The Artist’s Journey, #18

There’s a guy named Tim Grahl. A real guy. A really good guy. He has a site called booklaunch.com, which is one of the best, if not the best, instructional site for writers at all levels who want to get their stuff out there in the most effective and high-exposure way. I’m a subscriber. The site is great. But Tim didn’t want to just help writers. He wanted to be a writer. He wanted to tell stories. He phoned Shawn and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: “If you’ll work with me as an editor and help me write my novel, I’ll help you organize your site, storygrid.com, and your blog and your marketing.” Shawn said yes. He said hell yes.

Why am I telling you this? Because now all of us (not just Shawn) have a resource in Tim and in www.booklaunch.com that can make a real difference in our evolution as professionals and as marketers of our own material. More on this next week. For now … back to the serialization of The Artist’s Journey. We’re past three-quarters of the way through. Pub date: about a month away.

To catch up on any missed posts, click here: Part 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. Part 15. Part 16. Part 17.

 

86. DO WE HAVE A PERSONAL IDENTITY?

Buddhists don’t think so.

The concept of the individual personality (and thus a voice that you and I could call “ours”) is in Buddhist thought an illusion.

True mind, the Buddha taught, is empty. Clear as glass. Pellucid as the air through which sunlight passes.

A Samurai warrior, guided by this Buddhist precept, does not prepare for battle by rehearsing mentally, by planning, or by filling his mind with schemes and intentions.

Instead he empties his mind.

His belief is that this “no-mind” knows more than his conscious ego-mind and will respond perfectly every time in the moment.

I believe this too.

This is the voice you and I are seeking as artists.

The voice of no-voice.

 

87. THE VOICE SERVES THE WORK

Consider the roles Meryl Streep has played.

Each voice is unmistakably “hers.” Yet she has had to find each one—Karen Silkwood in Silkwood or Karen Blixen in Out of Africa or Francesca in The Bridges of Madison County—individually.

Where does she find it?

Within the imagined reality of the subject.

The first time I wrote in my “real” voice was in The War of Art. But that voice wasn’t really “me.” It was a “me” set at the service of the material.

Consider the popular story (true, I hope) that Johnny Depp found the voice of Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean by imagining himself playing the role as if he were Keith Richards. That voice is clearly not the universal Johnny Depp voice. In fact his voice changes radically from Edward Scissorhands to Gilbert Grape to Whitey Bulger. To create the illusion for the audience that the material demands, the artist seeks and employs a different voice each time.

And yet each voice is his own. Each one is a facet of himself.

 

88. THE SURPRISE OF FINDING OUR VOICE

I have a recurring dream.

A good dream.

In the dream I’m in my house (or some place that I recognize as my house even though technically it doesn’t look exactly like my actual house) when I realize that I’m occupying a room that I had never realized was part of the edifice. An additional room. An expanded room.

Sometimes it’s an entire floor. I’ll be standing there, looking at crystal chandeliers and rows of pool tables extending for half a block, with music playing and people partying, and I’ll think to myself, “Wow, I had no idea this part of the house even existed. How could I have missed it all this time?”

That house is my psyche. The new rooms are parts of me I have never, till I dreamt them, been aware of.

We find our voice that same way. Project by project. Subject by subject. Observing in happy amazement as a new “us” pops out each time.

 

89. THE SURPRISE OF FINDING OUR SUBJECT

I wonder if Stephen King knew when he was a kid that horror, the supernatural, and speculative fiction would be his metier.

I can testify for myself that I had no clue whatsoever that I would be writing about the things I wound up writing about.

It’s as though some Cosmic Assignment Desk, with access to our test scores and aptitude charts (that we ourselves have never seen) is suddenly calling us forward and with absolute authority handing us our orders packet.

The artist’s journey is nothing if not full of surprises.

 

90. WHAT THESE SURPRISES MEAN

The artist on her journey opens the pipeline to the unconscious, the Muse, the superconscious.

With this, every prior assumption flies out the window—who our parents told us we were, what our teachers imagined we’d become, even what we ourselves believe we are or will turn out to be.

The Muse tells us who we really are and what our subject really is.

No wonder these feel like surprises. They are voices that we never knew we had, rooms and wings in our house that we never knew existed.

When we say the artist’s journey is a process of self-discovery, this is what we mean.

 

 

 

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

11 Comments

  1. BarbaraNH on June 13, 2018 at 6:21 am

    Wow. Every time. Amazing. Thanks, Steve and your whole crew. Wednesdays are the days for sanity again.

  2. Jerry Ellis on June 13, 2018 at 6:59 am

    Outstanding! Very Steve, and very Jungian. I never dreamed I would become a writer until I was 20. Didn’t like to read when I was a child. But I grew up in the Deep South, an old Cherokee town, and storytelling was as much in my blood as the roots of a tree are in the Earth. Keep up the great work, Steve. Our footprints are nearby.

  3. Mary Doyle on June 13, 2018 at 7:59 am

    Thanks so much for this, and for sharing that recurring dream you have. I have the same dream a couple of times a year and it always serves as a reminder to look at what is still there to be explored.

  4. Chuck Root on June 13, 2018 at 8:50 am

    My recurring dream is of flying, just floating off the ground or floor with no effort. I can move as fast as though. I love the feeling of flying.
    Now that you mention it, I need to review when that happens, what is on outside.
    Thanks for your observation
    BE Well
    Chuck

  5. Stephanie Clayton on June 13, 2018 at 9:43 am

    I love, love, LOVE the sharing of the wealth happening between Steve, Shawn, and Tim!

  6. Elise Allan on June 13, 2018 at 11:15 am

    Great! I have the same dream, and I love it too. I never know, in the dream, where the property ceases to be ‘mine’ and where the rooms actually belong to someone else – that illusion of personal identity – but it’s always a wonderful feeling of discovery.

  7. Adam Abramowitz on June 13, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    Man this was great. It’s right where I’m at. I’ve been learning breathing and meditative techniques to help clear my mind before working on music. I want the song to tell me what it wants to say, and every time I do that, I’m astounded by what gets created. It makes the artists journey a reward in itself.

    I’ve been really into Bruce Lee philosophy these past couple weeks. I read his book “The Tao of Jeet Kun Do” a style of no style. Being yourself. And it’s incredible.

    It’s helped me in everything I do. When I go running the trail at the mountain, I let the trail dictate my movements…I let the mountain run me, and acclimate my body to where the trail is leading. It eases my muscles and allows for fluidity of movement, adjusting to the rise and fall of the mountain path.

    Also, your post about the amazons the other day. I’ve been really mindful of being in the moment, waiting for words or actions to surface, rather than acting out on impulse. It’s tough, because I always feel like I should be doing something, but it seems to be working. I’m more comfortable in my skin than I’ve been in awhile.

    But yea, I just wanted to chime in. I read every single thing you guys publish and I look forward to Wednesday for these new posts. Keep up the great work 🤙

    Here’s a Bruce Lee quote I’ve been pondering:

    “Flow in the living moment. We are always in a process of becoming and nothing is fixed. Have no rigid system in you and, you’ll be flexible to change with the ever changing. Open yourself and flow, my friend. Flow in the total openness of the living moment. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an echo.”

    -Bruce Lee

    And if anyone wants to listen to our music, me and my partner do hip hop. We release a new track every week. After we record it, I mix/master the song, and then edit a video for it.

    This track is called “What it Is” and it’s got clips from Bruce Lee, the 1927 film “Metropolis”, and the movie “Samsara” (if y’all haven’t seen “Samsara”, ya gotta look it up. It’s the shit.)

    Anyways, here’s the link for our song:

    https://youtu.be/EJ8jwb72e30

    I’ll be reading 🙏

    • Wilcox on June 14, 2018 at 7:08 am

      Hi Adam,

      I listened to your music and I hope you continue to send positive messages. Like you say in one of your verses, “You must weather the storm”. Steve keeps us going through his blog. We all believe we can weather the storm through are dreams and finding our on voice. We just have to learn to beat the resistance of FEAR!!

  8. Julie Murphy on June 14, 2018 at 10:22 am

    “The Muse tells us who we really are and what our subject really is.”

    That’s a huge milestone on the journey–when we finally accept the risk of making the art that’s ours alone to make. Reminds me of Queen Esther who said “she’d come to the kingdom for such a time as this”.

    Our art matters because on some level we know it’s indistinguishable from who we are and why we’re here. No wonder it’s scary sometimes. Thanks, Steve.

  9. CandaceC on June 16, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    Courage to say and be who we really are, even for an instant. Realizing that we are carving out the new present and it doesn’t look like anything in the past. Knowing what help is available out there and discovering how to access it and use it. The correct attitude towards our creation (our Life). Learning that apparent failures are just part of forward progress.

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