Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Category: Artist’s Way

Motherhood – The Tear

It’s one of the things that we don’t talk about, but there are many of us adult children who habitually avoid visiting our aging mothers. The operative word is children here because until this problem is resolved, we children, regardless of our ages, will never grow up.

Does this conversation from The Prince of Tides ring your bell?

” ‘It’s your mother, ‘ Sallie said, returning from the phone.

‘Please tell her I’m dead,’ I pleaded. ‘Please tell her I died last week and you’ve been too busy to call.’

‘Please speak to her. She says it’s urgent.”

‘She always says it’s urgent. It’s never urgent when she says it’s urgent

. . .

‘I hate my mother, Sallie…. p, 10

. . .

” ‘Jennifer said, ‘Why don’t you like Grandma, Dad?’

‘Who says I don’t like Grandma?’

“Lucy added, ‘Yeah, Dad, why do you always scream out, ‘I’m not here’ when she calls on the phone?’

‘It’s a protective device, sweetheart. Do you know how a blowfish puffs up when there’s danger? Well, it’s the same thing when Grandma calls. I puff up and shout that I’m not here. It would work great except that your mother always betrays me.’

‘Why don’t you want her to know you’re here, Daddy? Chandler asked.

‘Because then I have to talk to her. And when I talk to her it reminds me of being a child and I hated my childhood.’ p. 13

. . .

‘At this very moment my mother is crossing the Shem Creek bridge. No birds sing on the planet when my mother is on her way.

. . .

‘My God, I wonder what she wants, She only comes here when she can ruin my life in some small way. She’s a tactician of the ruined life. She could give seminars on the subject. … When my family has bad news, It’s always something grisly, Biblical, lifted straight out of the Book of Job.’ p. 14

. . .

‘Friendship and motherhood are not compatible.

‘…here’s Mom. Could you tie some garlic around my throat and bring me a crucifix?

. . .

“My mother appeared in the doorway, immaculately dressed and groomed, and her perfume walked out on the porch several moments before she did. My mother always carried herself as if she were approaching the inner chamber of the queen. She was as finely made as a yacht–clean lines, efficient, expensive.” Conroy, Pat. The Prince of Tides,  p. 16

[As Pat Conroy continues to develop the character of Tom Wingo’s mother, motherhood, shame, and anger become intermeshed.]

“I was not comfortable with anyone who was not disapproving of me. No matter how ardently I strove to attain their impossibly high standards for me, I could never do anything entirely right and so I grew accustomed to that climate of inevitable failure. I hated my other, so I got back at her by giving my wife her role. In Sallie, I had formed the woman who would be a subtle, more cunning version of my own mother. Like my mother, my wife had come to feel slightly ashamed of and disappointed in me.” Conroy, Pat. The Prince of Tides, p. 86.

[In reading more of the book The Prince of Tides, we discover that the Wingo family’s dysfunction did not begin with Tom’s generation of kids. Tom and his siblings were born into a dysfunctional family that extended several generations back–possibly back to the beginning of time.]

Because of her own insecurity, Tom’s mother had shamed her children into silence about things that did not cast the family in a favorable light. The Wingo father was a wife and child beater, and the children were forced into silence about the physical abuse in their homes.

Most of us were not physically abused, but through the rough and tumble process of growing up, most of us were hurt by something that our parents did or said or about what we came to believe that they did or said. Because of our own fragile egos, we may have exaggerated some of our slights. Our parent may have said one thing, and because of our own frailties, we may have heard another, and because we didn’t want to continue to hear what we didn’t want to hear, we may have erected a wall, and that launched a multitude of problems.

Mothers seem to bear the brunt of the blame for saying or doing things that kids perceive as having damaged them. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that mothers do not make mistakes. I am not saying that mothers do not say the wrong things and do the wrong things. As a mother, I have made mistakes and my own mother has also made mistakes, but I am acknowleding the reality that mothers are human.

“To err is human, to forgive divine.”
Alexander Pope

While adult children are willing to forgive almost anyone in the world for almost anything that they have done, we find it difficult to forgive our mothers–the people who, in most cases, did everything that they possibly could do to be good moms. If we consider the irrationality of the degree of our anger and our acting out against our mothers, we may begin to understand that our inabilities to forgive our mothers may have more to do with our own weaknesses than it has to do with the misdeeds of our moms.

“There is no hospitality like understanding.”
― Vanna Bonta, Flight: A Quantum Fiction Novel

We consider ourselves to be a  hospitable bunch of people. We are good at being hospitable with perfect strangers, but we hesitate when it is time to be hospitable with those who have loved us as much as they humanly could have loved.

Hospitality is the act of opening our homes and our hearts and allowing others to enter. I believe that hospitality stems from understanding and from empathy. Until we are able to view our mothers as humans who had problems of their own and who did the best that they could with what life dealt them, we will never become hospitable toward them.

“You’re busy. You don’t have the skill set. Their problems are too much. Their life is a mess.
Your life is a mess. You’re too impatient. You’re not kind enough. You don’t even like them.
You have nothing to offer. What does it really matter?
Turns out, in the end, it’s all that really matters.”
― Edie Wadsworth

If we could simply shut out our mothers and close the doors of our pasts and walk away, it might be okay. It wouldn’t be kind and it would be dreadfully unappreciative, but it might be okay if we could completely remove ourselves from our families. but none of us can do that. We might convince ourselves that we are fine about divorcing ourselves. We might sufficiently harden our hearts enough that we feel nothing at all about it, but does anyone really want a hardened heart? We might become completely narcissistic and only care about ourselves. Whoa! Is that a good thing?

The truth is that there is no healthy way to eliminate our mothers, and until we quit trying to do that, we will be trapped in hamster cages, spinning the go-nowhere wheels of our own making.

“If you’re busy blaming your mother or wishing you could “divorce” her, you are caught in a psychological prison. You can’t get free, and you can’t really grow up. There are practical problems. For example, you dread family parties: Your mother might not like what you’re wearing. Or she might love what you’re wearing and say to everyone, “Doesn’t my daughter look gorgeous?!”—and you’d be mortified.

“That kind of practical problem is a symptom of the fact that mother-blame limits your freedom: you can’t be an adult who freely considers all of life’s possibilities. You restrict yourself to certain activities, interests, and friends to prove how different from Mother you are. You can’t look honestly at who you are, because you might discover ways that you are like her! Frantic to avoid what you consider her failures, you overreact, throwing out the good with the bad: you grow tough because you think she’s sentimental, or you become a doormat because she wasn’t warm enough. All that reaction against her, that desperate drive to prove your difference, restricts and damages your relationships with the other people you love—your mate, your children, your other relatives, and your friends. You offer them only a part of your true self, a caricature.” Caplan, Paula. The New Don’t Blame Mother

My children are mad at me, and I suffer from their anger every day. I grew up longing for the day that I would be a mother. When I was a child, I never wanted fashion dolls or any kind of pretty dolls. I only wanted baby dolls, and I wanted diapers and Johnson’s Baby Powder to sprinkle on their bottoms. When I was a little girl, I had play baby bottles and warm blankets to draw my babies near to me to protect them from the cold. I couldn’t wait to be a real mother, and I never dreamed that my real children would ever be mad at me.

One of my children called me to wish me Happy Mother’s Day. I had not seen that son for five years and I had only talked to him once in that time. I could have elected to pout and not to receive his call, or I could have elected to welcome any amount of attention that he felt he could spare me. I chose the latter. I cherish the fact that he called. Because he had moved to a different state and had a new cell phone, I didn’t know how to reach him. My son’s call was the first step toward tearing down a wall. My sons live over 1,000 miles away from me. They live 8 hours away from each other, but they are both living in the South, and I told both of my sons to expect me this summer. I am returning to my own roots in the South, and I want us to have an old-fashioned family reunion. There is something about breaking bread and drinking that is ceremonial and healing. Fried chicken, deviled eggs, and potato salad. There could be no better way to commune.

I hurt for my wounded family, and one of my greatest wishes is that we will be healed. I never saw it coming, but I have learned that there is more to motherhood than holding babies and powdering them and caressing them. There is also a time for giving them a healthy amount of space, and there is pain. Years ago, Erma Bombeck wrote a touching piece that tells the story of God’s creation of Mothers. It is titled When God Created Mothers. For me, the title should be Motherhood – The Tear

©Jacki Kellum May 14, 2017 Happy Mother’s Day

“When God Created Mothers”
by Erma Bombeck

When the Good Lord was creating mothers, He was into His sixth day of “overtime” when the angel appeared and said. “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.”

And God said, “Have you read the specs on this order?” She has to be completely washable, but not plastic. Have 180 moveable parts…all replaceable. Run on black coffee and leftovers. Have a lap that disappears when she stands up. A kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair. And six pairs of hands.”

The angel shook her head slowly and said. “Six pairs of hands…. no way.”

It’s not the hands that are causing me problems,” God remarked, “it’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have.”

That’s on the standard model?” asked the angel. God nodded.

One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks, ‘What are you kids doing in there?’ when she already knows. Another here in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn’t but what she has to know, and of course the ones here in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and say. ‘I understand and I love you’ without so much as uttering a word.”

God,” said the angel touching his sleeve gently, “Get some rest tomorrow….”

I can’t,” said God, “I’m so close to creating something so close to myself. Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick…can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger…and can get a nine year old to stand under a shower.”

The angel circled the model of a mother very slowly. “It’s too soft,” she sighed.

But tough!” said God excitedly. “You can imagine what this mother can do or endure.”

Can it think?”

Not only can it think, but it can reason and compromise,” said the Creator.

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek.

There’s a leak,” she pronounced. “I told You that You were trying to put too much into this model.”

It’s not a leak,” said the Lord, “It’s a tear.”

What’s it for?”

It’s for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness, and pride.”

You are a genius, ” said the angel.

Somberly, God said, “I didn’t put it there.”
― Erma Bombeck, When God Created Mothers



There Is No Final Word – We Must Continually Process & Re-evaluate

Minds Are Like Parachutes. They Work Better
When They Are Open

In the arts communities, Process is valued over Product. In other words, a working, living, flexible state of creating is favored over something that was only considered once, made, and never reconsidered.


A Closed Mind is a Product. It is a withering vessel that allows precious little in or out. It is comprised of boxes that are only filled once and afterwards are locked and abandoned.

Many things cause people to close their minds. I believe that fear is one of the factors. People who are afraid of the unknown–who are afraid of change–have a tendency to restrict the amount of data that they process.

Hurriedness is another reason that people close their minds. We live in an age of multi-tasking. The people who do the most, multi-task to do so. Multi-taskers are prone to review a matter once, make a decision, shut that door, and move on. While that might be a quick way to get things done, I feel sure that multi-taskers make many mistakes. I often question my own decisions that I made in haste, and upon further contemplation, I often discover that my hasty decisions require a second thought.

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A more effective practice requires continued thinking on a matter and continual reflection. An open-minded person would revisit one’s plan time and again, and he would check and balance his behavior. Anything less is like working with blinders on. It is a fast trip to denial, where a person attempts to function with partial information. I have written several posts about denial, and I believe that anger is a cause of denial–and likewise, a reason for closing one’s mind.

When we get mad, we have a tendency to stop listening, and when we stop listening, we lose empathy, and we end our thought processes. The person in denial has the tendency to slam the door on any further consideration. Then, he throws away the key, and he never looks back again.

Healthy people can become frustrated and angry. In her book the Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron says that Anger can actually be a good and helpful thing. The key is that of not making it the final response. Anger should lead us to another, healthier behavior.

“Anger is meant to be listened to. Anger is a voice, a shout, a plea, a demand. Anger is meant to be respected. Why? Because anger is a map. Anger shows us what our boundaries are. Anger shows us where we want to go. It lets us see where we’ve been and lets us know when we haven’t liked it. Anger points the way….” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 62.

. . .

“Anger is the firestorm that signals the death of our old life . Anger is the fuel that propels us into our new one. Anger is a tool, not a master. Anger is meant to be tapped into and drawn upon. Used properly anger is use-full.

“Sloth, apathy, and despair are the enemy. Anger is not. Anger is our friend. Not a nice friend. Not a gentle friend. …It will always tell us when we have been betrayed. It will always tell us that it is time to act in our own best interests.

“Anger is not the action itself. It is the action’s invitation.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 62-63.

Unhealthy people elect to remain stuck in anger. If a person who is stuck in anger is prone to denial, he may no longer realize that he has become stuck. Especially when anger and failed relationships are in play, I believe second or third or fifth or tenth thoughts are worthwhile. Before we throw people away, we should examine our behaviors and scrutinize them. Forgiveness may be in order. Our states of denial may be preventing us from recognizing our needs for forgiveness.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ― Mahatma Gandhi, All Men are Brothers: Autobiographical Reflections

For whatever reason, a closed mind is a sad or even a dangerous thing.

Minds Are Like Parachutes. They Work Better When They Are Open!

In life and in art, process is better than product. If there is a final word, it is that there is NO final word. We never move beyond our needs to process and re-evaluate.

©Jacki Kellum May 13, 2017


Learning to Listen When Opportunity Speaks

Have you heard the parable about the man and the rising flood? I found it Here: 

“A terrible storm came into a town and local officials sent out an emergency warning that the riverbanks would soon overflow and flood the nearby homes. They ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately.

“A faithful … man heard the warning and decided to stay, saying to himself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, then God will send a divine miracle to save me.”

“The neighbors came by his house and said to him, “We’re leaving and there is room for you in our car, please come with us!” But the man declined. “I have faith that God will save me.”

“As the man stood on his porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to him, “Hurry and come into my canoe, the waters are rising quickly!” But the man again said, “No thanks, God will save me.”

“The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into his living room and the man had to retreat to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and saw him at the window. “We will come up and rescue you!” they shouted. But the man refused, waving them off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!”

“The flood waters rose higher and higher and the man had to climb up to his rooftop.

A helicopter spotted him and dropped a rope ladder. A rescue officer came down the ladder and pleaded with the man, “Grab my hand and I will pull you up!” But the man STILL refused, folding his arms tightly to his body. “No thank you! God will save me!”

“Shortly after, the house broke up and the floodwaters swept the man away and he drowned.

“When in Heaven, the man stood before God and asked, “I put all of my faith in You. Why didn’t You come and save me?”

“And God said, “Son, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a canoe. I sent you a motorboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?”

In Julia Cameron’s book the Artist’s Way, she speaks about Synchronicity:

  • A woman admits to a buried dream of acting. At dinner the next night, she sits beside a man who teaches beginning actors.

  • A woman is thinking about going back to school and opens her mail to find a letter requesting her application from the very school she was thinking about going to. Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 63

Cameron goes on to say that we are often resistant to the acknowledgment of when synchronicity is at work in our lives.

“It’s my experience that we’re much more afraid that there might be a God that there might not be. Incidents like those happen to us, and yet we dismiss them as sheer coincidence. …

“If there is no God, or if that God is disinterested in our puny little affairs, then everything can roll along as always and we can feel quite justified in declaring certain things impossible, other things unfair. If God, or the lack of God, is responsible for the state of the world, then we can easily wax cynical and resign ourselves to apathy. What’s the use?” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 63

As I began to read about synchronicity, I thought about the Parable of the Flood. In the flood scenario, a man refused to listen to several voices who were trying to save him from impending disaster, but I believe that we also refuse to listen to directives when they are simply trying to point us in the right direction or to lead the way to success. Julia Cameron says that because we feel unworthy of any help or any direction, we often dismiss these guiding lights.

“We call it coincidence. We call it luck. We call it anything but what it is–the hand of God….

“When we answer that call, when we commit to it, we set in motion the principle that C. G. Jung dubbed synchronicity, loosely defined as a fortuitous intermeshing of events. Back in the sixties, we called it serendipity.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 64.

For the past several weeks, I have been leading an Artist’s Way workshop, and I have begun to notice how that because of my attending to the ideas set out in Cameron’s book, I have begun to evolve.

I have faced the fact that denial is one of the forces that keeps me stuck in the quagmire of not moving forward with my ideas and my creations.  http://jackikellum.com/the-artists-way-versus-the-queens-of-denial/

I have acknowledged that I have problems with procrastination, and I have begun a program of to-do lists that I have already noticed paying off http://jackikellum.com/why-do-we-procrastinate-baby-steps-might-be-the-cure/

Because I am actively employing some of Cameron’s ideas in my life and because I am reading and re-reading the Artist’s Way now, I am also aware of the very real possibility that some voices and some lights in regards to several of my own ideas and projects have been trying to get through to me. In exactly the way that Cameron has described, I have discounted the paths that seem to be opening before me. I have told myself: “Don’t make much of this break-through or that. It is a coincidence. You simply don’t have a good hand. You have never been dealt a decent set of cards. You never will be. Don’t gamble.”

Cameron suggests that when we are given great ideas, we can also be given the means to accomplish those ideas, but she reminds us that we must move forward:

“Ideas don’t get opening nights. Finished pays do. Start writing.”  Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 62.

She reminds us that Joseph Campbell describes the breaks that follow as: “A thousand unseen helping hands.”

“We like to pretend it is hard to follow our heart’s desire. The truth is, it is difficult to avoid walking through the many doors that will open. …

“We say we are scared by failure, but what frightens us more is the possibility of success.

“Take a small step in the direction of a dream and watch the synchronous doors flying open.”   Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 66.

©Jacki Kellum May 4, 2017


Reasons to Write Daily in a Journal – Anaïs Nin, C. S. Lewis, Joan Didion, Franz Kafka, and Susan Sontag Tell Us Why They Wrote in Journals

In her Grasmere Journal, William Wordsworth’s sister Dorothy wrote that Wordsworth often sat in a crude shepherd’s hut or a writer’s hut to write. Wordsworth’s writing huts were little more than a roof and a desk that were beneath a covered shelter, and they had no walls that separated him from nature. The huts were situated in places where he had a natural view and a first-hand experience of his natural environment. Wordsworth clearly wanted to write from a place where he could directly respond to his natural setting, and his intimacy with nature allowed him to have the fodder needed to write authentically and from an immediate overflow of emotion.

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Anaïs Nin also talked about writing authentically–about writing from an overflow of emotion that can result from a first-hand writing after observation.

“You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and into writing. Permit yourself to flow and overflow, allow for the rise in temperature, all the expansions and intensifications. Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them. If it seems to you that I move in a world of certitudes, you, par contre, must benefit from the great privilege of youth, which is that you move in a world of mysteries. But both must be ruled by faith.”
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 4: 1944-1947

Anaïs Nin recommends that writers keep a journal:

“This diary is my kief, hashish, and opium pipe. This is my drug and my vice. Instead of writing a novel, I lie back with this book and a pen, and dream, and indulge in refractions and defractions… I must relive my life in the dream. The dream is my only life. I see in the echoes and reverberations, the transfigurations which alone keep wonder pure. Otherwise all magic is lost. Otherwise life shows its deformities and the homeliness becomes rust… All matter must be fused this way through the lens of my vice or the rust of living would slow down my rhythm to a sob.”

From The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Volume 1.

“The diary taught me that it is in the moments of emotional crisis that human beings reveal themselves most accurately. I learned to choose the heightened moments because they are the moments of revelation.”

From Nin’s essay “On Writing,” 1947.

“The theme of the diary is always the personal, but it does not mean only a personal story: it means a personal relationship to all things and people. The personal, if it is deep enough, becomes universal, mythical, symbolic; I never generalize, intellectualise. I see, I hear, I feel. These are my primitive elements of discovery.

Music, dance, poetry and painting are the channels for emotion. It is through them that experience penetrates our bloodstream.”
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 4: 1944-1947

Monochrome head-and-left-shoulder photo portrait of 50-year-old LewisC.S. Lewis Talks about Keeping a Journal

[About his journal after the death of his wife] “What would H. think of this terrible little notebook to which I come back and back? Are these jottings morbid? Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on think about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief. Do these notes merely aggravate that side of it? Merely confirm the monotonous, treadmill march of the mind round one subject. But what am I to do? I must have some drug, and reading isn’t a strong enough drug now.”

From A Grief Observed, by C.S. Lewis

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Joan Didion Tells Why She Writes in a Journal

Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.” From “On Keeping A Notebook” – Slouching Towards Bethlehem

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Franz Kafka Tells Why He Wrote in a Journal

“One advantage in keeping a diary is that you become aware with reassuring clarity of the changes which you constantly suffer….In the diary you find proof that in situations which today would seem unbearable, you lived, looked around and wrote down observations, that this right hand moved then as it does today…..” From Diaries, 1910-1923.

Susan Sontag Tells Why She Wrote in a Journal

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Susan Sontag

“On Keeping a Journal. Superficial to understand the journal as just a receptacle for one’s private, secret thoughts — like a confidante who is deaf, dumb and illiterate. In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself.

The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent. Therefore (alas) it does not simply record my actual, daily life but rather — in many cases — offers an alternative to it.

From a December 31st entry in her journal, as printed in Reborn.


Julia Cameron vehemently recommends journaling in a format that she calls morning pages. In reading her book the Artist’s Way, it sounds at first as though Cameron advocates morning pages as a way to leech all of the bile that has backlogged throughout one’s being, but I believe that further reading of her book reveals that Julia Cameron would agree that once we have exorcised our demons on paper, morning pages can be extended to include more than a listing of our negative qualities and our inadequacies. Morning pages are a way to dig into our deepest extremities or into the roots from which we have sprung, but morning pages are also a place that we can register ideas for future books, stories, or pieces. They are about moving beyond our roots–about growing forward.

Morning pages are also a way to celebrate the everyday, the mundane, the what’s-happening-now in our lives. Keeping a daily journal is a way to stop, look, listen, and write.  Grander writing may spring from our journals later, or they may not. As in most art, the product of keeping a journal is not what counts. It is the process. As we begin to write daily, we begin to notice more of what lies around us and we expand. As we begin to journal, life becomes more meditative for us, and we learn how to live in the moment and how to write from that same moment.

On page 52 of the Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron shares that she learned about mindful observation and writing from the moment from her grandmother’s letters.

” ‘The forsythia is starting and this morning I saw my first robin. . . .  The roses are holding even in this heat . . . . The sumac has turned and that little maple down by the mailbox . . . . My Christmas cactus is getting ready. . . . .’

“I could imagine. Her letter made that easy. Life through grandma’s eyes was a series of small miracles: the wild tiger lilies under the cottonwoods in June; the quick lizard scooting under the gray river rock she admired for its satiny finish. Her letters clocked the seasons of the year and her life.” [p. 52]

. . .

“My grandmother was gone before I learned the lesson her letters were teaching: survival lies in sanity, and sanity lies in paying attention. …

“The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 52-53.

Julia Cameron Tells Us about May Sarton’s Journal of Solitude

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“In a year when a long and rewarding love affair was lurching gracelessly away from the center of her life, the writer May Sarton kept A Journal of a Solitude.

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“In it, she records coming home from a particularly painful weekend with her lover. Entering her empty house, ‘I was stopped by the threshold of my study by a ray on a Korean chrysanthemum, lighting it up like a spotlight, deep red petals and Chines yellow center. . . .  Seeing it was like getting a transfusion of autumn light.’

“It’s no accident that May Sarton uses the word transfusion. The loss of her lover was a wound, and in her responses to that chrysanthemum, in the act of paying attention, Sarton’s healing began.

“The reward for attention is always healing. It may begin as the healing of a particular pain–the lost lover, the sickly child, the shattered dream. But what is healed, finally, is the pain that underlies all pain: the pain that we are all, as Rilke phrases it, ‘unutterably alone.’ More than anything else, attention is an act of connection.”  [Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 53]

Julia Cameron Tells How Her Writing Is Linked with Painful Experiences

“It may be different for others, but pain is what it took to teach me o pay attention. In times of pain, when the future is too terrifying to contemplate and the past too painful to remember, I have learned to pay attention to right now. The precise moment I was in was always the only safe place for me. Each moment, taken alone, was always bearable. In the exact now, we are all, always, all right.

. . .

“The night my mother died….A great snowy moon was rising behind the palm trees. Later that night, it floated [p. 54] above the garden, washing the cactus silver. When I think now about my mother’s death, I remember that snowy moon.

“The poet William Meredith as observed that the worst that can be said of a man is that ‘he did not pay attention.’ ”

“When I think of my grandmother, I remember her gardening…. [p. 55]

“I remember her pointing down the steep slope from the home she was about to lose, to the cottonwoods in the wash below. ‘The ponies like them for their shade,’ she said. ‘I like them because they go all silvery in their green.’ “Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 54-56.

©April 26, 2017



Taking Back My Life One Bite at a Time

I took this photograph of my garden during July of 2015, I had worked very hard in my garden that entire summer, and the results were magnificent. But last summer, I hardly worked at all in my garden. Poke plants dotted my lawn everywhere that I looked, and my hydrangeas withered from lack of watering. My perennials didn’t bother to lift their heads above the soil last year, and my garden was a Waste Land. Every time that I looked outside, I became part of my own natural wasteland.

Last summer, I had launched a writing group, and I was spending every available second writing and or reading about writing. I was preparing to offer a memoir writing class online, and I denied myself of the inspiration that my gardening had always been before. Even at the time, I knew that I was denying myself something that my spirit needed and that I was being excessive about something else instead.

Last summer, I went to a mindfulness workshop, and my first response to some question that was asked was that I was neglecting my garden and in doing so, I felt that I was neglecting myself. Others tried to console me by saying that my spirit simply needed the writing more, but I knew that wasn’t the case. In reality, I have a very bad habit of becoming obsessive compulsive about one thing at a time and in doing so, I forsake several other areas entirely. My life woefully needs balance.

Even though I was not working in my garden last year, I allowed my blogs’ About pages to continue to say that “I am an avid gardener.” I used that precise phrase, and today, when I saw that the blogging prompt for the day was “avid,” I chuckled and thought to myself about Julia Cameron’s words about synchronicity in her book the Artist’s Way.

  • A woman admits to a buried dream of acting. At dinner the next night, she sits beside a man who teaches beginning actors.

  • A woman is thinking about going back to school and opens her mail to find a letter requesting her application from the very school she was thinking about going to. Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 63

Cameron lists several examples of times that the universe seems to reach toward people who are open to the arms of its reaching. This summer, I have already begun working in my garden again, and I have already been dealing with the ways that my lack of balance is not paying off for me. Today, the writing prompt is “avid” –something that I used to be about my garden, and today, I feel the need to talk about my own personal disconnect.

Twenty-five years ago,  someone gave me a copy of the book the Artist’s Way. That someone recognized that I was a blocked creative, and she felt that the book would help me. As soon as I read the book, I recognized myself and the mistakes that I was making in terms of my own creative growth and production, and for a couple of days, I wrote morning pages–twenty-five years ago, and then, I simply quit. Too much time. Good idea but too much time. Here I am–twenty-five years later, and I am still dealing with many of the issues that I should have dealt with a quarter of a century ago.

I lead a writer’s group, and for months, I have heard various excuses that the people in my group make for not moving forward with their writing. The words of Cameron’s book have stuck with me through the years, and I realized that the people in my group would benefit from at least reading it. A few weeks ago, we began working through the chapters of Cameron’s the Artist’s Way, and I recognize that one of the reasons that I chose this book for the class is that I, too, need to actually “work” through  Cameron’s program. Yet, for two weeks, I did not write the morning pages. I wrote other things, and I blogged, but for some reason, I am resisting my need to settle down, to write the morning pages, and to allow myself to begin to attack the gargantuan task of moving through some of the issues that prevent me from moving forward.

I have always been an intense person, and I have always been avid about something or another. The problem is that I often neglect something else to be obsessive about my avid interest of the day. I move through my life like a line of army tanks. Typically speaking,  I charge forward. I attack, and I conquer one thing at a time. But I also hurry, and when a task seems that it will take too long, I move to a new front.

Image result for eat elephant one bite at a time

Last night, I decided that I would begin this day by slowing down and by actually beginning to master the gargantuan task of becoming more balanced and more efficient in all areas of my life. I acknowledge that this will not be a quick fix, but I have wasted twenty-five years by my failure to have done this a quarter of a century ago when I initially read Cameron’s the Artist’s Way. This morning, I wrote morning pages, and because it is a Cameron task on page 58, I listed “ten tiny changes” that I need to make in my life [my list is currently at #22]. I have vowed to slow down and to simply do what I need to do–to eat the elephant one bite at a time.

“No high jumping, please!… Progress, not perfection, is what we should be asking of ourselves.

“Too far, too fast, and we can undo ourselves. Creative recovery is like marathon training. We want to log ten slow miles for every one fast mile. This can go against the ego’s grain. We want to be great–immediately great–but that is not how recovery works. It is an awkward, tentative, even embarrassing process. There will be many times when we won’t look good–to ourselves or anyone else. We need to stop demanding that we do. …

” ‘But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really play the piano/act/write a play?’

“Yes. . . the same age you will if you don’t.

“So Le’ts start.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 29-30.

©Jacki Kellum April 23, 2017.

The Blind Leading the Blind – Learning to Atually See and to Say What We See

Have you looked carefully at Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s painting The Blind Leading the Blind? It was painted in 1568, and yet, it still speaks clearly to humanity’s goat-like tendency to thoughtlessly follow the crowd. Following the crowd can have severe adverse effects upon any of us who would like to create.

In most cases, we follow the crowd because, for one reason or another, the crowd seems to offer us some kind of security. Perhaps we like the crowd because it seems to be the popular place to be and has the seeming safeness of numbers. We think, “There are more of them than there are of me; therefore, ‘they’ must be right.”

When we create, the crowd becomes part of what Julia Cameron calls the Censor in her book the Artist’s Way, where she said that people have logical and linear behaviors embedded within them. She says that this logical behavior is part of one’s survival instinct, and she says that the part of ourselves that tries to discourage us from creating is part of this logical behavior that makes us believe that we need to be the same–or part of the crowd.

“Logic brain was and is our survival brain. It works on known principles. Anything unknown is perceived as wrong and possibly dangerous.  … Logic brain is the brain we usually listen to, especially when we are telling ourselves to be sensible.

“Logic brain is our Censor….Faced with an original sentence, phrase, paint squiggle, it says, ‘What… is that?

. . .

“Any original thought can look pretty dangerous to our Censor.

“The only sentences/paintings/sculptures/photographs it likes are ones that it has seen many times before. Safe sentences. Safe paintings.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 12-13.

While our logical tendencies seem to be safe, they are an enemy to creativity, and logic is the haven for the Censor. The Censor wants to scare us into editing the very life out of everything that we would otherwise like to create.

When I was a kid, a teacher questioned crowd behavior, asking: “If the crowd was jumping off the cliff, would you do the same thing?”

In Bruegel’s painting, the blind man seems to be leading the blinded crowd behind him off the edge of a cliff. What if the blinded crowd were actually a bunch of sighted people who refused to see? What if those who seem to be blindly following along are a  bunch of minds with their lights turned off? If those who refuse to see and those who deliberately dull their minds are desperate enough for acceptance, they may very well turn off their own lamps–simply to follow the crowd. Those people will have difficulty creating something original.

Before we can begin to be authentic creators, we must dare to step away from the crowd, and we must dare to see and to think and to create from what is true to our own selves. While being an individual can be scary, it is the only way to create something new. Furthermore, creation, by its very definition MUST be about something new–the scary, the unproven, the unsafe, and the different.

A couple of days ago, I began to question whether I truly wanted to create or whether I was merely playing at creating. I was tallying all of the excuses we make for not wanting to go out on the limb with our writing and our other creating. While we are great at finding excuses for not taking risks, the bottom line is that we love to live in denial. We love to be safe. We resist change, and we love speaking in code so that others may not guess too much of what we actually are–so that even we don’t see too much of who we really are.

Image result for kids drawing of a house

When we were very young, someone that we accepted as authority told us the “correct” way to draw a house and a sun and clouds and trees and flowers. Afterward, we learned those images and accepted them as symbols to represent the simple things in our lives. in the same way that the letters “H-o-u-s-e” spells “house,” we learned to draw boxes with triangles to say “house” in another way. Our simple little drawing says nothing about how we feel about the house, it simply says “house–the house that everyone in the crowd accepts to be a house.” If we want to write about a house or to paint our feelings about the house, we must move away from the code that the crowd has taught us. We must dig deeply within ourselves and find a way to say something that actually is deeper than words. We must move beneath the external and into our own internals, and sometimes that journey is scary.

As we mature, we tend to find more and more complex codes to reference things that we have difficulty saying, and that we have difficulty acknowledging to ourselves. As we become better and better with language, our codification grows complex, but any time that we reach within our tricky selves and pull out a pretty phrase or groups of paragraphs to replace the act of digging deeper for true meaning, we are still using code. Creating requires of us that we remove our own blinders and to shine a bright light on who we actually are and to speak from what we see–and not from the pretty phrases that we have banked to keep us from saying what we truly see.

©Jacki Kellum April 10, 2015


Definition of An Artist – Dare to Be an Artist!

I have always been the arty type. I have always been “driven by passion, seized by obsession, delighted by creation, enthralled with expression, entranced by vision, diverted by daydreams, filled with emotion, fueled by compulsion, consumed with beauty, and blindsided by inspiration.” However, I have also been pulled by the non-arty desire to be popular, to be a cheerleader, and to be normal or “the same.”

Hiding in Plain Sight
by Jacki Kellum

Smiling, Joking, Dancing, Free
That’s the Social Side of Me.

Tossing kisses from my car,
Scared, Confused Alone We Are.

If you look, you will see
The Scared, Confused and Social Three.

Copyright Jacki Kellum December 17, 2015

I became a closet creative, and I lived two lives. Outwardly, I was what I felt that everyone else wanted me to be and on the inside, I was someone else–I was different–an outlier. Here is how that worked:

On one hand, there was the social Jacki–the cheerleader, Miss Personality, and Campus Favorite. On the other hand, there was the REAL me–the person whose heart followed the whippoorwill’s call deep into the caverns of the forested night. When I was a child, I was the little camper who sat, staring into the campfire, feeling its heat warming my body and sensing its flames as they danced across my eyes. I would watch the flickering until it hypnotized me and lured me into the world that was completely removed from that of anyone else around me.

When I was a child, I would listen to the wind rustling through the leaves at night, and I would watch the leaves’ dark shadows gracefully tiptoeing across my window pane. I was the type of child who would listen to the rain pattering on the roof and be moved by its rhythmic tapping. When I was a child, I would stare at the stars, simply to enjoy the patterns of their light.

In looking back, I cannot be sure that the other kids around me weren’t doing the same things that I was doing and thinking the same things that I was thinking, but I don’t believe that they were. I always felt that I was different.

Even as a child, I felt that I was different. I couldn’t help myself, but in an effort to fit in, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to seem as though I wasn’t different at all. In Julia Cameron’s book the Artist’s Way, she said that we have logical and linear behaviors embedded within us. She says that this logical behavior is part of our survival instinct, and she says that the part of ourselves that tries to discourage us from creating is part of this logical behavior that makes us believe that we need to be the same.

“Logic brain was and is our survival brain. It works on known principles. Anything unknown is perceived as wrong and possibly dangerous.  … Logic brain is the brain we usually listen to, especially when we are telling ourselves to be sensible.

“Logic brain is our Censor….Faced with an original sentence, phrase, paint squiggle, it says, ‘What… is that?

. . .

“Any original thought can look pretty dangerous to our Censor.

“The only sentences/paintings/sculptures/photographs it likes are ones that it has seen many times before. Safe sentences. Safe paintings.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 12-13.

While our logical tendencies seem to be safe, they are an enemy to creativity, and logic is the haven for the Censor. The Censor wants to scare us into editing the very life out of everything that we would otherwise like to create.

Image result for pieter bruegel blind leading blind

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Blind Leading the Blind, Painted in 1568

Following the crowd can get us into all kinds of trouble.  I am reminded of Pieter Bruegel’s painting The Blind Leading the Blind. Consider the very real possibility that the seemingly safe crowd is inching toward the edge of a cliff en masse and that each person is about to fall to his own demise. Following the crowd is not always as safe as it seems to be.

Most often, “the crowd” is in a seemingly safe pattern of circling around a merry-go-round that, while it may seem colorful and pretty, it is going nowhere new. In other words, the crowd is doing the same thing over and over again. The crowd is not forging new paths. It is not creating.

Now, consider the crowd to be a line of burned out light bulbs. Will you, simply to be the same, turn your light off, too?

I hope not. Dare to let your light shine. Dare to be different. Dare to be an outlier.


Deep Within the Pool, I See
by Jacki Kellum

Deep within the pool I see,
An outline view of me.

I smile.  The water thinks me glad.
I frown. It thinks me sad.
The water has no way to know
The kind of day I’ve had.

The water has no brain to think.
It has no heart to feel
It only views my outer shell.
It looks with eyes of steel.

How very like the water are
The people passing by.
They glance at me, They never see,
They never hear me cry.

Drop a pebble in the pool.
Watch the water spin.
Best to watch the water crack
Than love the shell within.

© Jacki Kellum December 7, 2015

Dare to be an artist.

©Jacki Kellum April 7, 2917


The Artist’s Way Versus the Queens of Denial

Today was the end of the first full week after my Writers Group had begun “Working?” Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way Program and I was a little stunned by the outrage of the voices as we listed the reasons that the Artist’s Way would not work for us.

The first and foremost tenet of the Artist’s Way is that it is essential that EVERYONE write 3 pages of morning dribble every morning. We should get up 30 minutes earlier each morning and write, whether we feel like doing it or not, and we should not expect anything great to come out of the writing that we do. We should simply do it, and what’s more–we should commit to doing it. Here are some of the excuses that I heard from my group:

  1. I am commitment phobic – I refuse to commit to anything.
  2. I am too busy. I don’t have 30 minutes to toss at something that I don’t want to do.
  3. I am not creative. Some people simply aren’t creative, and I am one of them. Again, this is a waste of my time.
  4. I have a better plan.

Although I wholeheartedly agree with almost every word of Cameron’s book, I found myself saying, “Well, when I write, I need a topic–I can’t, won’t, just free-write. I need a topic. I heard myself saying that and Hey! I am teaching this course. Shortly after I got home, I thought that  ALL of US Are QUEENS of DENIAL.

I have decided to step back and reconsider my own behavior, and I challenge others to join me:

  1. I am not smarter than Julia Cameron.
  2. I did not write and publish trillions of break-out books that have improved the creativities of thousands of people.
  3. I am not operating at the level of production and success that I want.
  4. Yes, I am worth 30 minutes of dribble drabble writing each day.
  5. Yes, I WILL commit to working the Artist’s Way Program EXACTLY the way that Julia Cameron prescribes it.
  6. Yes, I will get out of my own way and try the Artist’s Way.

From the very beginning, Julia Cameron warns us that we will probably go through a period of clinging to old behaviors–simply because they feel safe to us. On one hand,

“Many of us wish we were more creative, but….Our dreams elude us. Our lives feel somehow flat. Often we have great ideas, wonderful dreams, but are unable to actualize them for ourselves….We hunger for what might be called creative living–an expanded sense of creativity in our business lives, in sharing with our children, our spouse, our friends….” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 5.

BUT we still resist making the changes that are required to become as creative and as fulfilled as we might be.

“Working with this process, I see a certain amount of defiance and giddiness in the first few weeks. This entry stage is followed closely by explosive anger in the course’s midsection. The anger is followed by grief, then alternating waves of resistance and hope.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 5.

Excuses that we might make for not committing to creative change [Examples of our own denials}

  1. It’s too late.
  2. When I make enough money in my real job, I’ll work on my creativity.
  3. My thinking that I could be more creative is only my ego.
  4. My dreams don’t matter. I need to be more practical and more sensible.
  5. My family and friends will think that I am silly or even crazy for trying to be more artistic.
  6. Creativity is a luxury–one that I cannot afford.

[This list is paraphrased from Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 7].

Julia Cameron says that we have logical and linear behavior embedded within us. She says that this logical behavior is part of our survival instinct, and she says that the part of ourselves that tries to discourage us from creating is part of this logical behavior. Cameron says that our tendencies to mercilessly self-edit and censor ourselves are linked to this logical behavior.

“As blocked artists, we tend to criticize ourselves mercilessly. Even if we look like functioning artists to the world, we feel we never do enough and what we do isn’t right. We are victims of our own internalized perfectionist, a nasty internal and eternal critic, the Censor, who resides in our (left) brain and keeps up a constant stream of subversive remarks that are often disguised as the truth. The Censor says wonderful things like: You call that writing? What a joke. . . .

“…always remember that our censor’s opinion doesn’t count.

. . .

“Think of your Censor as a cartoon serpent, slithering around your creative Eden, hissing vile things to keep you off guard. ” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 11.

When we convince ourselves that we must be in the MOOD to paint or to write, we are buying into denial behavior.

“Your mood doesn’t matter. …We have this idea that we have to be in the mood to write. We don’t.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 12.

Cameron says that free writing every morning trains the Censor to stand back, and it teaches us that we don’t have to be in the mood to write.

“I didn’t have to be in the mood. I didn’t have to take my emotional temperature to see if inspiration was pending. I simply wrote. No negotiations. Good, bad?? None of my business. I wasn’t doing it. By resigning myself as the self-conscious author, I wrote freely.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. xiv-xv, 1992 Edition.

Some of us ARE writing and creating, and we tell ourselves that we don’t need the morning pages to spring us into action. Yet, perhaps we too are in Denial.

Perhaps our denial wears a different face. Perhaps we are writing and painting but we are not digging deeply enough when we write or paint. Perhaps we are writing or painting what is safe and familiar and we are not taking the necessary chances to take our work to the next level of self-examination. I believe that Cameron is saying that by working her program and by writing the morning pages, we can find ways to dig deeper–into the realm of greater truth and more originality.

Logic brain is our brain of choice in the Western Hemisphere. It is the categorical brain. It thinks in a neat, linear fashion. As a rule, logic brain perceives the world according to known categories. …

“Logic brain was and is our survival brain. It works on known principles. Anything unknown is perceived as wrong and possibly dangerous.  … Logic brain is the brain we usually listen to, especially when we are telling ourselves to be sensible.

“Logic brain is our Censor….Faced with an original sentence, phrase, paint squiggle, it says, ‘What the hell is that?

. . .

“Any original thought can look pretty dangerous to our Censor.

“The only sentences/paintings/sculptures/photographs it likes are ones that it has seen many times before. Safe sentences. Safe paintings.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 12-13.

Some of us who have written and painted for quite some time have developed ways of writing and painting that SEEM to be very creative, very deep, very pretty, very elusive, and very truthful, but we need to examine ourselves carefully to be sure that we haven’t created code art that we hide behind. We need to be sure that some of our own pretty little devices have not evolved into creative trickery. Any time that we reach for some familiar tool or stylistic jargon without considering whether it is truth or whether it is a mere habit, we run the risk of writing and painting trickery and not truth. I believe that the morning pages can ferret out some of that behavior.

Some of us seasoned artists and writers may think that we are feeling bored when we are writing morning pages, but I remind myself and others of the great truth: Don’t Believe Everything that You Think.

Julia Cameron tells us that this Boredom with the Morning Pages is probably masked fear.
“Boredom is just What’s the use in disguise. And “What’s the use?” is fear, and fear means you are secretly in despair.”  Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 12.

How do we know if we have any level of blocked creativity?

Julia Cameron’s answer to this question definitely hit home with me:

Jealousy is an excellent clue. Are there artists whom you resent? Do you tell yourself, ‘I could do that, if only…..? Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 7.

OUCH!!!!! The truth does hurt!

All in all, I do believe that most of us are guilty of hiding in rabbit holes. Our rabbit holes may be the simple excuse that we don’t write because we aren’t in the mood or it might be a stylistic habit that camouflages our true feelings. In my opinion, most of us need to repeatedly commit ourselves to the type of self-examination and creativity renewal that Julia Cameron’s program can foster. But before we will get anywhere at all with the work of the Artist’s Way, we need to dare to shine the light on all of the ways that we are lurking within our own systems of Denial.

©Jacki Kellum April 6, 2016


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