A couple of weeks ago, I sat curled up on a sofa in the 3rd floor lounge of the Garrison Institute, awaiting the start of a silent meditation retreat. Light glanced across the hardwood floor and splashed the Persian rug. Other retreatants, either coming off their own retreat or like me, killing time for the one about to begin, sprawled in the window seat or in the generous chairs, reading books plucked off the wide shelves.
The book I held was Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: 25th Anniversary Edition. It had made the rounds of my romance writing circles some years ago, but I hadn’t picked it up. I couldn’t be bothered to explore the book’s concepts (too warm and fuzzy), just as I couldn’t be bothered with yoga (too slow and boring) or meditation (definitely too slow and boring). Instead I took up martial arts, hammered my way through draft after draft of my action-adventure stories, and kept my calendar filled to overflowing with work and volunteering of all kinds — quite a feat when I didn’t have a day job for nearly 4 years.
I never thought of myself as a Type A personality, but given the evidence, I have to say I think I might be. Maybe. Sort of.
But fast forward to today where, at 52 and with a cranky hip, I’ve been forced to slow down physically. I took up meditation almost a decade ago, and I suspect that daily practice, besides making me quite a bit saner and more emotionally even, has created space in my thinking and in my life for other practices and explorations. I’ve recently taken up yoga which, far from slow and boring, is a challenge when done mindfully. (And anyone who says yoga isn’t a workout isn’t paying attention, literally, while doing it.)
And so I landed on the Garrison couch, fresh off some yoga stretches post-cramped plane trip, with The Artist’s Way in my hot little hands.
Julia had me at “spiritual chiropractic” in the first chapter. That I get. I’ve had some experience working with writing exercises and other such work to “unblock” emotions, so when she mentioned “morning pages,” written longhand, I decided to go for it. The practice, in the three days of the retreat, ended up transforming my time there. Dumping all the usual thoughts that run wild in my mind each morning was like cleaning my eyeglasses or putting in a fresh pair of contacts.
I’m still at it, a couple of weeks later, and now I’m working with a sense that perhaps there’s more “coming up” for me than I bargained for… I have every intention of completing my Promise House quartet, but I also feel drawn to nonfiction work, specifically the personal essay form that I was trained in during graduate school.
I’m also sensing that it’s okay to set all of the writing aside for a time in order to deepen my practices and perhaps release some of these Type A tendencies. It’ll take a little while to get comfortable with that idea.
So for now, my hope is that working through some of the exercises in The Artist’s Way will make the final 25% of Evelyn go more smoothly, with less second-guessing and backtracking and general confusion about what the heck that story is really about.
Or perhaps I can find, as my yoga app puts it, “a balance between effort and relaxation.” Because for the past several years, that balance has escaped me, and I’m finally — finally — ready.
Sandra K. Moore has been writing one thing or another since she could scribble on a Big Chief tablet. A former Silhouette Bombshell author, Sandra has given up (temporarily) the kickass heroine and is now writing from her softer side for the self-published Promise House series. This novella quartet explores the journeys of four young women finding their way — and remaining true to themselves — through the social expectations and turmoil of 1950’s Houston.