The Artist's Way is a 12 week program aimed at increasing creativity in your life. I've gone through the program in the past (posting on this very blog) with some good results. The process forces you to do a lot of soul searching and reflecting (which I honestly thought I would do a lot more of thru hiking for 5 months, but I actually just thought about food) so the end result is not only a more creative life, but a more self aware you. Both good things.
Week One: Recovering A Sense of Safety. This chapter, like all the rest, has a series of exercises to complete. Chapter one focuses quite a bit on looking into your past and identifying "enemies of your creativity" (like your best friend's brother who secretly taped the two of you dancing around in your pajamas and singing Madonna and then showed it to all of his friends) as well as "champions of your creativity" (like your second grade teacher who entered your "tall tale" assignment into the Scholastic Writing Challenge and got you free books from their monthly mailer for a whole year!)
What struck me about this week is how often the "enemies of your creativity" and "champions of your creativity" are one person, one in the same. How oftentimes, those close to you, who love you and want to keep you safe, offer encouragement and words of praise when you are engaging in activities that they deem proper. Yet the very same people discourage you when the activities are of a more threatening nature. Those closest to you so often try to steer you in a direction that makes them feel safer.
"Oh, you write so well," they'll say, "why don't you see if you can write instruction manuals." Or, "You always have such creative ideas when we exercise together. You should teach exercise classes - to elderly people in nursing homes." Definite encouraging words, but set within specific boundaries. Please spread your wings -- but don't fly too high.
What I came to understand is that the boundaries set by these friends and family members have very little to do with me, they are more a reflection of their own fears. Too often, we try to make ourselves fit into a mold that was never meant to contain us all in order to make others feel safe. We end up playing small so as not to rock the boat.
The key is in learning to appreciate the love and concern that your loved ones have for you, but following your dreams nonetheless. Knowing that your "champions" want the best for you, it's easier to stop playing small. Nobody is at their best playing small, no matter how well intentioned it is. Only by being true to yourself and sharing your unique talents can you have the best for yourself.
Yeah, pretty heavy stuff there. But all the best stuff is!