The Artist’s Way: Week 7 – Recovering a Sense of Connection

The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self
The Artist’s Way is a 12-week program designed by writer/director, Julia Cameron, to help develop creativity. The program is for creatives of all types, and has weekly exercises based on free writing, affirmations and regular excursions. Come with me as I take this 12-week course and see what I discover along the way.

Posted by naomilisashippen in The Artist's Way, 9 comments

The Artist’s Way: Week 6 – Recovering a Sense of Abundance

The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self
The Artist’s Way is a 12-week program designed by writer/director, Julia Cameron, to help develop creativity. The program is for creatives of all types, and has weekly exercises based on free writing, affirmations and regular excursions. Come with me as I take this 12-week course and see what I discover along the way.

Posted by naomilisashippen in The Artist's Way, 3 comments

Goodreads Review – The Wife and the Widow by Christian White #thewifeandthewidow #amreadingsuspense #amreadingcrime #writingcommunity #amreading, #bookstogram, #goodreads

The Wife and the Widow is intriguing from the start. With a haunting setting and fascinating but relatable characters, the story follows two very different women whose lives are intrinsically linked.

The story is set in the seaside town of Belport, a tourist destination in the summer and a ghost town in the winter. I love stories set in my hometown of Melbourne, Victoria, and I was reminded of places like Philip Island and Queenscliff.  The setting was so evocative, I was surprised when I looked it up on google and found that Belport was a fictitious place.

Down to earth Abby reminds me of the tough, friendly locals I have met on summer holidays to coastal towns. Dutiful doctor’s wife Kate is poignant as a woman who despite her wealth and status, seems to be held in contempt by most people she meets. “Passive to the point of invisible” she fights to find her truth and her voice.

The Wife and the Widow takes us to the limits of what we are prepared to do for those we love. It explores how seemingly everyday people can hold very deep reserves of both strength and darkness.

The story becomes ever more engrossing as all the disparate pieces come together in the most shocking and unexpected climax.

The Wife and the Widow is a cautionary tale about the damage that secrets can do and how we are never truly free of the past.

Posted by naomilisashippen in Goodreads Book Reviews, 0 comments

The Artist’s Way – Week 5: Recovering a Sense of Possibility

The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self
The Artist’s Way is a 12-week program designed by writer/director, Julia Cameron, to help develop creativity. The program is for creatives of all types, and has weekly exercises based on free writing, affirmations and regular excursions. Come with me as I take this 12-week course and see what I discover along the way.

Posted by naomilisashippen in The Artist's Way, 11 comments

The Artist’s Way – Week 4: Recovering a Sense of Integrity

The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self
The Artist’s Way is a 12-week program designed by writer/director, Julia Cameron, to help develop creativity. The program is for creatives of all types, and has weekly exercises based on free writing, affirmations and regular excursions. Come with me as I take this 12-week course and see what I discover along the way.

Posted by naomilisashippen in The Artist's Way, 2 comments

The Artist’s Way – Week 3: Recovering a Sense of Power

The Artist’s Way is a 12-week program designed by writer/director, Julia Cameron, to help develop creativity. The program is for creatives of all types, and has weekly exercises based on free writing, affirmations and regular excursions. Come with me as I take this 12-week course and see what I discover along the way.

Posted by naomilisashippen in The Artist's Way, 2 comments

Goodreads Review: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

A sensuous, tragic story about a fascinating woman trying to survive in Post-Revolutionary France.

Josephine Bonaparte is living on borrowed time in the beautiful garden she has created at Malmaison. Her failed attempts to produce an heir for Emperor Napoleon are about to have  her booted out of her self-styled paradise as he openly pursues his affairs with a string of fertile and eligible young women.

The lives of two other women are bound up with Josephine’s precarious existence. There is gardener’s wife, Anne Serreaux, who is only too aware that the security of her family depends on the survival of Josephine’s teetering marriage. Then there is botanist’s wife, Marthe Desfriches, contemptuous of tyrant Napoleon and with a score to settle of her own.

I was captivated by the stories of these three women, and the way their relationships shifted between rivalry and solidarity. Despite being so different from each other, they are united as women who are at the mercy of their husbands’ choices and the place that society has designated them.

Stephanie Parkyn has written about an exciting time in history, with sensuous descriptions of decadent Post-Revolutionary France and an ambitious garden populated by flora and fauna from around the world. The descriptions of Australian plants and animals as seen through the eyes of Europeans encountering them for the first time are particularly delightful.

Like Manderlay, Camelot and Shangri-La, Malmaison is born of a beautiful dream. Josephine’s efforts at creating a private utopia are reminiscent of her tragic predecessor, Marie Antoinette, who created a rustic retreat for herself and her inner circle, away from the formality of the Palace of Versailles.

It’s as though both women are trying to escape from the devastation of their own people, which by association, they are somewhat complicit in. But turning a blind eye, both women retreat into their gardens and try to create a world apart from the horrific realities all around them.

And we all know how that ends.

Posted by naomilisashippen in Goodreads Book Reviews, 0 comments

The Artist’s Way: Week 2

The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self

The Artist’s Way is a 12-week program designed by writer/director, Julia Cameron, to help develop creativity. The program is for creatives of all types, and has weekly exercises based on free writing, affirmations and regular excursions. Come with me as I take this 12-week course and see what I discover along the way.

Week 2: Recovering a Sense of Identity

With my new routine now established, I sit down at my dining room table every day to do the morning pages. They no longer feel like an imposition on my time, but a necessary kick start to my day, just like my morning coffee.

For some reason, I prefer this space I share with my family, to the privacy of my desk in the spare room. If anyone’s up and about, they’ll stop to have a chat, turn on the TV or generally go about their day. Usually, I would find this background noise distracting while I write, but with the morning pages it’s different. I need the stimulation they provide to give me ideas.

Cameron often stress the importance of paying attention to what’s going on around us in order to fill up the creative well and stimulate our imagination. We must learn to balance our outside experience with the times when we sit down to write, and that’s where the morning pages come in.

This week, an idea literally came to me in my sleep and the next day when I sat down to do my morning pages it wouldn’t leave me alone. Rather than fight it off and save it till after I had finished my morning pages, I incorporated my story idea into my free writing and then developed it over then next few days.

When this story was complete, I shared this it with a few trusted friends and received some honest and helpful feedback. It is very important who you decide to take on your creative journey with you and Cameron cautions against “poisonous playmates.” Just as we would steer our children away from others we would consider a bad influence, so too, we must avoid those who we know would undermine our creative efforts. There are exercises in the book that help clarify who you should and should not allow into your creative circle.

Just as we must be selective in the company we keep, so too, we must be selective in the use of our time. Cameron dispels the myth that an artistic life requires “great swathes of aimlessness,” but argues that artist need to be extremely focused. We must pay attention to our surroundings and be present in the moment, so that we have plenty of supply when we go back to produce our art. The exercise on mapping out how I used my time each day was vey telling and has help we avoid some of the pitfalls of wasting this precious resource.

For my artist date, I went to the bookshop and browsed the mystical section. I bought a small pack of tarot cards for a nominal amount of money. I have always had an interest in tarot readings and put it on my list of 20 Things I Enjoy Doing, and l wrote next to it the last time I had a tarot reading. It was over thirty years ago. I took the cards home and spent time reading the instructions and learning how to set up and interpret the cards. It was a fun little exercise, that as an ex-Catholic, felt a little bit daring.

Setting up and reading the cards allowed me a little sliver of time, just for myself. It was a time of introspection, focus and fun. It is these little chunks of time out of your usual routine that allow you to nourish your inner artist and give you some breathing space from the usual obligations of life.

This week felt a little gentler than the one before, and I was less resistant to the morning pages, the affirmations and the exercises. I did not feel guilty for taking time out for myself or feel silly about taking care of my artist.

As I gear up for week three in The Artist’s Way, I now feel safe in claiming my identity as an artist.

Posted by naomilisashippen in The Artist's Way, 0 comments

The Artist’s Way: My 12-Week Journey

The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self

The Artist’s Way is a 12-week program based on the book of the same name, by Julia Cameron. The program is designed to enhance creativity, with weekly exercises based on free writing, affirmations and regular excursions. Come with me as I take this 12-week course and see what I discover along the way.

Week 1 – Recovering a Sense of Safety

The first thing I heard about this program were the morning pages, which are one of the “bedrocks” of this course.  The morning pages require you to complete three pages of free writing at the start of every day. You write whatever comes into your head, without censure, you can even write that you don’t know what to write. These pages are for your eyes only, and not even that. The Artist’s Way tells you not to edit and not to look back. And I don’t. The idea is to focus on the process and not the end result.

At first, I thought these pages were a waste of time. I already have an established writing routine, so why waste time writing drivel when I should be getting on with my next novel? But morning pages work in mysterious ways. Combined with writing lines of affirmations, I find a new strength in my writing voice. I have started writing about topics I would usually shy away from and things that other people might not like.

I shared some of these writings with others and I was blown away by their response. They remarked on the tone, urgency and pace of my work and said that I had really found my voice.

And that’s what the program does.

It helps free you from the inhibitions that hold you back; the fear of rejection and the desire to please. It’s ironic, but in trying to please our readers, we are actually short-changing them. We produce work that is disingenuous and wishy-washy, half-arsed and craven. It takes courage to write about what really matters to you, and The Artist’s Way is certainly making me feel braver.

Affirmations are the second part of the morning pages routine. Cameron offers a selection to choose from, and in Week 1, you write ten lines of your chosen affirmation every day.

Writing ten lines of “I, Naomi, am a talented and prolific writer” felt silly at first. I imagined my grandma telling me that self-praise is no recommendation and my mother screwing up her face in disgust. I pictured my cousins giggling and my kindly aunt patting me on the hand and saying, “Of course you are, dear.”

These objections to our affirmations are what Cameron calls “blurts.” Blurts are the negative little voices that pop up when you write your affirmations. Cameron tells us to reverse every blurt we get. If a blurt tells you that you can’t write to save yourself, you simply respond with, “I am a good writer.” Cameron says that our blurts “hold us in bondage” and “must be dissolved.” And it’s amazing how easily dissolved they are. As I continue with my daily affirmations, grandma, my cousins, my aunt and my mum all fade into nonexistence.

The other bedrock of The Artist’s Way program is the artist’s date. The idea is that every week, you take yourself on a little excursion to fill up the “creative well”. You don’t need to spend a lot of time or money. You just take yourself out of your usual routine to see and do something different, to stimulate your senses and kick start your imagination.

No one can come with you on this date, it’s just you and your artist. Your inner artist, that is. According to Cameron, there is a little artist that lives inside us. Like a child, this little artist must be encouraged and nurtured.

Another batty idea. But still, I play along.

Being in lockdown has some limitations, so I decide to use Cameron’s example of going out to buy cheap stationery at a thrift shop. I used this stationery for some of the exercises for this week, which included writing letters to myself about people who have variously encouraged or mocked my creative efforts. In thinking about these things, I am very happy to realise that the positive feedback I have received by far outweighed the negative.

With Week 1 complete, I have formed a daily habit of writing my morning pages and affirmations and of attending a weekly artist’s date. And as silly as the exercises felt in the beginning, I can feel them doing me some good. My inhibitions have loosened and I am writing more what I want to write, not what I think I should.

As the repetitive nature of the exercises becomes ingrained, I feel my writing muscles getting stronger.

As Mr. Miyagi says to his young apprentice in The Karate Kid, “Wax on, wax off.”

Posted by naomilisashippen in The Artist's Way, 4 comments

The Virus Chronicles: Enough is Enough

As Restrictions Ease, Will Our Time in Isolation Bring Some Positive Changes?

May 7th, 2020

My sister said she has saved a lot of money since going into isolation. She is no longer buying coffee and lunches everyday or takeaway dinners during the week. These were the little treats she gave herself as a reward for the 9 to 5 slog. Instead, she is cooking at home from scratch and has even started a veggie garden.

Similarly, I have been making some economies at home. The Friday night takeaway has been replaced by homemade pizza, more delicious than any we have ever bought, and I am saving a small fortune on petrol, public transport and maintaining a business appearance.

Now that I have the time and energy to sort and launder them, I have decided that we all have enough clothes to last a lifetime. I clean the house myself rather than pay a fortnightly cleaner and we exercise by walking, gardening and doing things around the house rather than paying expensive memberships at the gym.

Our time poverty has created a culture of wastefulness, but hopefully, this is going to change.

As our leaders talk about easing the restrictions, I am noticing a change in the air. The tone on social media is more optimistic and a few more shops are beginning to open.

When I went to my local shopping centre the other day, I noticed chairs and tables stacked outside one of the cafes. They were still cordoned off behind red and white plastic tape, but at least they were there, ready to be set up again and used. And one of the clothing stores had opened. The lady stood at the door and squirted me with hand sanitiser before she let me in, but at least she was there. People lining up at the bakery talked about the “silly” rules as they stood 1.5 meters apart, on the painted feet that separated them.

A recent survey revealed that people are more worried about the economic threats of the virus rather than catching the virus itself. Australia has managed the situation very well and with the lowest rates of infection and death in the world, people are becoming restless and want to venture out again.

The other day, I watched a beautiful video about a father reading his children the story of  The Great Realisation. The story compared the world before and after the virus, with a world of rush and excess being replaced by one of peace and connection.

We have had to make many sacrifices during this isolation period. With financial constraints and lack of supply, many have been forced to live with the basics. I like to think that we have learnt something from this time.

Hopefully, we have learnt that things don’t make us happy and that it’s the love for each other that matters most. Hopefully, we have learnt that to appreciate what we have and stop chasing what we think we should have.

And hopefully, most of all, I hope we have learnt that enough is enough.

Posted by naomilisashippen in The Virus Chronicles, 0 comments
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