The Artist’s Journey, #17

The first stages of my own artist’s journey were lived out in a town called Carmel Valley, California. Carmel Valley is not far from Big Sur. The presence of Henry Miller was vivid there. I had friends who knew him (I never did myself). People told stories about him. He was in the air in that part of the state, as was John Steinbeck a few miles north, who came from and wrote often about Salinas and Monterey and Cannery Row. I’ve quoted Henry Miller three or four times in The Artist’s Journey because nobody I’ve ever read articulates so well that crazy passage from the real-life “hero’s journey” to the inside-your-own-head “artist’s journey.” I used to copy passages out of Tropic of Capricorn by hand, just to brand Henry Miller’s stuff into my brain. His books are not as popular today. They should be. They’re bibles for all of us on that same journey. Here are links to previous posts in this serialization, in case you missed them and want to go backPart 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11Part 12. Part 13. Part 14.  And Part 15. And Part 16.

83. THE ARTIST BELIEVES IN A DIFFERENT REALITY

Did you ever see the Meg Ryan-Nicholas Cage movie, City of Angels?

In City of Angels (screenplay by Dana Stevens based on the film Wings of Desire, screenplay by Wim Wenders and Peter Handke), human characters go about their lives, oblivious of the cohort of angels—all handsome, male and female, dressed in stylish, duster-length coats—who attend upon them and are present about them at all times, often standing invisibly directly at their shoulders.

That’s my world.

That’s what I see.

Everything I do is based upon that reality.

84. THE ARTIST GROUNDS HERSELF IN A DIFFERENT REALITY

When an individual “gets saved” (or when an alcoholic or addict makes the decision to get sober), the ground of her being shifts.

Her psychic core relocates.

Her identity no longer centers itself in her ego. It packs up and moves to a different quadrant of her psyche.

For the artist, that level is the unconscious, the Jungian “Self,” the Muse, the superconscious. Henry Miller again:

I didn’t dare to think of anything then except the “facts.” To get beneath the facts I would have had to be an artist, and one doesn’t become an artist overnight. First you have to be crushed, to have your conflicting points of view annihilated. You have to be wiped out as a human being in order to be born again an individual. You have to be carbonized and mineralized in order to work upwards from the last common denominator of the self. You have to get beyond pity in order to feel from the very roots of your being.

 

85. THE ARTIST SHUTTLES BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN REALITIES

Have you ever observed your mind as you write or paint or compose?

I’ve watched mine. Here’s what I see:

I see my awareness (another phrase might be “platform of effort”) shuttle back and forth, like the subway between Times Square and Grand Central Terminal, from my conscious mind to my unconscious, my superconscious.

The Stargate image is very close to what it feels like. Sometimes I stick just my hand through, sometimes my whole arm. Most of the time my whole body goes through.

The process is to me one of those everyday miracles, simultaneously mindbending in its implications and common as dirt. Like the act of giving birth, it is at the same time miraculous and everyday.

Another image I like is of a child sitting beside a shallow stream. You, the artist, are the child. The words you will write, the pictures you will paint, the photos you will take … those are the bright, pretty pebbles sitting right there before you at the bottom of the stream. You reach down, through the surface of the water (you can’t see exactly what the pebbles look like because of the refraction of the light), and you pull up a handful.

The stream bottom is one reality.

Sunlight and air is the other.

One is mysterious, the other matter of fact.

One requires faith, the other reason.

We plunge our hand through the surface, not sure what we’ll find.

We pull our hand back and examine what we’ve got. Good? Bad? Worth keeping? To be put where? Utilized how?

In a four-hour working day, the writer shuttles between realities a thousand times, two thousand, ten thousand. So does the choreographer, the editor, the software writer.

This shuttling is her primary skill.

It’s her bread and butter.

It’s what she does.

 

 

THE WAR OF ART

Read this one first.
It identifies the enemy—what I call Resistance with a capital “R,” i.e. fear, self-doubt, procrastination, perfectionism, all the forms of self-sabotage—that stop us from doing our work and realizing our dreams.
Start here.
Everything else proceeds from this.

The-War-of-Art

DO THE WORK

Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

do the work book banner 1

THE AUTHENTIC SWING

A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.

The-Authentic-Swing

NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR SH*T

Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.

noboybookcover

TURNING PRO

Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"

Turning-Pro

17 Comments

  1. Mary Doyle on June 6, 2018 at 6:06 am

    Angels and alternate realities – this series gets better and better. The book is out next month?

  2. Maria Xenidou on June 6, 2018 at 6:44 am

    Hello Steve,

    The “tension” you are creating by sharing the book through your blog is enormous; but you already knew that!

    As I am going through the crazy passage from the real-life “hero’s journey” to the inside-your-own-head “artist’s journey right now, I am immensely grateful for sharing your work and for writing this book. You “timing” works perfectly with my own journey and helps me keep my sanity, as you explain so eloquently what happens inside our head!

    Thank you,
    Maria

  3. Gwen Abitz on June 6, 2018 at 7:02 am

    Love it when I comprehend and understand what Steve has written. For me, it falls in the same genre category of the GET REAL foundation I have written about that is on my vision board.

  4. Bing on June 6, 2018 at 7:45 am

    Thank you for putting all this information together, it’s like a big huge flashlight that shines the light into the artist darkness.

  5. Jeff Korhan on June 6, 2018 at 7:58 am

    The shallow stream is perfect! Haven’t we all done that?

  6. Jerry Ellis on June 6, 2018 at 8:04 am

    Good strong post, Steve. I easily relate and know Carmel Valley, having lived in Carmel for three months. And who can roam Big Sur without thinking of Miller?

  7. Melissa G Wilson on June 6, 2018 at 9:44 am

    Steven, I was part of the Domino Project Street Team with Seth and the highlight of that experience was working with you. I’m grateful now to get reconnected through this serialization. I plan to do one sometime later this year and think it’s a wonderful way to stay connected to your readers.

  8. Elise Allan on June 6, 2018 at 10:36 am

    Loving this. Wish I’d written it! Wings of Desire is my favourite film – the follow up, Far Away So Close is brilliant too. I first found your blog about 7 years ago when I was researching writing a workshop for Art students called Wooing the Muse. Thanks for inspiration and help through your books and blog over the last few years – brilliant!

  9. Anita Rodgers on June 6, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    Yes, angels ‘standing invisibly directly at their shoulders’ that sounds right. It feels right.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  10. Linda Roach on June 6, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    That angel world is mine as well Steve. Brings me to tears to read how damn beautiful this is. Thank you.

  11. Susan Firghil Park on June 6, 2018 at 4:19 pm

    I love the “Stargate” portal imagery – that’s what it feels like for me too. When I have enough courage on any particular writing day it feels like I run straight at the portal and hurl myself through!

  12. Tina Marlene Goodman on June 6, 2018 at 7:11 pm

    Do you think that when you go from conscious awareness to subconscious (or super-conscious or unconscious) that you are experiencing a different reality?
    Are you using the word ‘reality’ in a poetic sense?

  13. Sandra on June 7, 2018 at 7:17 am

    Beautiful.

  14. Molly R Moreland on June 7, 2018 at 7:57 pm

    I lived and worked in Carmel Valley and Big Sur in the years after my own life was crushed. Returning to the spiritual center of my universe seemed like the way, or at least the place, to sort out the broken pieces. I’d wander the grounds of the Henry Miller Memorial Library, taking solace and looking for answers in the pages of my old Steinbeck and Kerouac paperbacks.
    I found the tough love I needed in a little book called “The War of Art.” Thank you for writing it. It changed my life. I sent it to my brother in jail, battling addiction. He too made life-altering changes, and has passed the book along to others, along with your follow-up “Turning Pro.”
    We all plant trees we’ll never sit under. Miller, Steinbeck and Kerouac certainly did! I wish I could have thanked them when they were alive for the seeds they planted in my imagination. Luckily, I have an opportunity to tell you. Thank you for welcoming me into the world of artists, introducing me to The Muse, and making me feel like I belong here. It’s both joyful and terrifying!

  15. Julie Murphy on June 8, 2018 at 11:26 am

    Good stuff–thanks, Steve.

  16. Vincent Sargenti on June 9, 2018 at 9:06 pm

    OMG! Are you still doing this?

    😉

  17. Renita on June 9, 2018 at 10:12 pm

    Dear Steve
    I’m so happy I found you. You have been angelic guidance. 💃🕺🏻👌
    I started a blog on goddess archetypes in the movies. So far Hera (Greer Garson’s Mrs. Miniver) and Persephone/Aphrodite (Marilyn Monroe). I plan to hit 7 goddess archetypes and see what happens.
    Without you I could not have done this.

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