The Artist that writes
I love to write. It keeps me happy and it keeps me sane. But to keep writing, with all of life’s responsibilities, distractions and writerly setbacks, I have to do more than just turn up on the page. I have to live creatively. I have to remind myself, time and again, that being a writer is like being an artist. People like Julie Cameron, The Artist’s Way, wouldn’t make a distinction between the two.
And if we know anything, we know that artists can be high maintenance. We get hungry, bored, over excited. Not to mention anxious, neurotic, depressed. We need feeding. And soothing. Entertaining and challenging.
Starve the artist at your peril, for she will rise up and eat you whole! To be honest, I starve my artist pretty regularly so I know what I’m talking about.
I know what balance looks like, but I’m chasing it more than feeling it. Sometimes it descends in all its glory and for a few fleeting days I’m in the flow.
Walking the Walk
This blog is about me walking the walk a little more. It’s a celebration of the stuff that works for me. It’s a sharing. An exploring. We’re all trying to find our way, aren’t we? Looking for the right path. Trying things out. Learning skills and putting ourselves out there in the world in the hope of doing a good job. Or finding an audience. Or, better still, acceptance.
Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do.” I’m not big on quotes but I love this. We are what we repeatedly do. If we repeatedly write, we become a writer. If we repeatedly love, we are loving. If we repeatedly nourish ourselves we are nourished.
I struggle with this constantly… I’m pretty good at getting things done, working through a to-do list, tackling difficult or unpleasant tasks. I’m secretly quite proud of this part of my character. But I’m terrible at looking after myself. I have to really work at that side of things. I know how important it is to live a life mindful of exhaustion – there is no pleasure in anything when we are depleted of rest, laughter, pleasure. It’s like trying to run a car without water.
Even now, I’m not sure why I find it so difficult. It would take just half an hour out of my day, in between working, to walk up into the woods and listen to the water flowing. I could take a notebook and scribble some thoughts. Or just be. Give my tired mind a rest.
Alternatively, I could take my time preparing something to eat at lunchtime, something nourishing and comforting, enjoying favourite aromas, evocative flavours, inspiring colours – this is a very personal thing that mightn’t work for everyone but, for me, there is something about preparing food with care, full of appreciation, that helps me feel both alive and at ease. I’m not talking fancy food, but something simple, flavoursome, much-loved.
Similarly, I could make a cup of tea and treat myself to fifteen minutes of reading one of the books from the pile next to my bed. I could choose to pepper my day with snatches of rest and nourishment. Why don’t I? Even writing these suggestions feels indulgent. Who do you think you are, is the subtext to my thinking.
I am one of those people that chooses exhaustion much of the time. Perhaps, deep down, I don’t believe that I deserve anything else. I need to be a great mum, I tell myself, a wonderful wife, a good friend. And I couldn’t possibly live in anything but a clean house.
But more than all those things, more than anything, I want to be a writer – a proper, skilled, accomplished, published writer (yes, yes, I know). It’s been my dream for as long as I can remember. Thinking it might never happen makes me anxious, and my natural response to anxiety is to work. To fix. Learn. Practise. Push. To keep on keeping on.
I make myself ill with my wanting when it isn’t tempered with resting and laughter. I create problems, conflict, mental ill health when I stop enjoying the process and focus only on the end goal. I forget to notice, if I am not careful, all the beauty around me. I forget to be grateful. I forget to take time out. I forget to nourish myself and see my friends. The result? Suffering.
This blog is a chance to hold myself to account. Yes, it’s about writing. Yes, it’s about coaching. But mainly it’s about living more creatively. A little more spaciously. Searching for the holy grail of balance.