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Shadow Artists

In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron talks about Shadow Artist’s. Highly creative people in the own right who are drawn to creative people following their dreams and goals. While they don’t allow themselves to be creative they support – either emotionally, physically or financially – those who are publicly dancing to the song they hear in their heart.

It’s partially where I got the title of this blog from. Writing in Shadows. I thought it was fitting. I tend to sit in the shadows, writing here and there while supporting the friends I have who are creative or artistic. Not financially, I can barely afford at this stage to support my cats financially, but definitely emotionally.

I have several friends who are highly creative. Much braver in some respects then I am, and I am definitely head cheerleader for their artistic actions.

One of the reasons I guess I’ve stayed in the shadows is an overwhelming fear of the spotlight. I don’t like being noticed. It’s one of the reasons I write. Who knows what a writer looks like. It’s not like I’ll ever have paparazzi camped in my lavender bushes and going through my garbage can. It’s partially the reason I am attempting to sort out my inner demons here, on a blog that I believed would never be noticed.

All that said, as a shadow artist, I’ve never really given myself the chance to really follow through on anything. It’s why I’m so grateful for this blog and for the feedback I’ve been getting.

About 5 years ago I got sick. I lost my voice for months, lost my job – who needs a mute call centre worker – and with it my home, any savings I had and what little self respect I managed to keep. Maybe 6 years ago now that I come to think of it. When I returned to my parents home, I’d spent 3 months living on vegemite toast and coffee. Not the healthiest of diets I must say, but all I could afford. Funny I always had money for cheap wine – that’s another post right there – and cigarettes, but my food budget was $12 a week. Believe it or not you can survive on that, particularly if you like tomato sauce, and back then I did.

Anyway, once I returned to my parents home and got over the fact I felt like a total failure – and got my voice back – I got a job in another call centre. That lasted about 3 months. My voice kept collapsing and disappearing for weeks on end. I was sad to lose that job, but I was burnt out, hating customer services; the death threats, the complaints, the people who felt it appropriate to unload their miserable lives on the voice on the other end of the phone.

After about 6 months or so of being unemployed, I cracked it one day and decided that the next job I saw advertised was mine, regardless of the criteria that was set for it. And surprisingly enough I got it. The job said you had to have a University degree in law or journalism – I had neither, I left school half way through my second last year of high school – you needed to have a legal practicing certificate – nope – a proven ability in marketing and copy writing – nope – and although not essential a Masters Degree – no chance.

I had none of those things, but I applied anyway. What got me the interview was my background in call centres. Apparently not being afraid of picking up the phone made all those essential criteria irrelevant. My writing got me through. It was the first time I’d ever had a potential employer remark that I wrote really well.

So I became a conference producer, organising legal events. Writing them, getting speakers, writing the marketing, all the bits and pieces that go with creating corporate events. To this day, I love the fact my words and my work have people paying money to attend the events I create.

Despite the daily reinforcement my day job provides, I still didn’t believe I was creative. Writing an agenda or a piece of zippy marketing copy isn’t really all that creative I thought. It’s just recently I’ve really allowed myself to view my job for what it is. Although it’s a corporate writing gig, it’s still writing. If I can write an agenda that makes people hand over cash, then what’s to stop me writing a screenplay people would pay to see on the silver screen?

It is through The Artist’s Way, that I am allowing my shadow artist to slowly step out of the shadows. It’s a bit like patting a deer. You don’t want to move to fast, stay downwind and for the love of puppies don’t startle it. The last thing I need is to have it bolt back under the bed and hide there until the world blows up.

I guess what I’m getting at here, is that I’ve been lucky enough to have a career that allows me to use words to express an idea or an opinion. It may not be the one I wanted but if I’m smart about it, I’ve got the proof I needed to know my words do work. Writing a corporate agenda is totally different to a screenplay or a novel, but it’s still writing.

I need to remember that, and use the successes of my past as a carrot to help me get to the future I want. I’m making a commitment to myself to spend just 1 hour a night after I get home from work this week on making a good solid go at finalising my dot point outline of my screenplay idea. I’ll be interested in seeing how far along that gets me before next weekend.

Beyond that there’s not much in the way of goals at the moment. Next step is obviously going to be character outlines, but for now, step by step I’m filling in the scene breakdowns for Hot Ice, and we’ll see how it goes from there.

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43 year old Australian writer currently working on the first of a planned three book Epic Fantasy series. When he's not writing policy discussions, or tales of swords, Gods, and magic, he can be found making a mess in the kitchen, and turning perfectly good ingredients into crimes against humanity.

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s very inspiring! It’s so cool how you overcame all of those odds, and picked yourself back up in the most fulfilling of ways. Thank you. I needed to hear a success story like yours today.

    • Hi Christine,

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment on my post, I really appreciate it. Picking yourself up and dusting yourself off is an ongoing process. Good times and bad. I find keeping myself focused on where I eventually want to be, while remembering it’s not going to happen overnight is the best approach. That and sometimes you just have to watch movies and eat chocolate 🙂

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