Thursday 24 June 2010

Starting again from zero

I've never been one of Julia Cameron's many, many fans. Her books just didn't 'do it' for me, though they clearly do it for many artists and would-be artists, and I applaud her project.  So I was quite surprised to find myself picking up a book of hers in the bookshop at Tate Modern, where I went to see an exhibition recently. I was wide open, full of thoughts and reactions after what I'd seen (which I hope to write about), so I felt I should trust my instinct and buy the book.  And The Sound of Paper proved to be the one of her many books which was written for me. Page after page of it resonated, felt meaningful and relevant. For this little book addresses what I'm feeling right now - what to do when you're feeling at point zero, ground to a halt, having to start again from scratch. 

Tired and empty, I have many pages of scrawled notes in my journal on topics I'd like to write about, but haven't had the energy to write anything for weeks. It's nothing dramatic, just weariness. There's nothing dramatic about starting again from zero. After all, that's what we do, in a way, every day. Ajahn Sucitto's recent piece, which I linked to the other day, touches on this: how our accumulated personality, image and achievements are real, yes, but only in a limited way. In a equally real way, we start again from zero constantly. Julia Cameron's tips for this were very welcome and, I found, inspiring:

" When we are at zero, we have to start somewhere, and perhaps the sanest, best, and surest place to start is with the eye of the beholder. We are in a certain place at a certain time and we feel a certain way about it. Let's start here. That means put the pen to the paper and write about the exact moment and place where you find yourself.

...We do not arrive willy-nilly at point zero. we arrive there a choice at a time, a degree at a time, as we make little  or less than we should of a growing discomfort. We get along without what we love the way camels get along without water - not forever, but for a very long time. And then, one day, we are thirsty and what we crave is water, real water, a pure infusion of something that matches what our body and soul are authentically craving.

... the first act of loving kindness is to start from scratch - the scratch of pen on paper. the filling of blank pages with our specific likes and dislikes, our heartfelt and regretted losses and sacrifices - this is the beginning of being someone and somewhere again. When we ignore ourselves for too long, we become exhausted and weakened from trying to get our own attention. We become disheartened - without heart. "
So, having felt disheartened for a while, I'm attempting to start from scratch (if not the scratch of pen on paper).


Dale said...

I love your writing, Jean. There is nobody on the web who helps me see and think and live more than you do.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad that you found that book--it sounds like just the right thing.

Lorianne said...

I have something of a love/hate relationship with JC. After trying repeatedly to work through The Artists' Way, I finally did manage to work through it with a friend some years ago, and it was exactly what I needed at the time. I didn't recognize that then, mind you...but in retrospect, it was the "nudge" that jiggled all kinds of other things into place.

I've tried several of her other books but have never resonated with them as much as TAW. I think having "gotten" what I could from that book, the other books seemed repetitive: "Why are you reminding me of something we've already worked through!"

I have a copy of The Sound of Paper on a shelf somewhere, though. I've never touched it (perhaps because of what I describe in the previous paragraph!), but I've always kept it. I guess in the back of my head, there's this idea that the book might be helpful someday, when the time is right. It sounds like the book found you right at that moment.

Fire Bird said...

... this is what i need too right now - thanks for this post... back to first principles...