Finding Water: Intro and Week 1

Finding Water: Julia Cameron’s Third in the Artist Way series

A few years ago I attempted to work through this book but didn’t make it through it. As I attempt to make the journey through it this time I’m finding it quite a different experience.

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Week 1-Uncovering a sense of Optimism: Being a beginner, focusing on the positive

Julia Cameron said: It took courage to allow myself to pursue something that I loved. I had to allow myself the luxury of learning. I had to focus on process and not on finished product. Resign competition. Stop comparing myself to my idols. When taking lessons, I have noticed how often my “good” lesson come on days when I had the most resistance, When I felt myself to be the most rusty. I have learned good writing/creating and good moods do not necessarily go together. On some of my worst days, the best work emerges. How true this is for me.

The Diving Rod portion: Don’t rob ourselves of the opportunity to be a beginner, Being a beginner is very rewarding. It brings both excitement and self-respect. Write down a deferred dream….

I’m living my dream, but I do have dreams that I’ve deferred. Dreams like having an actual studio. Creating my own journal classes. Making enough money at my “creative content business” to be financially independent. Writing a book about Creativity, Creative Journaling… and actually publishing it, as well as finishing my fiction novel and publishing. Getting back into blogging on a regular basis and doing well with it. Getting fit and healthy, which is something I’m currently working on. Some of what I’ve deferred as been because of self doubt, fear, and or procrastination (usually stemming from that self doubt/fear. But I’m working on pursuing my goals and dreams and working on an action plan for some of what I really want and need in life.

Encouragement portion: All artists need co-conspirators to cheer them on in their endeavors. Stay the distance. Don’t quit. How do people do that? How did they keep their optimism and their courage intact? We all need help sometimes. No man is an island… we need support, and we need to stay open to allowing others to help us.

Cameron wrote: “You’re lucky you’ve got other projects,” Bruce told us. His hint was spoken as a true artist. He was reminding us that the joy had to lie in the process and not in the product. Doing the work was the best cure for the difficulty of doing the work…shared the minute we were back at the piano in creative waters our anxiety eased.”

One of the things that really resonated with me was the premise that when we’re actively working, though Cameron said “busy,” we get better. And the more creative I am, the more productive I am, the better I feel, the more creative I feel. As long as I don’t over do it, and don’t allow myself to over work, and then get overwhelmed, I find myself feeling much better and I want to work, am creative.

Divining Rod portion: Make a list of people you can go to for encouragement. These people are your “believing mirrors.” For me, there are a few close family members I can rely on, and a few inside of my core circle or tribe that are my believing mirrors. I owe it to myself to keep in regular contact with them. and to be believing mirrors to them as well.

Focusing portion: As an artist, I must take the time to see. My artist’s eye must be schooled in the particular. It is not healthy for me as an artist to be tuned to the inner movies, always watching the “What if, if only I had’s” as they unspool on the inner screen. (“what if I keep my ranch in New Mexico?” “If only I still had my horses.”) The “What if” and “if only” are poison for an artist. They throw us into the past, which is not good. They dull our lens on the passing world. And it is the passing world that inspiration lies in wait for us. For an artist to be vital, for the work to hold up, there must be primacy given to the here and now. Cameron also shares that she knows this and must work to practice it. If I live in the “then” instead of the “now,” the art dries up.

Cameron also said, “I must work to husband my own optimism. I must cling to the small and positive: walking the dogs, putting words on the page, taking time at the keys of the piano. I must not entertain the large and overwhelming. For me that is romancing trouble. this is so true.Learn to live each day carefully. I must write, I must walk, I must pray. I must content myself with small amounts of progress. Above all, I must not binge on drama and despair. My sanity requires daily maintenance.”

Divining Rod portion: “I can choose to focus on the negative or the positive. I find that when I focus on the positive I feel much happier with myself and what I’m doing, I have a better attitude, and I tend to like and enjoy what I’m doing much better. Cameron, and others, talk about “training our eyes on something” and if we literally can learn to do that we can train ourselves to focus on the positive, the beauty, gratitude, the areas of our lives that bring us inspiration, as well as provide and reward us with even more creativity, grace, beauty, and energize us. “

Make a list of five beautiful things you have spotted and write them down nightly as a new practice. I find that when I do this it rises to moment of pure gratitude too.

  • the way my husband believes in me and supports me, even though he works extremely long hours yet still takes the time to help me and remind me to take care of myself
  • the way the singing of the birds in our yard fills me to the brim with joy
  • the way the birds and squirrels play and feed in the yard, and I’m able to watch them from our kitchen window
  • the way the breeze touches me when I’m outdoors and fills me the energy of life.
  • the way my daughter encourages me even when she’s going through her own stuff

Grounding portion: “I strive for a sense of optimism, a feeling that as small as I am, what I am doing still matters in the scheme of things. Optimism is partially the happy accident of psycho dynamics and partially a trained response. Some people seem to be born optimists. The rest of us need to work at it a little. One way to work it is to find and talk to a friend that has some spiritual vitamins stored up to share. Some one with farseeing perspective. “You just need to keep the faith while things unfold.” or become revealed to you. Unfortunately, Spirit is vague about timing. Soon it will happen…What “soon” means to me is to keep on trying.” Don’t quit right before the miracle. Show up bit the bullet and focus.” Cameron also says, “I cannot give up just because the going is tough right now. “Soon” there will be more interest. I must be ready to receive that interest by having kept the faith myself. This means I must buck the tide of discouragement.”

She also states: “Important stuff I find for myself–I walk for Guidance. One thing that I didn’t anticipate when I was younger is how often the going gets rough. As an older artist, I tend to work on larger projects, projects that require years rather than months or weeks to germinate and come to fruition. There is not instant feedback loop. Nothing that says to me often and loudly, “You are doing fine.” In order to have that sense of reassurance, I need to work at the spiritual practice-morning pages, artists dates, and walks. And I must listen also to my friends. Piggyback on their faith when my own faith wears thin. Fatigue can make it hard to have faith. Too much busyness can make it had to have faith. Too much or too little solitude can impact faith. For that matter, so can ab out of hunger or overwork, anything carried to an extreme. Faith thrives on routine. Faith keeps on keeping on. A friend of Cameron’s said, ‘I had to do something with my creative energy or it was going to turn in on me. Doing something productive regardless of the outcome is an act of faith. The doing of a small something when a large something is too much for us is perhaps especially and act of faith. Faith means going forward by whatever means we can.”‘

Cameron said, “Just do the next right thing.’

Divining Rod portion: What actions keep you grounded? The smallest and gentlest acts keep us grounded. As we husband our lives with care and attention, we are rewarded with feelings of peace and accomplishment. List five homely actions that are grounding for you. Execute one of them.

  • washing dishes
  • walking in our yard
  • sitting at the picnic table in the mornings with my cup of coffee and writing morning pages
  • talking to my husband
  • spending time with family

Possibilities: Cameron talks about her two dogs, straining at their leashes, and they, too, are bundled in coats. How she admires the early flowers, Tiger Lily plunges in pursuit of a robin. And laughs and tells herself she is a perfect artist’s dog, always chasing something that is just out of reach- a possibility. She says, “I must work a little at a time, always laboring to bring into form something just beyond my reach. I am like Tiger Lily, leaping after that elusive bird. One day, I will catch it. At the least, I will certainly try. As artists, we must learn to try. We must learn to act affirmatively. Wherever creativity is afoot, so is a blossoming. All creative acts are acts of initiative. We start with nothing- “the verdant void” -and impregnate it with our own creative spark. Art is born, but not without labor on our part. In order to make art, we must be willing to labor. We must be willing to reach inside and draw forth what we find their. On an inner plane, we are all connected to a larger whole. This is what is meant by inspiration, this connections to something greater than ourselves. But it begins with where w are and what we are. it begins with possibility.Entertaining the possible is the province of art. It is the possible that sets the creative engine humming.
“it is possible,” the artist thinks, “that I can write a play.”
“it is possible, I can make a sculpture.”
“it is possible I can make a film.”
Out of the notion, “I can” comes the next thought: I think I will.” The impulse is playful. Like the crocus that pushes into spring willy-nilly, the artist also pushes forward into growth.

Divining Rod portion: Very often we are our own wet blanket. We do not allow ourselves to see and to seize our opportunities. list ten phrases…”I could try_____” fill in the blank with what ever comes to mind. Write very rapidly and do not concern yourself with the practicality of your responses.

I could try:

  • Creating creative journaling classes… and easy quick one, like for Skillshare
  • Vlogging my daily walks
  • Purging the clothes I’ve held onto that I know I really need to get rid of
  • Finishing the projects I’ve started, the one’s I am really interested in, and letting go of the projects that just don’t resonate
  • Quasi scripting my coffee chat videos so I stay focused
  • Taking an in person art class
  • Taking a photography class
  • Taking a writing class
  • Creating an outline for my Creative Journaling book

Years ago when I first tried to work through the 12 week self guided course of Finding Water, I found that it was too similar to The Artist Way, but I’d just finished that book and I should have waited a while longer before starting Finding Water. This time around I find the book much more interesting.

I learned so much from The Artist Way, and since I’m really working hard to get out of the limbo, sort of auto pilot state I’ve been in for the past 2 years, I thought working through Finding Water would be a good way to do that. I’m not pressuring myself to rush through the the course. If some weeks it takes me 2 weeks to work through what is supposed to be for one week, I’m hoping to really get back into the swing of things, but since I’ve been ordered by my doctor to take it easy for a week (my rotator cuff is acting up again and I had to go get a steroid shot and they prescribed steroids and pain medication) so walking for the next few days is limited to just walking around the yard, but I can at least get outside and walk a bit. I’m feeling inspired, more open-minded, more creative, and better overall since I started working through Finding Water. I hope you’ll join me… you can do it at your liesure or work through as suggested by Cameron. I know people who have chosen to work on the 12 week program in 12 months instead.

My Creative Journey

It was a dark and stormy time…

Mr. Rockstar (David) was driving “over the road,” and I had to have surgery (a hysterectomy), which meant I was bed ridden for a bit. While bed ridden I really got into my “fauxbonichi.” It wasn’t just the journaling, it was creating the pages–combining art and words, documenting my life on the pages of my journal. I hadn’t created art in almost three decades, but I was having fun and being creative so I was happy. I wanted to get better. I wanted to find my groove again (I loved to draw and paint all throughout elementary, middle, and high school). So I worked on prompts, watched videos (a whole lot of journal with me videos, mostly Hobonichi and Fauxbonichi videos back then).

The more I worked on my pages, trying different things the more joy I felt. The less anxious I felt. After getting over my initial fear of “what if I don’t do it right?” or “what if it’s awful?” or “what if I suck at this?” and then there was fear of the blank page–what do I put on the page? But after more and more journaling, practicing my artistic skills and techniques I got over the bulk of those fears. I found adding art to my journal pages to be fun, relaxing, and interesting. I learned a lot and am still learning a lot.

Though it is fun, and I absolutely love documenting my life with art and words, I’m still a bit overwhelmed at times by the sheer volume of different means and mediums, and the ways that people use them. There people who simply use pen and ink, some add watercolor to their pen and ink, while others use watercolor and gouache, along with colored pencils, and there are those who use acrylics. Not to mention other things you can use on your pages like ephemera, pictures, collage, colored pencils, markers, crayons, stamps, and/or stains. I’ve tried a few different mediums, but I always find myself primarily using pen, ink, watercolor, pictures, everyday ephemera, colored pencils, and/or markers.

I’ve also tried various styles, from more realistic to more illustrated, a bit of a comic or clipart style, to a combination of styles. I love to just sketch things, but I’d say my favorite is when I can capture the essence of what I’m sketching no matter which style I use. I realize that my journal pages and sketchbook pages are not masterpieces, they are not likely to ever be displayed in a gallery, but they’re mine. Not only did I put a bit of love into the pages but I also had fun and was able to capture a bit of my life onto each page.

I’ve learned so much on this journey of combining art and words to my journal pages, but the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. In the beginning I compared my pages to the pages of others–big mistake, but once I started looking at how far I’d come with my own technique it made me realize it’s really more about the moment. Some days my pages are so good they make me take a second look at them to make sure they’re my own. Other days I feel like I’m having a bit of a Mercury Retrograde with my art. On those days I can’t seem to draw a straight line, much less illustrate my day. So those are days I make it more fun and childlike, more whimsical. Other days I simply splash on some watercolor and add ephemera, pictures, and journaling and call it a day.

One of my favorite things about a blank page in a journal or sketchbook is that there are all these possibilities. You never know what kind of page you’ll find in my journals or sketchbooks. Some days I document the book I’m currently reading, other days a bit of a self portrait and a quote. What I create on my pages really depends on my mood, the events of the day, and what materials (like photos or ephemera) I have on hand.

Whenever I do something creative I feel like 1. I’ve accomplished something even if the outcome isn’t brilliant, 2. I’ve had fun, even if the outcome isn’t what I’d hoped it would be, and 3. just doing it, just being creative brings me joy and relieves my anxiety, stress, and helps me reign in my focus (always a good thing when you have anxiety, depression, and ADHD).

I try really hard not to criticize my work, or anyone else’s. Some days our work might look like a flour sifter, other days it might look more like a cup of hot cocoa–but beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder so either way–flour sifter or cup of cocoa I’m happy. How about you?