Monday, April 7, 2008

Discovering a Sense of Camaraderie

Week 10 - Discovering a Sense of Camaraderie

Keep the Drama on the Stage

Julia Cameron states, “Artists are dramatic. Art is dramatic. When artists are not making artistic dramas, they tend to make personal ones. Feeling off center, they demand center stage. Feeling on tilt, they tilt at an imaginary windmill.

All of us are creative, but those of us who are for a living had better learn to create with the same quotidian grace as our cousin who works at the bank, our father who administers his department at the university, or our neighbor who manages the hardware store. When we make our creative work and our creative lives too special and too dramatic, we uproot those lives from a sense of community and continuity – and that’s exactly what we like to do whenever we get too nervous. Nervous, we create dramas to make ourselves more nervous.

You would think that someone would have the nerve to say, ‘Oh, just stop it.’ As artists, we should say it to ourselves, but drama gives us an excuse to not make art and so artistic anorexia is addictive. We get an adrenalized anxiety from not making art. We can binge on this chemical roller-coaster when work is due.

Artists become snappish when they need to make art. Artistic anorexia, the avoidance of the pleasure of the creative, is a pernicious addiction that strikes most artists sometimes and always takes us by surprise. Instead of making art, we make trouble – and we make it because we are bingeing emotionally on not making art.

As a rule of thumb, artists should repeat this mantra: Sudden problems in my life usually indicate a need to work on my art.

With our fine imaginations, artists can be drama addicts. We can also become physically addicted to our adrenalized anxiety in place of authentic creation. Too much drama is not fun, but it gives us something to do instead of making art. Until we break the code on this avoidance, we believe our dramatic scenarios.

As artists, we can be con artists. We con ourselves into thinking that our dramatic dilemmas mean more than our art, and that indulging in drama will ever-satisfy our creative impulses.”

The Good of Getting Better

In the greatest confusion there is still an open channel to the soul. It may be difficult to find because by midlife it is overgrown, and some of the wildest thickets that surround it grow out of what we describe as our education. But the channel is always there, and it is our business to keep it open, to have access to the deepest part of ourselves. ~ Saul Bellow

As a student of art, you need to make the observation as to when you outgrow a teacher. They are there in the beginning to guide us along our creative path but can later constrict our creative style. Cameron says, “Freed from outer influences, they may incubate and develop a strikingly original style. That’s the good part. Freed from outer influences, they may also hit an artificially low ceiling, having taken their work as far as they can without further input.”

Try to discover your true, honest, untheoretical self. ~ Brenda Ueland

The author also states, “Art, as remarked, is a form of the verb ‘to be’ and, as artists, our spiritual and intellectual perceptions often lead and goad our need for increased technique. We can see it but we can’t paint it. We can hear it but we can’t play it. We need help. We can get help – or we can give up, discouraged by the gap between our inner standards and our own ability to meet them.

Each of us learns in our own way and at our own pace, and yet someone’s excellent method will have something to offer us if we are willing to offer ourselves the opportunity to learn.

We must be open to finding our teachers and open to being teachable – while simultaneously holding an awareness of our equally valid, genuine perceptions and skills that must be protected.
It is an often repeated spiritual axiom that ‘when the student is ready, the teacher appears.’ When we ask to be led, we are led. When we ask to be guided, we are guided. When we ask to be taught, we are taught.

It is spiritual law that the good of our projects and our growth as artists must rest in divine hands and not merely human ones. While we are led to and drawn from teacher to teacher, opportunity to opportunity, God remains the ultimate source of all our creative good. It is easy to forget this and make our agent or our manager or our current teacher the source of our ‘good.’ When we place our reliance on an undergirding of divine assistance, we are able to hear our cues clearly, thank those who step forward to aid us, release those who seem to impede us, and keep unfolding as artists with the faith that God knows precisely what is best for us and can help us find our path, no matter how lost, distanced, or removed we may sometimes feel from our dream. In the heart of God, all things are close at hand, and this means our creative help, support, and success. As we ask, believe, and are open to receive, we are gently led.”

Before, During and After Friends

The book tells us, “As artists, we need people who can see us for who we are – as big as we are and as small as we are, as competent and powerful as we are, and as terrified and as tiny as we sometimes feel. As artists, we need people who believe in us and are able to see our large selves, and people who are able to be gentle and compassionate with our smaller selves.

Friends who see the glory but not its gory cost are the friends we may not be able to afford. Friends who see our success but do not see its stressors can tend to actually ask us to care for them just at those moments when we ourselves need care. This is why we need before, during, and after friends. We need those who can help us leap and help us land, help us celebrate and help us mourn. Some friends can do only one. Some friends can do only the other. We must find those generous enough in temperament and emotional range to do both.”

Remember, as artists we need to focus on the process of creating, and not on the product.

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