Officially, the chapter’s title is “Recovering a Sense of Integrity.” But for me, this is where things start getting real. First off, SPOILER ALERT! This is the chapter where Julia reveals something kinda important. So if you haven’t been following along and doing your morning pages, artist’s date and chapter tasks, you might want to STOP HERE, turn around and go back to Chapter One or wherever you left off. I say this because I’m not sure if finding out this key piece of information without doing the exercises up to this point will ruin it’s effectiveness. Okay?
You’ve been warned. Proceed at your own risk.
“If you want to work on your art, work on your life” ~ Chekhov
That seems to be the theme of Chapter 4. Julia adds this juicy morsel to that, “In order to have self expression, we must first have a self to express.”
So here’s the spoiler, folks. The you that’s been showing up every day in your morning pages, that’s the real you. Yup, the whiny, complainy, angry, irritated one? That’s you.
The one that puts a smile on and says, Everything’s fine; the accepting, nice, tolerant self is just the self you put on for show.
But if you knew that piece of info to begin with and were instructed to write down your real feelings in your morning pages, rather than getting, Whatevs. Just write down whatever pops in your head, no biggie, you’d be editing yourself there too. So Julia comes at this sideways, trying to sidestep our mental editor into revealing ourselves to ourselves. Make sense?
The point of the morning pages is to get us passed It’s okay, when it’s really not. And you know those days when you just don’t want to do them or just don’t do them at all, it’s probably because if you did, you’d gain some unpleasant piece of clarity about yourself. If you’re like me, when you are emotionally triggered by anything at all, you’re not going to want to do the morning pages. I try rationalizing my evasive maneuvers — I’m running late, it’s too cold, it’s too early — by telling myself that wallowing in whatever crap I’m feeling is just going to make it worse anyway. But the truth is that writing all of it down, unedited, is one of the best way to process and then reflect on what’s going on in my internal world.
Here’s the kicker for all of us artists. If we don’t connect with our emotions, there is no art.
Sorry, folks. It’s the truth. I spent the first 36 years of my life convincing myself that everything was okay because I didn’t want to feel any discomfort, pain or suffering. That’s all well and good except that when you block out all that stuff, you don’t feel anything at all. You don’t feel love, joy, connection…. and then life is what? Just sleeping, eating and laundry.
Remember my earlier post about my false beliefs about artists. You don’t have to suffer to be an artist. But you do have to feel something. And that, requires feeling whatever suffering comes along with the other stuff. If you’ve ever watched Finding Nemo, one of my favorite lines is where Nemo’s dad says, “I promised him that I would never let anything happen to him.” And Dori says, “That’s a funny thing to promise. Then nothing will ever happen to him.”
On the plus side, when I consistently do my morning pages, I don’t just get the problems, I usually get clarity and I get answers too. Again, there are lots of people who subscribe to this method of raising self-consciousness. One of my favorites is Janet Conner, author of Writing Down Your Soul.
Now you see why I say everything starts getting real right here in Chapter 4? Thoughts might start to appear in morning pages like “I have outgrown this job/home/marriage/friend.” Eek.
Julia says the process of knowing ourselves involves loss as well as gain. We clarify what of ourselves is real and what is illusory… and this kind of clarity creates change. Does that sound scary to you? That’s okay. I mean, it’s okay to admit that you’re scared of it, you don’t have to say that it’s okay. 🙂
I have no reassurances to offer except that if you keep going, the prize at the end is YOU. For some people, that’s worth it.
Chapter 4’s task: Reading Deprivation. Another eek! I know, right?
Julia says words are like tiny tranquilizers for most artists. If we give up reading, we force ourselves into the sensory world. Another way to think about it is to get out of your head! Reading is a great way to fill our heads with other people’s thoughts so that we can avoid our own thoughts and feelings. So. NO READING! The book was written before the internet (I know!!!) So that means… no Twitter, no Facebook, no Medium. And if the point is to be fully present, I’m making the assumption that this means no media as well.
You can be scared.
Of course, I’m also doing a 5-day cleanse right now. No food, no reading. What the heck will I do with myself?!?!?! Julia has some suggestions:
Listen to music
Wash the dog
Okay, I’m sure we can come up with better suggestions!!! Mend. She actually suggests “mend.”
Sorry, I’m a little crabby, I’m at the end of Day 2 of 5.
Check in if you wish… how many days have you done your morning pages? Artist’s date? Any experiences of synchronicity to report
I’ll signing off the blog until next week’s check-in… since you won’t be READING until next week, right? 🙂
The Artist’s Way Posts
Week 1: Recovering a Sense of Safety
Week 2: Recovering a Sense of Identity
Week 3: Recovering a Sense of Power
Week 4: Recovering a Sense of Integrity
Week 5: Recovering a Sense of Possibility
Week 6: Recovering a Sense of Abundance
Week 7: Recovering a Sense of Connection
Week 8: Recovering a Sense of Strength
Week 9: Recovering a Sense of Compassion
Week 10: Recovering a Sense of Self-Protection
Week 11: Recovering a Sense of Autonomy
Week 12: Recovering a Sense of Faith