Saturday, January 1, 2011

Setting Intentions for 2011

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.


  1. I have a post waiting to be finished and the first few lines are almost the exact same as the ones you started this post with. I only have one "resolution" for 2011 and that is to loose 20 lbs by mid May. But I'm due with a baby at the end of April so that insures that this resolution will be met. Other than that I have set out to be intentional this year. Life has seemed to "just happen" to me in the past and this year I want to be as intentional as I can.

    Though I, too, have refused to call myself an artist in the past, lately I have discovered that my expression of art is personal to me. I look forward to reading about your journey!

  2. I wish I could figure out a way to respond to a comment specifically (surely there must be a way to do that!). I just wanted to tell my dear friend at pistolsnprincesses that I just read your purpose-full blog post. Good for you! We should get together and chat sometime about life and art. I do think of you as an artist, my dear!

    Guess I'll have to find another way to reply... :-)

  3. I would love to sit and chat! I was just thinking last night that one of the many things I love about you is that when you call me "my dear" it has never felt condescending like it can with other people. Thanks for the encouragement. And I have no idea how to reply to one comment except to use email.

  4. Thanks for sharing this with me. I think artistic is a state of mind. Everyone crafts, everyone creates, everyone is an artist. Its just how you look at it I guess.
    I would like to know more about the morning pages.

  5. Thanks for the encouragement, Nicole!

    As far as morning pages go, the way that Julia Cameron explains them in The Artist's Way they are three (or more, but at least three) handwritten pages of whatever is going through your mind at that time. She suggests doing them every morning, but I write whenever I can during the day. The important aspect is three uninterrupted pages about whatever you are thinking. I find that the process is really helpful because it makes me more reflective and more aware of what I am thinking and feeling and the reasons for that.


Thanks for stopping by...I love your comments!

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