So, when I think about what I want to convey in this book, the thing on my mind is what will YOU want to know about being an artist? I personally want to know how I can be brave and work through my fears in order to enable me to get at the abundance that lays on the other side of my fears? How do I get at the goodies? How do I access my genius and write or paint something that will be of value to me, to you and to all of us?
I have come to realize, through meditating on this question, that all "artists" talk about the "stumbling block" of accessing creativity, and these blocks may just be the biggest obstacle keeping us from fulfilling our dreams and our passions! We all give different names to this, but it is identical in all of us (I call this fear the "Dragon"). It is the fear that shows up when we sit down in front of the blank canvas, in front of a blank page, or what ever other medium you are working in, and that dreaded panic rises up again from within and absolutely nothing will come out! The more we try and force something out the harder it is to access that place where your gorgeous creativity lives (I call that place the vault, full of all sorts of treasures). The fear is the dragon itself, and the dragon is on full alert when we are in creative "force" mode. Thoughts like, "I told everyone I was going to write a book, and now I can not think of a fricken worthwhile thing to say"! "Great, now I am going to be exposed as a fraud". "See, I knew you shouldn't have tried to stand out in the first place! "You should not have had such grandiose aspirations" rise up in my mind, causing my heart to race, my face to flush and the sheer panic to set in! Do you recognize any of these feelings as your own? I am guessing you do!
The more I read about blocks (the Dragon), the more I realize that our dragons are not the enemy that we think they are. In fact, they are just doing the necessary but thankless physiological job of protecting us from our perceived danger. Seth Godin, in his book The Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, calls this fear our "lizard brain" in action! The lizard brain is the oldest part of our brain (the amygdala) that was developed when all we needed to do was concern ourselves with our "fight and flight" instincts for survival! Way back then it actually was dangerous when someone looked us in the eye, dangerous to draw attention to ourselves, and dangerous to stand out in the crowd. I am beginning to see that this whole process of being stuck is totally natural. Natural yes, but necessary? No! I call pacifying the archaic survival mechanisms that we no longer need , "Sneaking Past The Dragon"!
Godin goes on to say that we have carried over this ancient fear of dangerous situations into our modern lives where there actually is no "real" danger. He calls that fear that comes up in these situations, "anxiety". And anxiety is like a fear of the bogey man, a fear of a perceived danger that doesn't exist! The artists and inventors that we all admire, are the brave ones who have learned how to sneak past their inner dragon and access the vault where all the jewels are kept. They have scored VIP tickets to the place where our inner genius resides. I promise you that you too can get past your dragon and access that amazing store house! But, first you must recognize the dragon as your friend and not your enemy. She tells you when you are in real danger and you need to heed that instinct! I think she deserves some appreciation for a job well done! I am fifty-one years old and my dragon has had to be on alert a lot, after all, I was a wild little tom-boy as a child! But, what we do not need anymore is to have the fear that is anxiety based, the fear of standing out in the crowd! It simply does not serve us! In fact being an artist requires us to do that very thing! We need to do something wonderful and creative enough that it will have us standing out in a crowd and really making a difference to our lives and the lives of others! We need to be brave! And if you are anything like me you crave being a vehicle of that change.
Being an artist demands that we must do things that are out of the ordinary. We must learn to value our wild and crazy thoughts as the genius at work. All great inventors have had to do this. They had to get past the safety of the dragon which was keeping them mediocre, in order to be brave. They could then suggest an entirely different way of doing or looking at something, and the world could then become a better place for it! I think that what the world needs now is people who are brave enough to think differently, to think lovingly, to think creatively. It isn't anxiety that solves monumental problems, it is being brave and loving! That is the book I want to write, the one that talks about how if we will just learn to acknowledge our inner dragon, understand its purpose, respect how powerful it is, we can learn how to sneak past it!
How do we do that, you ask? Well, I am coming to realize it is not by warring it out with the dragon, that is for sure! You will never win! It is the oldest most developed part of our brain! Rather, in order to sneak past the dragon, we need to distract it. How you do that is as simple as developing the habit of practicing your art every day. By developing the habit of writing, of painting and just doing it. You will soothe your inner dragon, reassuring her that you are just doodling, just scribbling, and that you are safe. Lull the dragon back to sleep with your habit! Your dragon will get tired. She will say, "Oh she is just doing that silly writing or painting thing again," and she will go back to sleep! This practice to wear down your dragon requires commitment on your part. But, if you desire the key to the Kingdom (Creativity) badly enough you will learn to do this!
Many other writers and artist talk about developing this habit. Julia Cameron with her morning pages, and Jerry Seinfeld with his daily writing, the big red Xs on a calendar thus making a chain that he refuses to break, are just a couple variations of this practice. The important thing to remember here is that these artists agree that quality should not to be your focus, because focusing on quality will awaken the dragon, and as I said before, this is a war you simply can not win. Instead practice your writing daily, or your painting daily as a simple habit. Don't over think it, just make it your daily practice! This practice is what will put your dragon to sleep!
I have come such a long way on this journey back to my inner artist, really I have! At one point I would never have written a statement like that, for fear that you would think I was being egotistical, but I now realize that sharing my experience, hope and strength with you is being generous! I feel that the reason I have come this far is not because I am doing perfect art, it is because I am doing important art. I am learning how to navigate past my dragon. I know that my sharing can aid you to access the abundance and gifts that can be yours as well, if only you will understand the powers at play! This may very well be the "real" lesson we humans are here to learn on this physical plane. It is how do we get past that old antiquated dragon who thinks she is protecting us from danger, to the love of the Universe available to us only when we risk being truly vulnerable|? Our journey is to get past the dragon that is keeping us alone, separate and safe, to the love and abundance available to us only when we are open, raw and part of the whole.
So being brave requires us to be gentle peace-keepers. We will never win the battle with the dragon by using brute force to overcome it, but will be able to live a life beyond our wildest dreams, by celebrating what fine God-given creatures we actually are, and by overcoming anxiety through befriending the dragon and working with it! Just a note: You do not need to call your block, your fear, a "dragon". It is just helpful for me to visualize this part of the brain as a powerful entity deserving of my respect and acknowledgment. You can call it the Amygdala (the scientific name for this part of the brain, or the lizard brain as Seth Godin calls it or whatever you want....be creative and come up with something that resonates with you. It doesn't really matter! What does matter is that we recognize that it is indeed a real part of our make up, in order that we may do what we need to do to access our birthright, our gifts...our Creativity!