Sometimes A Writer’s Retreat Is A Step Too Far!

It’s funny how our creative selves can make up a hundred reasons for not getting down to work.

You know the kind of internal monologue which usually begins: ‘It’s not fair! Or I can’t possibly work under such pressure/noise/stress/chaos’ Need I continue? We are often looking for the optimum conditions in which to create and they rarely occur. Who has the money, time, lack of responsibility to go on a retreat for example? Indeed, it’s true. I have been looking at a painting course in Italy and it will cost masses and I have given up the idea. Yet when I consider I keep thinking about it and it’s obviously something I need what should I do? Certainly I would never consider giving up painting because I cannot go.

These are the dilemmas and anxieties creatives place upon themselves – always looking at the bigger picture instead of filling in the form as Julia Cameron calls it. What does she mean by this? Well, I understand it to mean filling each box at a time and moving down the page until it is complete. You cannot fill in a form without taking one box at a time, it is an impossibility. Think of your creativity like an online flight check in form, you cannot move on until all the boxes are ticked.

So, if you are concerned about not having time to fulfil your creativity then have a look at how you do spend your day. I found it helpful to represent my activities pictorially and was shocked to see how many hours I spend at my computer, apparently working, but actually purposefully wasting time. It’s like  the finance  guru Alvin Hall’s advice when he goes off to sort out people’s money mess and he says that first of all they should write down everything they spend in a week. Sometimes it’s too embarrassing to actually set down what eats up all those coins, which became notes and then finally get slammed onto the credit card.

That’s it, the essence of being a creative is actually being just that: creative. We could call it guerrilla creativity where it should happen anytime, anyplace or anywhere. We never, or seldom, achieve our ideal writing conditions and sometimes, if we do, it scares us. ‘Oh no, unless I use this time profitably it will be wasted.’ It’s another example of focussing on product rather than process.  Sometimes we can be mistaken about what really is the ideal for us. I am a freelance writer and if someone wants 500 words on bird watching, for example,  then I can provide them. In fact, on a good day I can move from one subject to another and write phenomenal numbers of words. I am so disciplined about this work.

However, when it comes down to my writing, I faff about, go and do some painting, decide the floor needs sweeping, walk out into the garden and get ambushed (literally) by some weeding. What is going on?

Certainly this is something that crops up time and again and is something I am trying to get my head around. Personally, I have no excuses, I live in a beautiful part of Portugal, it is quiet, the birds sing, the retreat is calm yet I am capable of spending my days stirring up anxiety in my own mind.Frustratingly I know for a fact that if I just set myself a ten minute block of time I can write and inevitably I will continue to write. The sky does not fall in, neither does the ash get emptied from the wood burner, but so what? It’s all about those small steps; those boxes that are filled in one at a time and gradually I find the work is completed. As an example, I started a brand new journal on the 1st January which had 222 pages in it. I began a new one on the 22nd March and have written another 200 pages so far of tiny black handwritten material.

That’s 422 pages since the beginning of the year, every day, a few at a time. How many words I cannot begin to guess but it’s masses and that amount was achieved one word after the other. Samuel Pepys could never have imagined how popular his diaries would become.  I could never sit down and write that amount in one go, it takes time, discipline and no more than an hour in one go.Have I made my point?
Until next time!

Cameron.J – The Artist’s Way –  Pan

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