The Artist’s Way Revisited

I was first introduced to the book, “The Artist’s Way” (by Julia Cameron) by way of songwriter/guitarist, Chuck Pyle. It was at a gathering at Swallow Hill Music Association, organized around people who had taken part in one way or another with the Kerrville Folk Festival (I was pleased to win the Newfolk Songwriting Competition there some years ago). The first time I worked with the book, I started my independent recording label and recorded/produced/released my first two CD’s. I started to work with it again a little over a year ago, and now have two new albums recorded and released (and am currently on the second leg of a vast, cross-country tour to support those new albums).
But at some point I sort of got busy, or distracted, or whatever, and I stopped working with “The Artist’s Way”. A few days ago (Sunday, to be specific), I decided I needed to revisit this book again. The book is organized as a 12-week program to help recover and nurture one’s creativity. It can be a very insightful process; bringing to your attention issues and attitudes that can be holding you back in one way or another. The fact that it is organized as a 12-week program is a very deliberate nod to the 12-step program created and propagated by Alcoholics Anonymous. Cameron has admitted to her history of alcohol abuse, and at one point feared that her creativity was inextricably tied to her use of alcohol. She said out in a very deliberate and conscious way to nurture her creativity while disproving various myths that claim an artistic person (musician, writer, artist, actor, what have you) must entertain a dark and/or destructive vein in order to be creative.
I have not been wrestling with any such addiction, but I have endured a few hard knocks over the last 6-9 months. I have had to deal with various forms or rejection and other challenges, and it has left me a bit psychically bruised, as it were. So I figured it was a good time to work with Cameron’s book again.
The book insists that you don’t have to believe in a “higher power” as such to tap into its principles. But I do have a sense of spirituality, or cosmology that I had got out of touch with. I do not believe in an anthropomorphic, patriarchal god (and certainly not the vengeful, somewhat whimsical figure described in the Old Testament), but I do believe in a creative consciousness that permeates the universe; something that, for convenience’s sake, could be referred to as “God”.
One of the practices of the “The Artist’s Way” book is called Morning Pages, where you sit down (preferably first thing in the morning) and do a sort of stream-of-consciousness writing down of whatever comes to mind for three pages. I have found this a helpful process for sorting thoughts, recognizing goals and opportunities, and sometimes sparking some new, creative ideas. It could also be interpreted as a form of prayer, if you like, or a form of meditation.
While it could be considered no more than coincidence, since resuming this practice, I got three more gigs confirmed for the present leg of the tour, as well as an opportunity to submit some of my instrumentals for consideration on a feature film. Once again, I am encouraged. Thank you, Julia Cameron, and thank you, Chuck Pyle, for showing me this path.

It Is All Done With Mirrors

We had a photo session last Monday, and our thanks to the D Note (in Arvada) for graciously letting us do the photo shoot at their place.  There was a little bit of miscommunication with our photographer; consequently, he had not brought along his lighting rig.  We started the photo shoot at about 6pm, and (thanks to Daylight Savings time) the sun was still setting to the west.   The photographer and I got the idea to use one of the mirrors we’d brought to reflect the sunlight through the D Note’s window and use it to light me for the shoot.  As it turns out, a slightly drunk biker happened to be passing by at the moment, and cheerily offered to hold the mirror at the desired height and angle to get maximum effect from the reflected sunlight.  It was an interesting bit of improvisation, but we believe we got something useful out of the whole experience. 

The next day, I played for an hour at Holly Heights Nursing Home for a thoroughly appreciative audience.  I have to admit that my nursing home shows are proving to be some of my most satisfying gigs.  The residents are very much in the mood for some entertainment, and I regale them with a mix of songs and stories.  I include more songs that are older and more likely to invite singing along, and it often becomes rather like a party. 

I admit that I don’t have any formal training in music therapy.  At best, I have read a few articles, here and there.  But one article in particular (by Oliver Sachs) describes how music can be used to trigger old memories, or open neural pathways in the brain that step around some of the injured parts of a brain.  Music has helped Alzheimer’s patients to re-enter the present through cherished memories, and has helped Parkinson’s patients to move through dance.  I have seen all of this in some of my performances at Nursing homes, and it has made for some wondrous moments. 

We begin the next leg of our tour in a few days: to Phoenix (for a start), then on to the west coast.  The adventure continues….

Casper Mountain Farewell and Denver Welcome

One week ago, we woke in the cabin on the mountain to find that we had no electricity.  Making a call to Sam Weaver, we learned that the power outage was all over the mountain (and not just our own headache).  According to the clock in the kitchen, the power went out at about 6:30am, and was finally returned about four hours later.  In the meantime, we went about the usual routine of building up the fires in the two main stoves, and began the added challenge of packing up the last of our things for our trip down the mountain and reinstalling ourselves in our RV. 

To be fair, we were not up at 6:30 in the morning.  In fact, we had slept in a bit, after bingeing on the entire Season 4 of Downton Abbey (thanks to our room-mate, Trey, who had acquired it from a local library and left it for us).  Friday evening had been a restful evening of nibbling on leftovers, drinking tea, and watching British drama.  When we finally woke on Saturday morning, there was about half a dozen inches of new powder, a significant drop in the temperature (below zero), and, of course, the loss of electricity. 

One of the casualties of our last load into the car was Pony’s orchid.  It took us close to thirty minutes to make that last walk with a few final items to load in, and half an hour in zero-degree weather (with wind making it worse), was too much for the little plant. 

By the time we got to the town of Casper, a time and temp sign on a fast food place informed us that it was -3 degrees.  We took possession of our RV, moved it into the space we’d rented for the night, and loaded in cats, dog, guitars, and the last handful of boxes.  After getting stuff put away well enough for travel, we rewarded ourselves with a dinner of good barbecue from a take-out place about a mile from the RV park.  You could say that Casper Mountain gave us a proper send-off.  Still, all in all, we enjoyed our stay there, and have talked about repeating the experience next year (when I hope to be recording a couple of new projects). 

The actual drive on Sunday from Casper to Denver was wonderfully uneventful.  Roads were clear, as was the sky, and temperatures were climbing.  This last week in Denver, there has been a bit of snow, here and there, but the temperatures have generally been a lot more friendly, as it were.  We are back into familiar routines: making tons of phone calls and sending out emails to add more and more dates to the next leg of the tour, alternating with practicing or playing gigs. 

Thursday night at Sonoma’z Wine Bar and Grill was very much like coming back home.  It’s become a very comfortable place to play.  This time around, there was some sort of insurance convention being hosted at the Marriott, and Sonoma’z was packed with people.  I noticed several gentlemen, as old as or older than me, accompanied by lovely, significantly younger ladies in the obligatory “little black dress”.  Hmmmm.  No matter: it was a lively and welcoming crowd. 

It’s a weekend of familiar places, with playing last night at Stella’s Coffeehouse (along with Scott Sherman), and playing happy hour at Highland Cork and Coffee today (just preceding singer/songwriter/guitarist, Greg Price).  In about a week’s time, give or take, we’ll be heading down the road to Phoenix and parts west.  For my friends and fans on the west coast, we’ll be looking forward to catching up with you real soon.