If you’re a regular reader of the blog, then you’ve probably noticed that things have slowed down here for a bit. During the spring, I was producing three posts each week; my productivity seemed endless. While I was doing that, I was also holding down the day job: teaching high school in the COVID-19 Era.
I wrapped up the school year just after Memorial Day and have been, more or less, free all day long ever since. You would think that I’d be able to churn out blog posts at at least the same rate as I was doing while working my full-time gig as a high school English teacher. But, sadly, that’s not the case.
Why? Well, I suppose it has a lot to do with momentum and what I call “Teacher Summer.”
Anyone who has ever taught on a typical American academic schedule knows what a grind it can be from August through May (or September through June, depending on what part of the country you’re working in). Those nine or ten months are a tough animal: long hours and lots of responsibilities. A few years ago, I was hitting golf balls on the driving range with a friend of mine when I mentioned something about working 60 hours that week and really needing driving range therapy (which equals pounding golf balls endlessly while sipping a gin and tonic).
He challenged me on this: “C’mon, Stephen, a lot of people say they work 60 hours in a week, but I doubt it. They may spend that much time at work, but that’s not productive time. How much of that time is spent ‘taking breaks’ on social media or chatting with coworkers?”
Fair enough. However, I have a way to prove how much time I work because I keep everything in my Google Calendar. So, I pulled up my calendar on my phone and—lo and behold!—I had nearly 70 hours of meetings, classes, and other commitments (e.g., coaching a golf team) scheduled from Monday through Saturday.
“Fair enough,” he said.
For all of this hard work, we teachers get the summer off: eight to ten weeks of bliss! Each spring, I look forward to that summer and the things I can accomplish. Of course, I’m going to get some much need rest and relaxation, but I’m also going to polish up the design for that new blog, post three times each week, shed a few more pounds, and finish up the draft of that novel I’ve been working on.
Unfortunately, that never seems to happen. Instead, what happens is what I call Teacher Summer. While the dream is to get all of those things done, those things that you supposedly don’t have time for during the school year, Teacher Summer is the stark reality:
- That rest and relaxation causes you to lose your momentum.
- When you lose your momentum, you find other things to take the place of the creative pursuits you had planned. (This week’s example: refinishing my deck!)
- Faced with an absolutely empty schedule, you find ways to fill the time that are anything but writing that novel or posting to your blog. (In my case, I keep watching the first act of Hamilton. Not exactly a waste of time, but it’s not getting words on the page either.)
Before you know it, it’s mid-July and you’re starting to see meetings on the horizon because school is going to be in session in about a month.
Something’s Gotta Give
If I’m going to take back control of my summer, if I’m going to regain the momentum that I had before I went with the family on a (much needed) camping trip to Colorado, then something’s gotta give.
I am fortunate in that I have a very supportive partner who is also an artist herself. Natalie always encourages me along the way and does her best to create space for me to do the thing that I love most: writing. For example, for the rest of this summer, she’s committed to giving me three uninterrupted hours every afternoon to write.
That’s a pretty amazing gift! I can’t squander it!
But, of course, the fear of squandering it comes with its own stultifying power. Fear is a writer’s enemy. (I intend to cover this in a series of blog posts in the coming weeks…stay tuned!) In order to conquer fear, you need a system.
So, I need a system.
Enter Julia Cameron
For years now, I’ve known of a creative coach named Julia Cameron. Cameron has made a splash in the creative field over the last thirty or forty years with a course and book called The Artist’s Way. Cameron’s mission is to help blocked creative people become unblocked.
If you’ve got something that you’re wanting to do—write, paint, make movies, build business empires—but you’re having trouble getting started, Cameron has a twelve-week program for you!
I’ve been doing a key part of Cameron’s program—Morning Pages—for over three years now, but I’ve never taken the plunge and done the whole program.
So, I’m taking the plunge and doing the whole program.
Even better, I’ve convinced Natalie and some other folks to do it with me!
What I’m Planning To Do
This week (July 12–18) is Week One. I’m going to do Cameron’s entire program and write a post about it each week.
I have no idea what to expect. Will I see results? Will I falter and fail? Will I change my life?
Each week, you can expect some reflections from me on The Artist’s Way and how I’m understanding it, using it, and dealing with it. I can already tell you that week one (which I started a few days ago) has been challenging.
That’s a good thing!
What You Can Do: Follow Me and Try It for Yourself!
Are you interested in The Artist’s Way? Are you an artist who is looking to regain your momentum, find your inner creative, unblock and unlock your potential? Cool! Then join me and get to work on The Artist’s Way!