Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Artist Way was my greatest tool in learning to live with ME/CFS

I write myself into wellbeing

Nancy Mairs

About four months before I became ill, a friend I told me about this book called The Artist Way by Julia Cameron (1997). I was working as an artist at the time, so didn't really needed to the book to rekindle my creative being. Or to find self-confidence in harnessing my creative talents, or artistic recovery.
But I was intrigued.

The book consists of a twelve week program. There is a introduction each week with thought provoking ideas and brilliant quotes. There are exercises to do at the end of the week. And you have to write Morning Pages (3 pages of longhand in an A4 journal, first thing in the morning), and have Artist Dates with just your good self.

I loved it!
And it helped me immensely with figuring out where I was at in terms of my then relationship. Something I had not expected from an artist book. I can't quite remember if I finished the twelve week course before I became ill. That time is a bit of a blur.

What I DO remember is that when I became able to write again, a year or so into the illness, I picked up this book again.
I was not able to write these long pages every day, but wrote on days when I could, as long as I could. I could not do a lot of the suggestions in the book, but I adapted the course to my ability.
It took me a year or more to do this three month course.
But what harm.
Nobody, but me, was checking in on my progress.

One of the saved diary pages
with 'things' that bring me joy

    This book became a Hugely Important Tool to help me figure out not just where I was heading creatively within my new existence - but also where I was heading in this life with illness.

    I learned

    • How I could make the most of my days
    • Who was important in my life
    • Who was draining
    • Remembered what my interests were as a child: colouring- sitting on a swing..., and how I could do them now?
    • What brings joy in my life: watching the birds-  strawberries on my plant- cup of tea in bed - phonecall from a friend - messing with paint- fresh air ... 
    • What my strengths were
    • What my weaknesses were
    • How good I had it. I learn to be grateful for the little things, like a hot water bottle, a roof over my head, support, lovely pottery to have my food on while bed bound ...
    • I explored who I was becoming
    • I learned to trust who I was becoming- illness and all
    • I learned how I loved the act of writing
    • I became a writer
    • I wrote pages when so ill that all I could do was lie down in bed and write, and write, about what was going on in my body. The writing always ended up about the good things- the birds on the feeder- a friend who might have told me a funny story...
    • I filled piles of notebooks. Mountain piles of notebooks (which I burned (most of it) when I moved house in 2008, in the hope that I left ME in my old house and could start life afresh... didn't quite work, but was an interesting excises all the same)
    • Some of the writings ended up in a Very Distilled way in my book Hatched
    • I became a published author
    • I explored my life in a creative way
    • I found ways to share my experiences with others through exhibitions, to sharing my story.
    • I FOUND ME

    book cover of The Artist Way by Julia Cameron
    The Artist Way by Julia Cameron
    This book I think was the most important tool in my healing.
    A most unusual source perhaps.
    But I will for ever be Grateful to have been handed this book by my friend.

    Thank you Julia for writing it. Thank you Elaine for handing it to me. Thank you to all who joined me on this creative journey since those early years.

    Further reading and links

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