I Am a Shadow Artist
Week one of The Artist's Way wanted me to find safety in creating and living art. The first article I read is about the term "shadow artists". For many years of my life I was a shadow artist. I was a child who wrote songs to myself at recess but would never try out for solos in music class. I was a teenager who would go and support her friends in their musical productions and be dazzled by theatre. I never acted in anything in high school and have just had but one small role as an adult. The closest I got to being a "theatre kid" is trying to pick Drop Dead Gorgeous scenes for my sister's and my duet entry for speech and debate. I desperately wanted to recreate Kirstie Alley's monologue in front of the burning parade float and was convinced it would take us all the way to state. I was never making art, but I definitely was always near it.
Shadow artists like myself are drawn to art but do not know how to pursue it for themselves or have the confidence to showcase their interests or talents. We lurk in the shadows as other people shine on stages or present artwork to the class. One way Cameron explains how artists become shadow artists is through the support we receive in art as children. When I was a child, I wasn't necessarily told these things outright but I believed them to be true:
It is irresponsible to pursue a career built around the arts.
Only "special" people get to be famous or successful artists.
Fancy, beautiful people are artists.
I couldn't support myself with an artistic job.
Art is risky. And I do not enjoy taking risks.
I did not want to put in the time it would take to be a good artist.
I have a very logical and rational brain. It is often a partner to my anxiety. I agonize over how to do things "right". Therefore, I knew that while art, music, theatre, and other creative outlets were hobbies, they were nothing to build my life around. Therefore, I didn't do them very often. And when I didn't find myself spectacular at something, I would quit without shame. This journey has taught me that my "way" with art has never truly started. This book was written to re-ignite the spark an artist has found dimmed. My spark never got close to a lighter.
Protecting my Inner Child and My Core Negative Beliefs
Armed with a new term to help identify myself, I was ready to meet some of these negative beliefs I have always carried with me. Again, my logical and realistic brain had always been preparing me for a life that was practical and ordinary. I felt an extreme safety in being clear on expectations and meeting them. My mother and I had a conversation on why art and music class will sometimes be a class that evokes the most fits of rage out of a child. She said "Think of how structured and spoon fed children are in reading, math, and their classrooms. Everyone is led to believe they are successful or can be successful in finding the right answer. Art class is the only time they're told there is no wrong answer and they just have to create." My mother unknowingly also hit on why her 32-year old daughter has such a hard time taking her art seriously.
I am still that elementary student who wants rules and regulations to every task I try to accomplish. I thrive under rubrics and knowing exactly what needs to be done to make my work day "successful". When someone tells me "You'll try and then you'll figure it out.", I am instantly frustrated. I rail against this idea that I should be given liberty to make mistakes and not do things correctly the first time. The mere thought of having to do a task twice would send me into a spiral faster than a tornado would. What Julia Cameron made me realize in this week is that my worries about pursuing an artistic lifestyle fell into two categories: relationships and survival. When I listed out my negative beliefs about my inner artist they were:
I am not talented enough to get paid for anything artistic.
I will disappoint my family if I pursue an artistic job, they'll feel scared for me or believe I can't actually do it.
My friends and family will not understand what I'm trying to do and their criticism will hurt. And I will alienate myself and be lonely or unpopular.
I will be foolish when nothing comes from my art. My pride cannot take that hit.
I cannot feed myself on my life's passions alone. Or buy a house. Or stay financially secure.
I am too old to be trying to be more artistic and passionate in my life. My time for those pursuits is long past.
And what did Julia Cameron have me do with these negative thoughts about myself and the way the world works for artists? She had my affirm myself and challenge them.
My Affirmative Weapons and the Imaginary Lives They'll Bring Me
Through the tasks of week one, I was able to come up with the following phrases to remind myself that my inner artist is worthy, she's just out of practice and has laid dormant too long.
I can be a charming and entertaining podcast host.
I have a point of view that is worth expressing.
My dramatic flair to life has brought people joy.
I am very talented and I never give myself credit for it.
I worked extremely hard to be this funny. A lot of time was spent making people believe I am this funny.
I have put a lot of extroverted energy into being this exuberant. There is no shame in putting the sense of drama into someone's day.
I have a mind that creates stories and never stops churning out ideas.
I am a writer and have always used writing as a tool to better myself.
I get better everyday.
Through these affirmations of the life I've crafted for myself, I hope to one day be:
A book store owner
A talk show host
A stand-up comedian
A person who works in animal therapy
And I am fine with those lives looking exactly like their titles present or with finding my own, unique way of living my imaginary lives daily. In my next post, I'll be taking you through my first artist date: getting extremely good at kid art.