Tag Archives: The Artist’s Way

Hitting the Right Note

I woke up at 8am this past Christmas Eve. Late, for me. I’d been up ’til midnight, doing something I’d never done before. Something mortifying. I stared down the clock. My family was coming over at 2pm and my To Do list was more ominous than a week without vodka.

I headed straight for my lap top. For the first time in 5 months, I skipped my morning writing. This was more important. Far more important. The reason I wrote a journal to begin with.

My heart pounded.

I can’t do this. I know I promised myself all year I would finally do this, but I can’t. I just can’t.

I stalled. Checked email. Facebook. My mouth felt dry.

I have to. I have to do it.

Let me back up.

I was 7 years old when The Little Mermaid was released. It was November 1989. I sat on the living room floor of our little Cape Cod, wearing out my VHS copy by rewinding “Part of Your World” over and over again. I paused it every five seconds, and wrote out the lyrics, line by line.

When I was sure no one could hear, I sang along.

What would I give to live where you are…

I sang with longing. I felt like Ariel. Dreaming. Wanting the impossible. In the end, her voice earned her just that.

When I was in 4th grade, my music teacher asked for volunteers for one-line solos during the holiday concert. I raised my hand, heart racing. She plunked out the tune on the piano as I sang, “Up on the housetop reindeer pause…”

“Let’s try again,” she said. By the third time, she not-so-subtlely moved on, leaving me to wonder what I’d done wrong. My classmates said nothing.

Could I really not sing? One simple line? Even with the notes played for me on the piano? This was bad.

All lies.

All lies.

When I stood in front of all the parents the day of the concert, I tried not to fidget, even though I felt faint. I sang my one-line solo as best I could, and afterwards, my mother praised, “You sounded like an angel.” No one else complimented me.

“You have to say that,” I grumbled, afraid to believe her.

By 12, I’d taught myself how to play the piano, barely, and when no one was home, I sat at my great-grandmother’s ancient upright and played the songs my parents listened to. John Denver. James Taylor. Carole King.

I was terrified someone would find out. Not only were the songs I secretly adored lame, old fogey music, I heard my voice. How weak and flawed and uninteresting it was. How bad my timing was.

At 15, I bought a karaoke machine, took guitar lessons and even tried writing songs. I toyed with the idea of sharing them. I didn’t.

“I thought that was the radio,” my sister said, when she heard me in the shower one day. She was never long on compliments, and I kept that gem tucked away with “You sing like an angel,” hoping against hope that maybe, just maybe, I could actually do this.

In college, I studied writing, believing it was my true passion, and then landed a well-paying corporate job. I married a musician. Time passed. 25. 26. 27. 28. My life felt off, like I was trying to break in a pair of shoes that would never fit.

I obsessively watched singing competitions, comparing myself to the contestants, always coming up short. I subscribed to an online karaoke service, and heard only off notes and lackluster tone. I thought about how I couldn’t sing and play an instrument at the same time. About my crippling stage fright.

It’s hopeless. Laughable. Not even worth admitting. Move on.

In February 2011, I started this blog, and in July 2012, I began doing creative unblocking exercises I’d learned long ago, courtesy of The Artist’s Way. Pretty soon it was impossible to hide from myself.

Fast-forward to Christmas Eve morning. I sat at my lap top, frantically sorting through the dozens of clips my husband, Peppermeister, and I recorded the night before, battling 30 years of “I can’t.”

But you can. Do it. NOW.

At 9am, I hit Publish. And then something miraculous happened. My heart immediately lightened. The hardest part was over:

I had posted a video clip of me. Singing. On my blog.

Jules singing

I call this one, “This is the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done so please don’t judge me.”

I made light of it. Like I hadn’t been steeling myself for an entire year lifetime.

I didn’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable by sharing just how monumental that was. Though Peppermeister’s a musician, we’d never tried this before (I know. Ridiculous). We tried for nearly 3 hours to get it right (I really, really hate admitting that), but even in the published clip, I hit a bad note, missed a cue, sounded tired.

It didn’t matter.

I had finally admitted what I wanted. I’d taken the first breath of my new life, wondering when I got so melodramatic how I’d survived before.

P.S. – We’ve been practicing. So watch out.

Have you had any big “Ah hah” moments? What do you want to be when you grow up?

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A Bout of Sincerity

It must’ve been my recent return to poetry, Chipmunks.

Lately, I’ve felt somethin’ coming on. Sometimes I mistake it for melodrama. Or, at best, awkward earnestness.

That’s right.

Serious writing.

Though never insincere, I wasn’t always all guilty pleasures and goofy PowerPoint presentations. In my teens, humor only crept into my writing via dialogue. Everything else was angst-y and maudlin. I filled dozens of journals with lovesick poetry. Some of it wasn’t half bad.

In college, I discovered writers like Bill Bryson and David Sedaris, and realized that was the genre I wanted to pursue: humorous memoir. I’ve always found the truth more profound with levity. I like it when a protagonist’s journey makes me laugh despite the tears.

Nevertheless, the old poetry itch is back, and I don’t want this blog to suffer for it; we all know this place is the Uncle Jesse to my Aunt Becky. So today I thought I’d just quickly mention something a liiiittle more serious. A little behind-the-scenes look at my writing life.

I spend a lot of time on creative exercises and figuring out how to find and follow my passion(s). I handwrite, stream-of-consciousness style, for 30 minutes every morning, first thing. I take a daily walk, and once a week, I try to go on a mini adventure that sparks my creativity. On Sundays, I spend about an hour or two ‘checking in’ with myself, writing about recurring issues and the little miracles that happen when you get in touch with your creative nature.

Artists-Way-stache-glassesThese practices are, yes, a huge time commitment; I shower at night and get up at 5:30 in the morning to write before I drive an hour to work. But these exercises are a lifesaver for me, and if they sound familiar, you probably read about them in The Artist’s Way. Much like blogging, Julia Cameron’s books have changed my life in unimaginable ways.

They’re the reason I volunteered to help Marlene film the pilot webisode of My Parents Are Crazier Than Yours. The reason I had the nerve to attend my first blogging conference, meet up with Rache from Rachel’s Table, and sign up for that web design class.

Thanks to this blog and The Artist’s Way, I’ve identified concrete goals and watched them spring to life. I’ve learned that if you ask for a creative helping hand, and open yourself to possibility, the universe always delivers. Some of you have been the messengers!

I’ve never met Julia Cameron, have no affiliation with The Artist’s Way, and never thought I’d talk about this here, but my blog has always embraced the things we all love -however logical or…not- without shame. And so: I love these books.

If you’re feeling stuck and really ready to make a change, they might help you, too.

Have you ever read any of The Artist’s Way books? What inspires (or blocks) your creativity?

P.S. – Lest you think I’ve fallen off the guilty pleasure wagon, I’m drinking vodka right now and I’ve got somethin’ spectacular in the works for you later this week. It might be the most bloggy fun I’ve EVER HAD.