Back on boogie street

April 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

So here I am back on boogie street, back in Montreal.

Long walks and reading continue to be part of my daily routine and my recipe for sanity and joy.  I am gobbling up Julia Cameron’s creative memoir Floor Sample, which is a riveting journey through her life as an artist in numerous disciplines, as well as an account of her brief marriage to Martin Scorcese, her recovery from alcoholism and, later in life, from a debilitating depression.  Along the way she tells the story of her prolific career as a writer and teacher.   For those of you who don’t know her name, you’ve probably heard of her famous book The Artists Way, which is an excellent tool for unblocking creativity, and one I’ve been using since early December.

Today while walking I thought about the shift that happens to artists when they decide to live the lives of their own choosing, to pursue their art with integrity, discipline, sincerity and seriousness.

This weekend I volunteered at the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival and was inspired by a meeting with James Frey.  This controversial American author wrote A Million Little Pieces back in 2003 and sparked quite a wave of resentment when it was discovered that his book, published as an autobiography, contained more than its fair share of fiction. Oops.  Even Oprah was upset.

What intrigued me most was how Frey was able to bounce back from such international uproar and write another book to wide acclaim.  His recent work Bright Shiny Morning understandably leads with the following disclaimer: “Nothing in this book should be considered accurate or reliable.”   Apparently, there had never been a moment in which Frey thought about stopping his writing career, despite all the chaos and controversy that swirled around him.

I bought the book and had it autographed:

“Mary – You’re a beautiful woman, have a beautiful life.  James Frey”

Thanks Mr. Frey!

Bouncing back from our blunders is part and parcel of artistic life.  This is especially true when we are driven to create and express our ideas despite what may have happened to undercut our confidence and belief in ourselves in the past.

Lately I’ve been drawn time and again to the phrase first coined by Gloria Steinem with her book Revolution from Within. 

Sometimes what it takes to define ourselves as artists is the same thing that ushers us past our misgivings and failures:  it’s that unstoppable “revolution from within”; the voice that somehow finds its timbre among the divisive doubts and judgements to let you know you are allowed to exist; you are allowed to create, and that the inspiration you feel might just indeed be a divine gift.

And don’t forget, as Franz Kafka knew well:

 “Life’s splendor forever lies in wait about each one of us in all its fullness, but veiled from view, deep down, invisible, far off. It is there, though, not hostile, not reluctant, not deaf. If you summon it by the right word, by its right name, it will come.”


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