My Artist’s Way

The awesome book by Julie Cameron The Artist’s Way was a gift to me by my wife, with whom I am separated. We still love and care for each other and continue to offer support in many ways. This kind of relationship with an ex is crucial, especially since we have two young children together.

She knows my desire to be a writer who can make a living wage from my creative endeavors, so she was kind to give me this book by Julia Cameron.

I had been searching for a means to get myself back into writing daily. Writing creatively and with purpose.

I am more fresh in the mornings to do my writing and I know that is the best time to do it, but I have lacked the discipline to get up and do it. I was unable to focus my mind on purpose. I kept putting it off for years.

I would still write. I had written a few new short stories for a writing class I took back in the fall of 2016. That was over a year ago. I haven’t finished a story since.

My mind flows with ideas of stories, a podcast with my kids, and a podcast for myself. I thought of editing a young adult novel I had written many years ago that has been in the editing stage for just as long.

I just could not focus or find a way to get my mind to stop wandering the trail of “I’ll get to it if these particular things are in order.”

Excuses.

Then I got Julia’s book. I read the first chapter on the basic tools. The two most important tools being the Morning Pages and the Artist’s Date. They are crucial, according to Julia, if I was to truly let my creativity flow.

That was one of the most powerful chapters I have read in any book in a very long time. Years ago, I had read a book about writing and it had suggested that I write three pages a day double spaced and soon I would have a completed novel within a of couple months. But I went one step further with that and I wrote three pages a day single spaced. I had completed my first adult novel in a month and a half.

It felt great to have accomplished that feat that I had been wanting to do for so long. I spent another month or so editing and revising. I gave it to two friends and an aquantance to read. They gave good feedback. I attempted to get an agent and even knew someone who worked for an agent but I was met with rejection.

That is besides the point. The point is that I had disciplined myself to write everyday in the morning and I finished a novel.

The young adult novel came a few years later, but I wrote that whenever I had a moment to write. I also finished a script for a graphic novel around that same time. For both of those, I had an outline that helped to guide my writing and so wrote whenever I got a moment to type something up.

It also helped that I worked at a job where I had a lot of down time and access to a computer.

So, all this rambling. Sorry.

My point is that over the past few years I didn’t have the discipline to get up in the morning to write. I didn’t have the outlines for a story. I had nothing.

Then I read one chapter in The Artist’s Way and it changed the way I thought about the process of writing.

Two things: writing three morning pages in a note book, front page only, and take two hours out of my week to treat the artist within me to something artsy.

Starting December 27th, I got up at 6:30am and wrote my first three pages. The best part of this is that it is stream of conscious writing. All I have to do is just start writing. No expectations. No direction. Just write. Like going for a run to get back in shape. No direction. Just run to build up the cardio.

So I started running. I’ve written everyday since.

I took myself on my first Artist’s Date to the Philly Art Museum the day after New Year’s.

I’ve started to edit my young adult novel two chapters in the evenings that I don’t have the kids. I don’t have them this weekend so I will be editing more chapters at B&N on Saturday. It will be my artist’s date this week.

I’ve only read the first two chapters of The Artist’s Way. The next chapter is Week 2. I’m not sure when I will get to that chapter. And it doesn’t matter to me right now if or when I get to that next chapter. All I know is that I am being good to my artists right now by doing these two simple things. Those two simple things have made a huge impact on how I think about myself as a writer and have freed him.

There is another book I have read over these past few weeks that has presented me with a new way to think about myself and the world with which I interact. It is Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements. I’ll post about that another time.

My next post will be another of my music posts, but this one will be different. It will be a song I composed this evening as a way to let my inter musician out to play a little.

Stay tuned for that.

Nate

What’s in a number? Moments.

I have concluded that we as human beings love numbers and lists. They are everywhere.

The internet is full of those lists. Click bait lists promising you that if you follow their simple, easy-to-do steps you will reach a personal nirvana. You will be more social, you will have a fine looking body and you will be in a financal situation where your only problem will be which Tiffany’s diamond bracelet to purchase. You know, because all your other bills will have been taken care of.

So when we want to improve ourselves we turn to lists. The best lists are numbered lists.

The 5 best ways to save money. 4 easy steps to a healthy looking body. 10 things you are doing now that keep you from achieving a more relaxed and happier you.

We as humans like lists. Give us a list of things to do, buy, or talk about and you’ve given us a purpose.

What we like more that lists is checking things off the list. There is nothing like the sense of accomplishment when we look at a list with lines drawn through the words on it. That is a good feeling.

Some of us can become obsessed by lists. Obsessed with the feeling of “getting things done.” I put that last part in quotes because are we really getting things done? We feel like we are and that matters a lot if we are to continue that behavior.

Sometimes we can make lists too long and so we never complete them and never feel that sense of accomplishment. We end up feeling overwhelmed, discouraged and dejected with ourselves.

Those thoughts and feelings lead to never getting things done.

A complete, manageable, numbered list is like a promise of accomplishment. It is the key to putting us in a healthier, personal and financial place. Make a list like that and you’ll have people flocking to you.

The possibilities are endless if you have the right list.

The one thing that is not endless is time.

We only have so much time alive on this planet. That may seem a little morbid but it is the truth. We don’t truly know what will happen after we die. All we know is what is happening now in this waking world.

Our time is numbered.

We are limited to the number of hours we watch TV and movies. Or spend reading books, magazines and internet content. Or the number of times we will see friends or family and interact with them.

Thinking that way could get us to enjoy the moments with them and to stop the rush of thoughts in our heads of what we have planned for after those encounters.

My kids snuggled in bed with me the other night. My daughter, 7, wasn’t feeling well so she wanted to be close to me. My son, 11, didn’t want to sleep by himself. They have to share a room when they stay with me. I’m limited to the amount of dollars I get each paycheck to pay for an apartment as a single dad.

I slept between them so my daughter could be close to the edge of the bed in case her “not feeling well” turned into a need to rush to the bathroom.

We laid down, both of them to either side of me. My daughter reached across my chest holding her hand out to her brother who took it to comfort his little sister. A real precious moment. One of a finite that will happen and that I will be witness to.

Then they turned it into a game. They squeezed each others’ hand to some musical beat in their heads while the other would have to guess what the song was. An impossible task that neither one had a chance at guessing correctly. Soon they gave up and parted hands.

That may be the only time that happens, but I was there to witness. To be present in that moment. I had to pull myself out of my own thoughts to be present. I could have ignored the whole thing and kept worrying about work the next day, would I get enough sleep, could I finish my work before I had to leave.

I was leaving work early that next day to go watch my kids sing in their school Holiday show. Another finite event.

Perhaps it was that I was already thinking about finite school show moments that made it possible for me to recognize that moment in bed as a finite experience.

I had been primed to recognize the importance of recognizing those moments.

Practicing that skill of being in the moment when it happens could be the only thing to scratch off one of my lists. Maybe it is the only list I need with only that one item on it.

Be present to recognize the importance of the moment.

Because the moment is all we really have.

Nate

 

Shear Panic

Recently, I woke up in the morning with almost paralyzing anxiety. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to go to work. I wanted to call out sick. I wanted to just stay in bed.

I was sick. I was in a grip of hopelessness.

There have been some changes happening at my place of employment and I am overwhelmed.

I’m a manager and whenever there is change, I am one of a few who have to coordinate the change among our limited staff and resources.

And I am worn out.

One of the other managers is moving on and out of the company. She is number four of those who have moved on within the past two years. Every time one of them has moved on, more change has occurred.

And I’m worn out.

In the mornings, I wake up to NPR playing on my clock radio. It’s news I can listen to. Normally. But that particular morning it was one bad headline after another. Budgets that support big business. Political support of child and women molesters. Repeal of protected lands so oil and gas companies can drill.

I had watched a Netflix documentary that past evening, “Saving Capitalism.” If you want to know what it’s about, just see my description of NPR’s news cast in the last paragraph.

A raping of society in several ways that keeps getting worse. Nothing was right or fair in the world.

And I am worn out.

I eventually got up and out of bed. I’m not truly sure how I did it but I did. I showered and even managed to get food in me. My anxiety usually suppresses my appetite, but I made myself eat.

I took many deep breaths along the way. I used all my coping techniques that I could think of to get me through.

Then while getting my shoes on, my wall broke down. My skills were of no use to me anymore at that moment.

The tears came. Real crying came. Not just watery eyes and feeling overtaxed. But real crying. Sound and all.

I hated being brought to that point. Why had I been brought to that point?

The crying felt good. I obviously needed to cry. I was hurting inside. For many reasons. I had been strong for so long. I had to stop being strong. It was hurting me.

I’m still hurting. I’m still getting up each day. I am still worn out, but I’m looking forward.

It is time. Time that I was looking and attempting to move on from my pain.

Nate

 

Those Thoughts That Destory

I am now fully aware that I have for the longest time not believed, nor felt, that I am good enough.

Good enough to be accepted
Good enough to be loved
Good enough financially
Good enough intelligently
Good enough creatively

In my head I will justify why I will not ask for more. I believe that there is always someone better to do the task.

There is someone better to be a friend.
Someone better to be a partner.
Someone better to do the job.
Someone better from whom to get love and security.

I believe I don’t deserve more money at work because what I am doing is not deserving of more recognition or financial compensation.

I was in a relationship for 20 years and I believed I was not enough. I didn’t communicate enough. I wasn’t assertive enough. I didn’t take control of situations enough. I didn’t make enough money in my single job and should have worked more to provide enough.

That is what I believed.

Some of my “not enough” thoughts are my own concoctions based on things I heard and saw as I was growing up. Some were developed through the years as an adult.

These self-damaging beliefs are so pervasive I find it very difficult, at this moment, give you a list of reasons why you should spend the day with me. Or be my friend. Or date me.

Yet, I could make a healthy sized list of why you would be bored in my presence. I will not do that here and now. It may be a healthy sized list but it would not be healthy to do.

I continue to have those thoughts that destroy my sense of positive self-worth. I knew they were here inside me. I knew they kept me from taking risks. But I hid from them. I didn’t know that hiding from them was giving those beliefs power over me.

Because I was hiding I didn’t realize that I started to accept these beliefs that I was not good enough. That is why I never paid attention to the things I do that give me worth. And even when I knew I had worth, I believed that somebody else deserved [place thing here]. They deserved whatever it was more than I did.

I would look at another guy walking down the street or in a store and my thoughts would be, “That guy is better looking than me. He’s in better shape than I am. He probably has a high paying job and can afford to go out and spend money with no problem. So, any girl I would be with would regret being with me because she could have that guy.”

I have this negative scenario that loops in my head: If it came down to a choice be between me and “that guy”, “that guy” would always be chosen over me.

Since I believe that and live that in my actions, of course “that guy” will get chosen or “those other people” deserve more than I do.

Those guys deserve the love, money, and relationships more than I do. They are more willing to bet on themselves than I am. They say “I am worth it. I want it and so I will get it.” So they deserve what they get because they believe in themselves more.

This is the battle of thoughts that I fight everyday. Or do I really fight in this battle? Sometimes I think I do. Other times I think I was defeated a long time ago and continue to nurse the battle scars.

However …

I am aware and recognize the negative self-talk that is fueling the negative self-belief. And I am able to stop wallowing in self-pity. These are steps in the right direction, but the process is too slow.

I need to get out of my negative headspace to save myself. Being more honest in my writing is part of that process.

Nate

 

There Were Supposed to be Explosions

When I started writing this blog, I was aware that I had started two other blogs that I did not keep up on. They were great idea blogs: one about our family with pics and witty sayings and another about being a dad.

They died. The family blog had a little fight in it towards the end, but the dad blog died quickly without even a whimper. I just wasn’t willing to dedicate the time it took to write and upkeep. So they died as all things will do without attention and nurture.

I put off starting this blog because I didn’t want it to be a failure. I knew I wanted to write my thoughts, post my interests in writing and music and get a big following. I even came up with a cool title after carefully thinking about it. Life Supernova. My life was exploding and imploding and I wanted to write about it. But I wasn’t ready to write about what really mattered. More on that later.

However, I kept putting it off. Years of putting it off. I knew at the time I would not commit to writing for it. Hell, that term there gives a glimpse of my thought process. “Writing for it.” Not writing for myself. Not writing because it is a deep need with in me to write.

I was looking for external reasons to write. Where were my internal reasons?

I don’t know. Maybe I wasn’t looking for them.

Then my life did explode. It was a contained explosion. First the slow implosion of anger and resentment towards my wife for her long hours at work. Which left me pretty much as a single parent with a full-time job.

It was a situation we both placed ourselves in. Our children suffered her absence and our marriage suffered due to the lack of communication in her absence.

You see, I have a bad habit of not admitting when too much is too much. I have a pattern of not speaking up or speaking out. I don’t speak to my needs. So over time: explosion.

This is damaging to any relationship; friend, partner, marriage, work, etc. And I continue to have this issue. So over time: explosion.

Now I am a single parent (explosion). I live in a small two bedroom apartment. My kids have to share a room when they are with me, which is 50% of the time.

This is the reality that I haven’t written about. It is the reality that I need to write about, whether or not it gets read by anybody else.

My life supernovaed and this is my truth. Single. Parent. Afraid.

Nate