Jul. 21st, 2014

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We're always calling ourselves lazy. For “we,” read: I. Maybe you're not like that. A lot of people are.
Cameron says that laziness is the word blocked artists use for fear. I think there's probably some laziness mixed in from time to time, to be honest. But it's important to acknowledge that a lot of what we call laziness might actually be fear – one fear, or a bunch of fears swirling together.

Fear of failure. Fear of success! Fear of beginning and not finishing! Fear of not being good enough! Fear of hurting friends and family! Fear of not being good enough to justify hurting friends and family! As we talked about in the previous week, blocked artists often think in terms of huge tasks and terrifying life changes, instead of small steps. This makes it easy to be afraid.

Disguising fear as laziness makes it easy to laugh with and to keep around. A lot of the time, though, it's still fear. And sometimes a little laziness. But mostly fear.

The only cure for our fears is love. Cameron hopes that by calling fear by its right name, we can begin to show compassion for our artist selves, instead of rolling out eyes and saying, “Lazy.”

The need to be a great artist makes it hard to be an artist.
The need to produce a great work of art makes it hard to produce any art at all

It can be hard to begin, even with small steps. Realize you can ask for help – from friends, from your Great Creator if you're about that, and from yourself. You can say, “I'm afraid,” and expect understanding and support.

Enthusiasm – which Cameron is happy to point out comes from a Greek word meaning “filled with god” – is as important as discipline in maintaining a creative practice. I'm not sure what to make of Cameron's extravagant dislike of the word “discipline,” since she doesn't seem to have any trouble with the practice – that's what “filling the form” and the morning pages are, after all – but anyway, she thinks it sounds boring and is over-emphasized and indulges in some false dichotomies in the service of a very reasonable idea: that if you enjoy what you're doing, you'll be better at it and do it more. She offers a few suggestions for maintaining enthusiasm. One that I like to do myself is switch up writing methods once in a while: see if using markers or your phone or acorn ink changes the way you write. I think it's a good idea, especially when creative work is still incomplete, to set aside some time to entertain your most self-indulgent ideas about the project - -the characters no one else loves, the dialogue that doesn't fit but is funny to you, and so on. Sometimes these can be the seeds of other projects, sometimes they're just a fun way to enjoy what you're creating.

Being blocked often feels safer than being productive – so much so that many people find themselves self-sabotaging just when things are going right. Cameron has a long list of examples of self-sabotage following a success: the screenwriter with an agent interested in this script given a few changes, and the screenwriter doesn't make the changes; the poet who gets approval at the neighborhood open mic, then enters a poetry slam, loses, and stops reading poems in public. She calls these setbacks "creative U-turns." In order to mend a creative U-turn, we have to first admit we're doing it. "Yes, I did react negatively to fear and pain.” Then we can begin to sort it out, to ask for help from supportive friends, and if possible, to get back on track.

You might try asking your artist self some questions at the beginning of a new project. You can ask them again when the work gets difficult or gets stuck.

1) List any resentments or anger you have in connection with this project.
2) List any and all fears about the projected piece of work and/or anyone connected to it.
3) Ask yourself if that is all. Have you left out any tiny bits of fear or anger?
4) Ask yourself what you stand to gain by not doing this piece of work.

Finally, 5) Make a deal with yourself. The deal is, "This week, I'll stop worrying about the quality and take care of the quantity," Leave the quality to chance or future revision or the alchemy of both. Sign it and post it if you want to!

On questions one through three, don't worry about how petty or irrational or insignificant the fears and resentments sound to you. They may all be big deals to your artist.

Don't forget to go on a date with your artist sometime this week and do your morning pages every day!
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