and I hail

from the great state of Alabama. I’m a busy wife, mother, office manager, and romance author - or author(s), as the case may be. I write under two pen names, but I’m here today as Christy. 

Do you consider yourself a shy and/or introverted person? 

Oh my gosh, yes! Very, very shy and introverted. I’ve grown out of my shell a tad bit as an adult, but if I’m ever in a new situation, I revert back to the shy, introverted gal of my youth. 

In what ways has being shy or introverted hindered your writing career?
Online, I’m not shy AT ALL. In fact, I would almost say the opposite. Where being shy has hindered me has been at conferences and promotional events. I hesitate to put myself out there and do anything that comes across as “look at me”. Book signings are the worst! I stare at the table, unable to make eye contact with anyone. In fact, I still can’t make eye contact, even in my day to day life. 

In what ways has being shy or introverted helped your writing career?

Hmm…that’s a hard one. Being shy also hindered me when I began to write sex scenes, which let’s face is a necessity in romances today. So I really don’t fell being shy helped me in any way. 

What’s the hardest part of this business for you?

Finding the time to write. Hands down. 

Tell me about a time that you had to step outside your comfort zone either in your writing career or in your personal life?

My day job requires me to give a financial summary at our monthly Board meetings. Even though it’s a small number of people, I absolutely dread standing up and speaking in front of people. 

What’s one tip you could share with shy and introverted people that’s helped you?

It’s okay to be shy. Not everyone can have the “big” personality! 

Would you please share a short blurb of your book and where my readers can buy it?

CHRISTMAS SPIRITS (Available now!) Kia May has little time for anything as her lifelong dream of being a fashion designer comes to fruition. For Christmas, she takes time out of her busy schedule to visit her family, where her grandmother reveals a secret of her Baoule heritage. 


In Baoule, located on the Ivory Coast of Africa, the people believe in spirit lovers, which you are separated from at birth. Tedros, Kia’s lover from the spirit world, appears to her and reveals that he is there to assist her in finding a mortal lover.

Elliot Melton, the brother of Kia's new sister in law, is also invited to share the season with the family. With the help of a meddling grandmother and an otherworldly spirit, Elliot and Kia soon find out that Christmas is the best time to fall in love.
Where can my readers find you on the web?

Visit me at http://christygissendaner.webs.com

Thanks for having me!!

More about Christy:

Christy Gissendaner is a paranormal and contemporary romance author who believes laughter and love should go hand in hand.

Christy lives in Alabama with her husband and three sons. She’s always hard at work on her next novel, but in her spare time she loves blackjack, karaoke, and anything resembling a vacation!

To find out more, please visit http://christygissendaner.webs.com





Thanks so much for coming on today, Christy!