The best things in life are scary – Why I joined an Artist’s Way work group but took my time showing up

Would you like your life to be different but you’re not sure where to start making changes?

Do you ever want to do something, but fear stops you in your tracks?

Do you spend your time looking after other people but neglect yourself?

If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then picking up The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron could be a good place for you to begin to turn things around. More than just a book to provide a bit of bedtime reading, it’s designed as ‘A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self’.

An opportunity to read The Artist’s Way as part of a group

Ever since I read (half of) The Artist’s Way once before, I intended to go through it ‘properly’ again. To read it seriously to the end. And so when I saw an article inviting people to join an upcoming Artist’s Way work group, I eagerly jumped right in and wrote to the organiser, Sam Kimberle.

This, I thought, would give me the push I needed to commit properly to the entire course. Mutual support and accountability would surely give me the extra motivation to really make the most of it from the beginning, through the middle, and to the end.

So why, once my request was accepted, did I begin to have second thoughts? Or rather, why did I file it right at the back of my mind – in the dustiest, hardest-to-reach corner?

Being part of the Artist’s Way work group entails three things.

  1. The dozen or so participants need to read the book (duh!), at the same pace. So we work on a weekly chapter-by-chapter basic. And the book is designed for just that.
  2. We have to log into a shared workspace, or forum (using Slack). Basically, you just click on the link provided and you’re in. This provides a chat room with different ‘Channels’, so we can discuss (by writing comments) particular subjects relating to the book and how we’re managing. You can also private message individual participants.
  3. We attend weekly Zoom meetings. Zoom is similar to Skype and you can use the app on your computer or phone for calls or video calls. There can be multi-users on the same call.

Doesn’t sound too much to ask, does it?

I had only used Zoom once before, and that particular meeting was hosted by a speaker. The attendees joined in merely through written comments, a bit like at a Facebook Live event. We didn’t speak (or if we did, we were talking to ourselves) and our faces didn’t show up on the screen. So this made it easy for me to skim over Sam’s clearly written indications about The Artist’s Way Zoom platform being a virtual meeting room in which we all take part and compare notes on how it is going for us.

Week 1 – It Zoomed past

I started the Artist’s Way group with a Major Fail!

I actually think that I thought that if I didn’t think about it (although in the back of my mind I obviously knew that the kick-off date was approaching, had approached, had passed, etc.), time would stand still until I was ready to begin to be part of the group and to dip into the book.

‘…we often resist what we most need…’

Julia Cameron

As I wrote in a previous post, I over-committed during the school holidays and had my head in the sand (of Blackpool beach nonetheless) while the first week sailed past.

Week 2 – Not my finest hour

Two weeks in (when I had done NOTHING), I had a serious case of brain fuzz (all that fresh northern English air had made me tired). But I knew I couldn’t ignore the group any longer. I sat myself up in bed and as I began to think I should start to face up to my commitments (to the group, to myself), I took up my laptop.

I opened the emails.

Something in the back of my mind was whispering.

I don’t want to worry you, but you’re on dangerous ground here…

I clicked on a link.

The whispers grew louder.

What are you doing?

My heart rate increased.

You do realise that just because you’ve not done it before doesn’t mean that clicking on a link that’s supposed to get you into a virtual meeting might not, you know, get you into a virtual meeting?

And suddenly, there I was.

My face – in all its palid glowing glory – was beamed up onto a screen with five other faces. I had lank, greasy hair, a dirty tee-shirt and a background wall of a sickly mauve that did my complexion few favours (fantabulous as Blackpool is, it’s not the destination of choice for a suntan top-up).

And just to be clear, I don’t believe that these kinds of affairs are about dressing up and showing off your new dramatic eye shadow look, however, the basics of hygiene and manners (I arrived half an hour after the meeting had begun) would be kind of appropriate.

This mid-meeting drop-in was quite mortifying… In my horror, I noticed one guy looking mildly amused while one of the women seemed to be seriously trying to communicate, whether with me or as part of a former discussion that I’d interrupted I couldn’t tell, because I couldn’t hear anything they were saying – and I wasn’t sure whether they could hear me or not.

Anyhoo, like a startled doe caught in headlights (think more moth-eaten and with hairless patches, with perhaps a button eye missing rather than cute, long-eye-lashed, and Bambiesque), I decided the best option was to leave the gate-crashed meeting and pretend it hadn’t happened, sort of. It took me a couple of minutes (which seemed to stretch into years) to actually work out how to stop my mug from being on the screen.

The Artist's Way work group - like a deer caught in headlights
My dearest Bluebell – a close relation of my version of a ‘deer trapped in headlights’

Horrendous! Perhaps funny. With hindsight.

Picking myself up and brushing myself down

After I’d left, I went into the Slack forum (where you just write stuff down) to type my intro and an apology.

I received a brief note back which read, ‘we were happy to see you but sad we couldn’t hear you’. And Sam offered to give me a trial run call before the next meeting.

What a lovely bunch of people!

So why did I feel so nervous?

Let’s see…

In the group there are published authors and podcast hosts, a woman who has given a TED talk, and others with diverse art-based projects. It was exciting to have the opportunity to be amongst such creatives.

But I was also scared.

They’re real artists.

The voices began.

They’re all successful. They know what they’re doing. You’re just faking it (and you’re not even very good at that). Who do you think you’re kidding?

Luckily… I’ve already done some work on myself (oh yes I have!) and so I was able to catch those internal whisperings. I was able to listen to them. I acknowledged them, and I heard them out.

And then I had a reply.

Come on. They’re just people. Just like you. It’s okay to feel shy. But don’t let that stop you from trying!

So that was it. I began to try and I’m still trying, and I’m (mostly) enjoying the process splendidly!

Week 3 – Scuppered again

My little ‘What-an-Entrance’ moment certainly motivated me to pick up the book again and have a look at the online forum thingey to make sure I was more prepared for the third meeting.

However…

The evening approached. I was looking forward to it. I had assured Sam that it would be no problem to get me up and running at the start of the meeting as my partner would be by my side to begin with. Not that I was being the ‘little woman’ but more that I am sometimes technically-challenged and he’s a sound engineer.

But he was poorly at that time. So I reckoned I could do it on my own, after all.

So there I was.

I’d checked the mic and speakers worked, by using a Skype test. They did.

I clicked on the Zoom link. First in.

Then another participant appeared. She smiled. I smiled and waved. We began speaking and… I couldn’t hear her. Two others showed up. No sound!

They wrote me a couple of messages and asked how I’d got on. They were ever so patient. But it was a drag. My instinct was to type messages back to their questions. Being on the spot, knowing that they could hear me speaking, wasn’t working for any of us.

I thought it only fair to leave the meeting. This time, at least, with a little more dignity.

Shame though.

Support Zooms in

I got straight onto the Zoom Support. The chatbot worked out I had to install the Zoom app. I did a sound test. It didn’t work. By this time – as I’d been trying to solve the problem in various ways – there were multiple Zoom windows open. I was told to uninstall the app. Then install CleanZoom and restart my computer. And then reinstall Zoom. Phew! 

I was a little (a lot) lost by this point.

For some reason I clicked on a link (I never learn!)… and found myself in an online meeting. A woman was there and she looked quite confused. Even more confused than me.

I cleverly worked out that she must be somehow lost in cyber space. Surely she should be in The Writer’s Way meeting. And so knowing that she could hear me but I couldn’t hear her, I helpfully explained to her that she was in the wrong meeting room and I was testing my Zoom connection. I whizzed her a message with the link so she could join the correct meeting.

It was some time before it occurred to me that perhaps she was the test centre operator. 

Week 4 – I’m Finally In!

And for Week 4, I finally managed to attend a Zoom chat room. I got to hear the voices of Sam and two other participants. It was a real joy. I only managed half an hour, as it was the day before my Little Boy started Big School, but it was time well spent. They are a warm, friendly, and certainly not frightening small group of individuals, all united with a common passion, to nurture their creative spirit and pursue a passion that makes them feel alive (my words… but I’m guessing that’s more or less our commonality!).

Yes, the participants are talented, creative artists. But they put the work in to be that. They practise their art and experiment, and maybe they – just like me, and perhaps just like you(?) – feel afraid sometimes too.

They’re just people. We are all just people.

So next week, I tell myself, no excuses.

Do you ever want to do something… but fear stops you from doing it?

If your daily life is filled with the mundane, and joy and excitement are exceptions rather than the rule, I encourage you to take a leap.

If you feel safe in the area that you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. 

David Bowie

You could get your own copy of The Artist’s Way and immerse yourself in ‘the programme’. Read it by yourself, or even better, join a group.

If you contact Sam, she is organising another Artist’s Way work group in the coming months, as well as other online groups to ‘do’ particular books which have that special something (yup, that life-changing magic). Here is a link to an article written by Sam, which explains one of the tasks in The Artist’s Way, ‘Reading Deprivation Week’, and contains her contact details).

I’m sure you’re not a scaredy cat like me, but if you are, even a little bit, I hope you take comfort from my words. Be reassured.

And you’ll never know if you don’t give it a go!

The Artist's Way work group

Is there anybody there?

I write these posts because I really enjoy doing it. But of course, it’s always great to hear when somebody has read an article. Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment, like and share my post, become a follower through my email list, or just get in touch… Thank you!

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12 comments

  1. Eilidh, you are amazing!!!! good on your for taking that first step, and going through all of that trouble shooting to get zoom working; be proud of yourself.
    One thing that I have grown to understand about artists, is that the vast majority are fantastic people. Writers always seem to be open to the idea of other works and show a genuine interest, proud of you.

  2. On feeling like you don’t quite measure up against others in the room…very relatable. Deep down though, I believe we 1000% know better. I’m proud of you for showing up, seeing it through and for sharing. I pray that I’ll get around to reading this, it sounds interesting!

    1. Thank you for your comment, Mya. I think for me, it depends on the day as to whether I know better! Although there are more days than not when I do, thankfully. Sending love across The Pond! xxx

  3. Okay, if you’d just written a post telling us about the Artists Way group, I’d be in! But after all your terrifying meeting drop ins and technical problems, I would NOW be petrified to join it!! Cool post. Some great lessons in here :o)

    1. Oh no! Please don’t let me put you off! It’s a fantastic group… I was just attempting humour 🤣 There are going to be some other online book groups coming up (different titles which I think will be equally fab – not scary at all!)! Maybe see you there 😘 I’m planning on joining and I’m not scary 😘

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