What “The Artist’s Way” is doing for me

I’m on week eight of The Artist’s Way now. So I thought I’d share what this program is doing for me as an artist, writer, etc. It’s the “etc” that I didn’t know was there. There are many issues TAW brings up that you never quite knew were there. I knew some of the issues obviously, that I was a blocked creative and that this needed to be fixed. I also knew this was likely due to a few life experiences that stood out in my mind. But I had no idea how far this would take me and I love it!

I’m great at morning pages and awful at artist dates. I choose to do my pages on 750words.com.

Yes, I’ve dealt with some of those unsavory life experiences and early childhood scars that became on barriers to my creativity. Fun stuff!

I’m allowing myself to play again. Play guitar, play in general… I’m unemployed, so you’d think this wouldn’t be a problem. But like a typical blocked artist and recovering addict, I quickly moved to fill up my schedule. I have a part-time job at a recovery center, I have my own freelance writing business now, and I am still running You Deserve Reiki.

I have found my creative energies seeping into YDR. I have redecorated my therapy room:

Much creative energy has gone into redecorating the Reiki room at White Dove, including the energy it took to manifest that lovely Mayan tapestry on the wall!

Much creative energy has gone into redecorating the Reiki room at White Dove, including the energy it took to manifest that lovely Mayan tapestry on the wall!

I have new ideas for the blog. They are not posted yet. I’m deciding to take the blog into a new direction and write more posts about self-care, which is the idea behind me getting into Reiki in the first place three years ago. Self-care is the idea behind the name, “You Deserve Reiki.” I also believe self-care is essential to our survival as human beings! So more posts about it are about to happen. I can give people Reiki, but I think I will give clients more if they receive some self-care ideas as well.

Like I mentioned, I am giving myself more time to play guitar. I am even seeking out some lessons.

My guitar is a pink Dean rescued from a pawn shop on Bell Road in Phoenix for $169. I love her.

My guitar is a pink Dean rescued from a pawn shop on Bell Road in Phoenix for $169. I love her.

I also found this fun app I am just getting into called Yousician.

Thought I'd try a new medium for learning.

Thought I’d try a new medium for learning.

I haven’t gotten too far into it yet. I think when I do, it will require some in-app purchases. That may be OK. The point is to have fun and enjoy playing the guitar without my pesky perfectionist tendencies popping in. Also, the point is to get back into playing like I did in college when I was 18 — right before quitting the guitar altogether for a full-time radio job. I had to drop out of guitar class because of the hours I worked, so I put it down completely. Total black and white/all or nothing thinking! I got carried away in career, life and addiction. Now it’s 18 years later. I AM GOING TO PLAY GUITAR NOW.

Another screenshot of Yousician, which is kinda like Guitar Hero.

Another screenshot of Yousician, which is kinda like Guitar Hero.

There are other silly things too. I’m putting a lot of creative energy into a new wardrobe because I have a new life that requires a dress code for my job at the recovery center. I’ve also lost 30 pounds since September by eating an auto-immune-friendly, anti-inflammatory, mostly-Paleo diet. I’ve had a lot of fun hitting thrift stores to create a new look. It’s risk-free since I’m being thrifty about it. I’ve found some really awesome clothes for a fraction of what I’d pay for brand-new. It takes the anxiety out of rebuilding a wardrobe since I don’t have to worry about the money aspect of it. This is all a part of self-care too — especially the diet which is presided over by a doctor.

I put a lot of energy into organizing my writing space at home. Sometimes, the closest thing to an artist date for me has been coloring a mandala (adult coloring is a trendy new thing now) or watching Orange Is The New Black on Netflix. Giving myself time and space to play has been one of my biggest challenges!

One of the most important things is the writing. That’s the reason I am doing this. I am tackling issues about the creative writing (or lack thereof) in my life. Now I’m actively working on one of my three novels. I just started a short story. I’m always writing poems. In an effort to get more serious and focus about where this is all going, I also purchased a stack of books from Writer’s Digest.

Do you see where this is going?

Do you see where this is going?

I fiercely defend my writing time. I’ve turned inward a lot because of this. I’m hyper focused on myself in a selfish way. But recovery is a selfish act. Yes, this is creative recovery as described in TAW. But I see this also as a larger part of my recovery from addiction as well. There was a point where I lost myself. More likely, I lost myself again and again over the years. Now my job is to get myself back more and more (I thought I had already but more was revealed). My job is to give myself back my hopes, dreams, my ability to play, and those original yearnings I had towards fulfilling my purpose.

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Should I get an MFA in creative writing?

I really hope someone will see this post and comment openly and honestly. Because I came across this blog started by some ’08 MFA grads and it’s really got me thinking.

I really just want a master’s degree. I could get it in anything. But getting an MFA in creative writing just sounds so fun to me. I work full-time in radio as a morning personality and my writing has therefore taken a backseat over the last six months. I just now started freelance writing again for HalogenTV.com. I usually write general interest-type features. This marks the second time I’ve written about a vegan lifestyle, which is one of my interests. I wrote a “How I Went Vegan” piece years ago for Veg News magazine. (See it here on my Media Bistro profile).

I like writing for HalogenTV.com because Halogen — the cable channel and website — is all about social good. As someone who wrote “bad news” for so long (local, national, and entertainment gossip) it’s really refreshing to write about topics that affect society in a positive way. I’ve done journalism for broadcast, online, and print. It’s a great skill to have and I’m certain it makes me a better broadcaster.

As a morning personality, I have a responsibility to my city to be responsible on the air. If you’ve heard our show, you know we play a lot of music and have a ton of laughter happening every morning. But every once in a while some major newsy thing happens, like the day Bin Laden was killed. And we can’t go on air our normal joking selves on a day like that. It’s then that Journalist Heather Larson snaps to attention and comes on air with proper presentation of the facts so our listening audience is served properly.

So again, journalism is a good skill to have. I wouldn’t get a degree in it these days just because of the job outlook on that. I think now if you want to do journalism for a living you should get a degree in new media or just learn how to make tablet apps.

But really, why get a master’s degree in creative writing? 

It’s probably worse than the bachelor in liberal studies I obtained from Boston University last year! Every time I tell someone I have a BLS, they ask me if I can say, “would you like fries with that?” in Latin. But how many of us actually use the degree we have in our career? Radio personalities certainly don’t need a degree in anything. I know many in my industry who have no degree at all.

So this decision I am struggling to make isn’t about a career move, although I’m sure a master’s degree of any kind can’t hurt a person no matter what their chosen career path is. Wanting to get an MFA in creative writing is about feeding that part of myself that actually liked to attend creative writing class in summer school. As a kid in Scottsdale, AZ, I used to love the long bus ride in summer school in 100+ degree weather just because it took me to my creative writing class. And sadly, it was the only true creative writing class I ever had. I have taken screenwriting at the community college level (twice!) and every English class I could lump into my schedule. I love language classes too (you mean I can sign up for Arabic next semester? Let me just register for that right now). I’m the type who has a box of old journals — a really big, heavy box — stored in the darkest recess of my home. I swear, I will do something with them someday… You also may have noticed you are reading WriterHeather.wordpress.com. Enough said!

So I think my desire to do an MFA program is really about taking my creative writing side to the next level while getting a degree. Is that a good reason to dedicate a huge chunk of time in my life to getting an MFA in creative writing?

Because let’s face it — school is for people who need to be taught. 

I can write creatively on my own. I can write on my own time and figure out how to publish. Anyone can do that. It’s like people who take classes on how to blog… Really? You paid to take a blogging class? All you have to do is open a Blogger or TypePad or WordPress account and get it done. You do read blogs don’t you? I mean, I don’t want to be that person who has to be taught something that can just as easily be figured out with a little curiosity and independence.

But if I enroll in an MFA program, I’ll be around other writers! I’d be in a community, an environment! I’d feel like I was a part of something. I’d feel like I had peers. I’d have professors who would encourage me. Right now, I’m writing in what little spare time I have (like right now, on a national holiday). No one encourages my writing, save for my Halogen editor who is awesome and just doing her job.

Sorry for the long posting today. Thanks for reading down this far! I’m really not sure if I will enroll in the MFA program that has caught my eye. I’m just a year out of BU and still remember all too well how much time and dedication it takes to balance work, school, and life while doing a degree program. At the moment, I really am enjoying lazy Sundays with coffee, a gluten-free bagel with vegan cream cheese and HBO. Maybe in seven more months, I’ll be adding homework to that Sunday morning ritual…

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