Monday, April 19, 2010

Day 108: The curse of the creative gene

Today is day 108 of this blog and my project to write three pages in my journal each day, as required of the course The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.

The number 108 is kind of a big deal.

108 in Eastern religions:
A mala (the beaded "necklace" from India used for praying) has beads for 108 repetitions of a mantra. The reasons why are described beautifully in a little known book titled Eat Pray Love by an obscure author named Elizabeth Gilbert.

But more importantly, 108 in NBCs Lost:
108 is the sum of the numbers. That is to say that:
4 + 8 + 15 + 16 + 23 + 42 = 108
It's also the number of minutes the clock in the Swan counts down before the numbers must be entered into the computer. More interesting factoids about Lost and 108 can be found here. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, please do not start watching Lost now. Rent the DVDs. Start at the beginning. Thank me later.)

108 in Janice's life: 
Yesterday, also known as Day 107, I tossed a manuscript I wrote with my coauthor last year. Today, also known as Day 108, I pondered what went wrong. And the truth is simple. I didn't put in the time. I wrote. Ya, I did. Sort of. But I didn't put in a significant effort into the project. I've put a whole lot more into plenty of other creative pursuits in the last 108 days than I did in the entire nine months of that manuscript.

How did I put in more effort? Simple. My morning pages. See, when we write daily, our minds get unfolded like a road map so we can see the direction we want to go. Evil plans are revealed before us. Lists of things to do are devised. Unfinished business here gets finished there.

And it all starts with morning pages. Why?

Here's the deal: being an artist is a lot of hard work. But it's hard work you love to do. I didn't love doing that manuscript and would have torn my hair out pretending I did. In fact, I'd probably bawl right now if someone forced me to complete it. I. Just. Don't. Want. To. Do. It. It's. Done. Kill. It.

If you got stuck with the creative gene, you pretty much have to figure out how to live with it because it's not going away. That means you pretty much have to work on your art most of the time and often that work will seem to amount to very little. But you're okay with it because you know that if you don't work at it, you'll feel like you're carrying a heavy pile of sticks on your shoulders. So you as an artist offload a stick or two everyday by doing morning pages, painting, getting back to the script or whatever your art means to you. Sometimes, it leads to monetary gain and grandeur. Most of the time it's about offloading the sticks. I think the manuscript was about offloading sticks. Nothing more.

People will wonder why you bother.

Sometimes you'll wonder why you bother, too. You'll reason that you could be like them. You could have a simpler life. Instead of plugging away at your art, you could relax at home on a Friday night, go to dinner on Saturday, watch the game on Sunday and call that enough.

Oh God no. That's not me.

No. That's not you. That's not me either. Because you were blessed to be born with those sticks on your back and your job is to learn how to make them into a castle.

Now get to work. 


  1. Janice, I love this post. Love the sticks metaphor. I feel that weight. Thank you for naming it for me.

    When I went to see Elizabeth Gilbert speak about "Committed" she talked about how she wrote the whole book and hated it. Loathed. She had to put it away for 6 months and then go back and start over. Maybe your book is going to be reborn into something wonderful. Have fun unloading sticks until then. :)

  2. Ouch, truth hurts! But only for a moment, now I have to get back to work.

  3. Ok, you just said the enough I needed to hear about the requirement of doing the work. What ever it is. In the expressive pursuits its the pages, the hours of practice on the violin, the cooking and re-cooking the same thing until the mix of flavors hits and then, for me, writing about the experience.

    Write this book Janice. The one about the offloading of the offering. It's lovely.

  4. I'd like to leave my usual quip here, but I can't seem to find that particular stick right now. The reason is I'm so moved by this post. Simply beautiful. You know I'm talking about the part you wrote about LOST right? (SWIDT?)

  5. OK. This morning I pulled THE ARTIST'S WAY off the top shelf of the bookcase. See what YOU did there?


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