Fri 11 May 2012
by Beth Lee- Browning
For the past six weeks I’ve woken up on Saturday morning, made a pot of coffee, written in my journal, and raced to my laptop to write about the previous week’s lesson. That was not the case this week; I started and stopped more times than I can count. I suppose it’s ironic that week seven of Walking in This World by Julia Cameron is entitled Discovering a Sense of Momentum and she introduces it by saying “Creativity thrives on small, do-able actions. This week dismantles procrastination as a major creative block.” Apparently I needed to do a bit more dismantling.
I flipped through my notes for the umpteenth time and I found myself coming back to the task Easy Does it but Do it. It dawned on me that while I had completed the task, I hadn’t experienced the lesson. I read the words and thought I understood what Julia was saying as she explained that ideas, like emotions can cause anxiety and make you to feel as if you are going to explode if they are kept bottled up. She described it as a “creative logjam” resulting from too many, not too few, ideas and spoke about the concept of taking small positive actions to keep the creative momentum flowing forward. “The truer the dream, the more creative pressure it has, and the more important it is to begin with small actions to keep them from getting frozen up. Don’t just talk. Do.”
I had to admit to myself that I had just gone through the motions when I followed the instructions to list five areas in my home that could benefit from some straightening up and in doing so I completely missed that the point was not to make a list and think about it, but to actually do it.
I looked at the laundry basket of clothes waiting to be put away and decided to take Julia’s advice, “If your head is awhirl and you ‘cannot think straight,’ then start by straightening something up. Fold your laundry. Sort your drawers….often, when we are engaged in such small, homely tasks, a sense of being ‘at home’ will steal over us. When we take the time to husband the details of our lives, we may encounter a sense of grace.”
One thing led to another and a few hours later, I had a clean house, an organized writing space, a clear head, and a fresh perspective. I was surprised to find that I was ready to write.
In the midst of it all I had a minor meltdown, but perhaps the author is right and it wasn’t a meltdown as much as it was a break through. “When we have creative breakthroughs, they may look and even be experienced as break downs. Our normal, ordinary way of seeing ourselves and the world suddenly goes on tilt, and as it does, a new way of seeing and looking at things comes toward us.”
These days my world feels turned upside down and when I look in the mirror I’m not entirely sure who is looking back at me. I see myself with what Julia refers to as “Strobe-light clarity. We look so different, so impossibly possible to ourselves that we are caught off guard.” I see my future, not through rose colored glasses, but with frightening precision and at the same time disturbing vagueness. My destiny has changed and so have my dreams. I don’t know how it will be achieved, but I know it will be.
The chapter ended with the ever so practical advice, Finish Something. Surprisingly, the “something” wasn’t about finishing a piece of poetry, an essay, or a painting, it was just about “finishing.” I found myself thoroughly engaged by the story of a young composer who bounced from project to project, full of energy and “promise,” but could never quite deliver.
His close friend and mentor advised him to clean up his arranging room, to organize his mess. He resisted and dawdled, and if not for the gentle prodding of his friend he would have quit. When he was done he “felt determination,” and moved beyond having “promise” to completing projects and feeling productive. The author didn’t say so, but I suspect he also felt peace.
We often stop before we start, afraid to try something new. We forget that we’ve encountered and mastered things we never thought we could. The learning curve isn’t easy, in fact can be downright scary, but it’s also exciting and mysterious and the destination is well worth the trip.
This article was originally published on November 7, 2011 at it’s a whole new world.
Beth Lee-Browning lives outside of Philadelphia, is a transplanted Midwesterner, and a mid-life woman who is discovering the joy of living life to its fullest and under her own rules. She chronicles her adventures from the ordinary to the unusual with keen and thought provoking observations, a unique wit, sensitivity and an underlying theme that “everything is going to be all right.”