Book of the week: The Artist’s Way (plus how I ended up working through it)

Where to begin with this one… well, about a year ago I was feeling the need to get back to making some sort of art, having spent the majority of my creative energy in the previous couple years either involved with buying and renovating and decorating my house (plus overhauling the lawns into gardens) or, up until mid-2019, working on a never-ending series of redos on 3 demos with my former guitar teacher who had suggested “let’s do some songs together and make a demo!”

Only to then, I suppose, get a hair up his ass about the lyrics I wrote, or maybe it was just all the booze and blow he was getting into down in Mexico, I dunno, but he got increasingly peevish and dug in, including on the keys of these songs and the octave and tone I ought to sing them in (namely, whatever octave and tone would make me sound exactly like Brian Johnson from AC/DC… which is a problem for a gal with a deep contralto voice who’s more comfortable singing David Sylvian tunes… so… yeah, that didn’t work, all the vocals sounded like garbage and there was much resistance to my suggestions to drop the goddamn notes).

Eventually he started talking about “when this project is done” and “when we’re finished” which is odd, because he said he wanted to do a demo, and there are but few purposes to making a demo, none of which involve finishing or being done with a project: you make a demo to send to club bookers to get gigs, you make a demo to rough out what your “real” recordings will sound like when you go do them in a professional recording studio, you make a demo to find a producer to work with in said real recording studio, or you make a demo to get a record deal. (You also make a demo if you’re an “outside songwriter” looking to have your songs recorded by pop or country stars who don’t write their own material, but that wasn’t relevant here.)

But the last 3 imply you’ve already done the first one, so I asked Cokey McRetard about gigging and the future of the project. ie: Am I singing and playing rhythm and you’re playing lead? Do you have a bassist and drummer lined up? And when are you back in town so we can start rehearsing before looking for gigs?

Cokey then acted like I was a lunatic, and insisted there was no project, he’d simply been teaching me how to write songs.

Which was kinda hilarious because reasons: maQLu releases list + maQLu chart positions

I’d written, recorded, and released far more songs than Cokey had. Whether they were any good is of course a matter of taste, but they were good enough for Canadian college radio, at the very least.

Anyhoo, so I stopped speaking to Cokey, who emailed me a month later wanting to know if I’d finished the latest round of vocal takes for those demos yet.

(And they say bassists are the stupidest members of any band… wait… Cokey plays bass, too…)

Anyway, this was right around the hottest part of the summer in 2019 so my attention turned to keeping my newly planted cottage garden from being burnt to a crisp in the blazing summer sun.

Come winter, though, I was starting to think it was time to get back to work on something… but what something? I was burned out on music and in the midst of one of my regular “I’ll never make music again, to Hell with that…” cycles that pops up every few years, but I didn’t know what else to make, other than I guessed I could go back to doing more comedy or I could go back to painting.

As you might infer from last year’s posts on this blog, I chose the latter initially, but I still didn’t know what to paint (talking early 2020 here).

In other words, I was blocked.

But I remembered I had a copy of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, and I remembered that was supposed to be good for blocked artists, so I finally set about reading it (I hadn’t before, just had it on hand.)

The basics of Cameron’s Artist’s Way series (there’s a few others in it now, including the sequels Walking In This World and Finding Water, which I’ve also got) is that she has a 12 week program, each week having its own chapter and theme, and she intersperses short essays on creativity relating to that week’s theme with a variety of exercises you work through. At the end of each week, there’s a series of questions called a check-in for you to reflect on how the week has progressed and any insights you had.

She also is a firm believer in firt-thing-in-the-morning (or afternoon, in a case like mine) freewriting, which she calls Morning Pages, which you do a brain dump into, and a weekly Artist Date, in which you explore things that you find fun and inspirational.

So… it should be noted here, in the context of Artist Dates, that I began working through The Artist’s Way in the middle of last March. Right before the Karens and the media scumbags went off on their collective hysteria feedback loop that ruined everyone’s lives and shut down everything fun in the (Western – this shit has not happened in sane countries and certain of the saner US states, at least not to the same extent) world.

Which is to say most of my artist dates have been things like “watched The Nightmare Before Christmas on DVD” or “watched some old Lido de Paris cabaret show on YouTube”. Or “drove around in the woods for 2 hours listening to CDs.”

This is not exactly ideal, but it is what it is until such time as we stop complying with the petty tyrants and the stupid bitches afraid of their own shadows and projecting that fear into controlling/ruining everyone else’s lives to the benefit of their corporatocratic overlords while self-congratulating themselves on being safe and “kind.” (LOL… you can all go to Hell, seriously… go look up Jordan Peterson’s comments about single middleaged women who become agoraphobic and tell me that’s not what happened in 2020 en masse…)

But anyway, I digress into thoughtcrime. Doubleplusungood.

Point is, in a sane society, you spend your artist date going somewhere fun and cool that sparks new ideas or at least gives you a change of scenery.

And the exercises are partly about exploring issues that might be leading to your blocks, including various fears, emotional wounds, etc., and partly about letting your imagination run so you can brainstorm things that interest you that you might have forgotten about or not even realized you were interested in, which is the beginning of developing new themes in your work, new directions, etc.

Or even new art forms entirely.

Over the last year, I ended up starting to explore ideas of how our society denigrates beauty and scorns traditionally feminine modes of beauty and adornment (eg heels, perfume, the color pink, rhinestones/sparkle, ruffles, etc.) whilst at the same time pretending to empower the feminine… by telling us we should be/look/act/think/screw around just like men… and a side note to that would be that the worst elements of what might properly be called “toxic femininity” are exalted in our current clown world while the best elements of femininity are shit on and mocked.

But that gets into a whole ‘nother ball o’ wax, your mileage will vary, etc.

In perhaps less touchy realms, I’ve renewed my interest in how fandoms work and how celebrity culture has replaced religion for all the people who think they’re too smart to believe in, let alone worship, any kind of God, and they certainly no longer believe in, let alone fight, the Devil, but OMG did you hear the latest about that asshole Marilyn Manson? Get the torches and pitchforks, we’re going to LA!

Just sayin’…

Working through the 3 Artist’s Way books (I finished Walking in this World around Christmas and am now into week 9 of Finding Water) has led me back to painting, which ended up not being really how I want to work, but it was a valuable stepping stone to ending up back into writing and started developing the themes I’ve taken into my writing, including into the plays I never knew I wanted to write before I started working on these books.

So… highly recommended. I just hope we can get back to proper Artist Dates soon.