It is the first day of 2011. I have never been one for resolutions because I feel they are usually just another way to feel guilt or shame and they are so rarely successful. Instead, I decided this year to set intentions for 2011. The previous year seemed to be very difficult for most people I know and so part of me thinks that 2011 must be an improvement. Today is the day to start down that path of improvement.
I spent a few days thinking about what I wanted to do this year. My intentions for the year seemed to revolve around finishing a dissertation, writing more in my novel, discovering more ways to be artistic, improving my mental outlook, ensuring I have a job after June 1, and learning to be true to myself. This sounds like a broad scattering of things I would like to do, but I think that all can be classified under one heading: learning to be an artist.
When I was growing up, I thought that artists were people who painted or put together dynamic collages or sewed beautiful quilts or made every meal a beautiful feast fit for a five-star restaurant. None of those descriptions applied to me. I would look at those around me and think "I wish I could be more artistic," but nothing ever happened; I did not even try some things because I thought "I'm not the artistic type." As a teenager, I scoffed at those with artistic temperaments and thought that since that personality did not apply to me I could certainly never be artistic. I wanted stability, I had responsibilities, I could never just float through life on a wing and a paintbrush and expect it all to turn out well.
Instead, I would express my colorful nature through clothes, loud jewelry, bright colors on the living room walls. This was not artistic, I thought, because it was something anyone could do. I would stay up late at night and write little stories about family trips and just share them with family on e-mail. This was not artistic, I thought, because it was something anyone could do. I would try new recipes and feed the masses of family and friends with the new loaves I kneaded and baked with love. This was not artistic, I thought, because it was something anyone could do.
It was not until 2008 that I started thinking, "Wait a minute. Maybe all of this is art, just not art like I'm used to." And maybe I could be artistic without having an artist's personality. I did not have to be the next Monet or the next Thomas Mann or even the next P.D.Q. Bach: I could be myself. And my self loved (loves) bright colors, good food, craft projects and photographs, writing and reading and gardening and life.
Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way helped me come to this realization about art. As I wrote morning pages every day, as I walked the dog and absorbed the fresh air and beautiful scenery, I slowly started accepting myself as an artist, as someone who can be creative. And it really doesn't matter if I'm the next Monet or Mann or Mozart because I am not being creative for anyone else: I am being creative for me.
This brings me back to my intentions for 2011. I have The Complete Artist's Way -- all three books in the series -- and I have been meaning to work through this in its entirety but I have not started. Or rather I start and then stop and then don't push myself to get back on the Horse of Another Color and keep going. That is going to change this year. There are 36 chapters total in this collection of three books. I have 52 weeks in the year. And so I am going to start my artistic journey and see where I end up in 2011. According to Julia Cameron, I need a Creativity Contract, so here it goes:
I, MCB, understand that I am undertaking an intensive, guided encounter with my own creativity. I commit myself to the 36-week duration of the course. I, MCB, commit to weekly reading, daily morning pages, a weekly artist date, and the fulfillment of each week's tasks. I, MCB, further understand that this course will raise issues and emotions with which I will have to deal. I, MCB, commit myself to excellent self-care -- adequate sleep, diet, exercise, and pampering -- for the duration of the course.
There. It's done. Let week one begin.