The focus of week nine of The Artists Way creative recovery course was recovering a sense of compassion. In order to do this one must face the internal blocks to creativity be it past failures, or perceptions of ourselves that result from our life experiences or that are projected onto us by others.
Reading Review: Week 9
This weeks reading were short, swift, and forceful. In nine short and sweet pages Cameron tackles our fear and enthusiasm and looks at how these emotions from our past experiences can create u-turns in our Artistic development.
Cameron believes that fear makes us unkind to ourselves. We can spend what feels like an eternity calling ourselves ‘lazy’ or assume we are procrastinating over a project when what is really holding us back is a sense of fear. This fear is real and doesn’t always come from negative learning experiences or feedback in our past. Some of us fear the future and what successes may lie ahead. This type of fear can be just as paralysing as a fear of failure or harm.
She also blasts the idea that Artists work as well regimented and structured creative machines or that discipline plays the key role in being a good artist. What Cameron proposes is that art comes from enthusiasm and that enthusiasm extends beyond the emotional state to a spiritual commitment. That if we approach our creative ventures with childlike awe and wonder that it is no longer a chore, and that creative energy will flow.
Enthusiasm doesn’t always come easy. Many artists might find that their past experiences or negative blockages are much easier to live with then deal with. This keeps the enthusiasm at bay. In fact we often tend to admire or appreciate the ideal of a ‘tortured artist’ far more than we celebrate those who are thriving in their craft. Most of the big names are favoured long after they are gone for their tales of woe (happy artists don’t often cut off their ear). Many people create their own blockages or ‘creative u turns’ in order to escape the possibility of failure or success. From this Cameron leads on with a series of steps to help your inner artist identify attempts at self sabotage and the following set of tasks are based around identifying reoccurring themes that may be blockages.
Task Review: Week 9
This weeks task list had only four tasks on it. Unfortunately one of these tasks was a doozy! Reading through your morning pages. Reading through eight weeks worth of waffle that was written at 6am is not a fun experience. Many of the things I learn’t about myself I already knew. Mostly that I need to be fed, well rested, and kept out of the sun or I turn into a gremlin. There were a few days worth of morning pages that surprised me with their brilliance. Making me think that someone snuck in an added them to my piles or perhaps I was sleep writing. The rest of the tasks were based around planning for the future, creating priorities, and working out where your personal creative u-turns have occurred.
Checking in and Reflecting
This week was the longest and most draining week ever!
Ironically for compassion week I was struck down with a bout of compassion fatigue.
Compassion fatigue is a pretty awful feeling that makes you care less about things you were previously passionate about and leaves you with a sense of hopelessness and a negative attitude. Personally I find that bouts of compassion fatigue correlate directly with the undertaking of academic sustainability subjects. I have never suffered from these kinds of feelings before in my life but have experienced them every single time I have been studying sustainability. My hypothesis is that sustainability in academia is approached with such a wide scope. You are made aware of all the things that are wrong in the world in a historical, current and future context. Some solutions are provided but mostly they come with a side serving of ‘it could work but it’s probably too late’ or ‘it won’t happen until society as we know it collapses’. It is difficult to maintain a ‘chipper’ attitude toward life when you are fed a diet of doom and gloom.
Fortunately University also teaches critical thinking, which allows you the opportunity to evaluate the points of view provided and derive your own conclusion. My conclusion is that academics have to have a margin for error to allow for constructive criticism and future study proposals. This is part of having a balance paper that will make it through the peer review process. Reporting the extremes of sustainability allows us to plan for the worst case future scenarios, and it also makes for better reading with more ‘shock’ and awe (and more research grants in the future). Whatever is written down has been done so to make the most exciting read possible and the academics themselves will happily point out the areas where they could be wrong.
What is said or predicted isn’t going to be the future. The truth is that no-one knows what our future will be. While this is scary it is also exciting as it allows for any kind of possible outcome. Including outcomes that don’t rely on the collapse of society. However, when you have a bout of compassion fatigue you may just wish for societal collapse so you don’t have to read about it anymore 😉
OH MY GOODNESS. Reading morning pages was a mission and I am glad it is over with. I managed to keep up to date with my pages all week and I am still enjoying the process. It has long past being something I have to think about and is now a daily habit with my morning meditation practice.
How does one cure compassion fatigue?
Doctors everywhere should prescribe one intravenous dose of Michael Franti and Spearhead to sufferers world wide. On Friday even I had the opportunity to spend my first night ever worshipping at the Franti altar. For those of you who have no idea who I am talking about please let me introduce you to one of my personal life long muses.
When I was in high school his ‘Stay Human’ album inspired me to fight for the rights of others starting my very own Amnesty group at school and raising money every year for their annual Candle Day fundraiser. His lyrics and messages have followed me through my whole life even to the point where the lines from his ‘Rock the Nation’ song became my personal motto through my Environmental Studies:
Sittin’ by and wonderin’ why,
Things ain’t the way we like to find them to be, to be
For you and for me the people over there and the ones in between
Are we part of the solution or are we part of the pollution?
It was an honour to see him live, especially after reading rave reviews that a visit to a Michael Franti gig borderlines on being a spiritual experience. From the moment Franti and the Spearhead gang got on stage the room was a-buzz with happiness. Not content to the confines of the stage the band spent much of the gig singing in the audience, taking selfies with peoples phones, and hugging audience members. All the while many of the audience members danced on the stage. There were loads of big sunshiney yellow balloons to throw around, group hugs with strangers, sing-a-longs, and contemplation on peace and social justice. At one point Franti introduced us to an inspiring woman named Sarah who had suffered a stroke in her early twenties that resulted in ‘locked-in’ syndrome, hearing this courageous woman’s story and seeing her progress today was enough to realise that the world is an amazing place and that despite the doom and gloom that so many predict things can change for the better. Love, compassion, and hope can go a long way even if it’s effects can’t be quantified by science! You can hear all about Sarah’s story in this clip below
The Franti experience ended with most of the audience on stage in one massive dance party, while the band circulated the venue taking photos with fans, rubbing pregnant bellies, and singing to people friends who couldn’t make it to the gig via face time!
I left with a t-shirt drenched in sweat and the biggest smile I have ever experienced in years (aside from one hilarious Ross Nobel comedy gig).
If you only ever see one band live in your lifetime make it Michael Franti and Spearhead. You will never ever forget it.
This week the universe sent me two more teachings in the form of books from the tip shop (this seems to be the preferred way it likes to communicate with me at the moment). Feeling a bit at odds with the world of science and academia and it not quite aligning with my creative pursuits I came across a book called Exuberance: The Passion for Life by Kay Redfield Jamison, which has a review printed on the front that states:
Jamison is that rare writer who can offer a kind of unified field theory of science and art…
Freaky hey! Only a couple of chapters in but it has definitely had a few inspiring bits that had me leaping out of bed to share them with my Mr. who was watching TV. The other book that was delivered to me was book of the delightful ‘Learning to Love you More‘ e-art project by Harrell Fletcher and Miranda July. It is a delightful slice of humanity in one little picture book. A perfect instant pick-me-up for a glum moment.
Reflection on Week Nine
Week nine has been the biggest week for me yet on this Artists Way journey. It has been difficult to balance my exuberant artists feelings in a world of academic boundaries but it looks like I might be on the recovery path out of my compassion fatigue slump.
My question for you this week is ‘have you ever felt hopeless when it comes to environmental or sustainability related problems?’
Feel free to share your experience below along with any suggestions you have for shaking the blues away.