This Week in The Artist’s Way, the Focus is on Turning Lemons into Lemonade.
Being an artist is tough. Whether you’re a writer, painter, dancer or actor, you put yourself on the line every time you share your work, risking humiliation, rejection and sometimes even financial loss. Losses are an inevitable part of being an artist, but rather than denying your shameful artistic failures and hiding them away to yourself, Cameron says that you must acknowledge and work through them so you can move on.
My first novel The Sensory Garden has been out on query for about a month, and apart from a handful of rejections, I have heard nothing back. While my critique partners found a lot of merit in the story, they found my protagonist too passive and the ending unsatisfyingly ambivalent. They had stayed throughout the story with the protagonist they knew and loved, cheered her on through her many battles and tribulations and were waiting for her big payoff at the end. But they didn’t get it. My protagonist settled for compromise and my critique partners were disappointed.
Well, bad luck, I said. Sometimes people are too passive and settle for less than they should. Sometimes we don’t get our happy endings, the villain doesn’t get their comeuppance and the loose ends don’t get tied up in a neat little bow. Real life is full of dead ends, disappointments and compromise and so is my novel. I insisted on telling the story I wanted to tell, and with a shrug of their shoulders, they let me have my way.
But then something happened.
My real-life husband walked out on me and it changed the way I saw my story. My original premise was that everything was all right as long as you have love. My critique partners weren’t buying it and now neither am I.
And so now to the task of editing my novel for the umpteenth time. On legal advice, I will be changing many aspects of the characters I based on real-life people, including my former husband. These artistic and personal losses have been a great wake-up call this week and have alerted me to my own self-delusion and negligence.
I have a lot of work ahead of me to correct both in my writing and in my life.
For my artist’s date, I went to Officeworks and printed off some photos and bought a nice album to put them in. This is something I wanted to do for many years but could never seem to find the time.
It might seem strange for me to be collecting photos that include my former husband, and lovingly curating them into a treasured family album.
But, as I said in the beginning, failures need to be acknowledged, shared and worked through so that you can move onto better things.