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The Sovereign Artist Within
Reconnect with your True Artistic Self and find joy again
In mid-2021 I had a “nervous breakdown.” My creative well went dry. I was depleted. Classic burnout. I never thought such a thing would happen to me, but I had called upon my reserves without being connected deeply to my true artistic self. I had forced unconnected creativity for a year and a half to get our company and our software service through the pandemic.
During that time, we, as a company, and me, personally, shipped at a furious pace. We sprinted constantly for months to keep up with the (suddenly changed) needs and demands of our customers, but, not heeding my own recommendations (which to be fair, I had not written yet) or the warning signs of my own mind and body, I maintained that pace at a terrible price to my creative soul. And my body eventually caught up and forcibly made me stop. So I stopped. By “stopped”, I mean stop working. Everything. All of it. For about two months. And once I slowly started coming back (at a much more sane pace), it took nearly another year for me to find joy in work again.
I now know that I burned out because I became disconnected from my true artistic self, The Sovereign Artist within, the creator inside, my creative self, my true self, my soul, god, the source, the Tao, the mystery, the force, yin & yang, magic, consciousness, vibrational energy, or whatever else you want to call it. For it doesn’t matter what you call it. It doesn’t matter if you believe in it. It only matters that you connect to it. Of course, I didn’t know any of this at them time.
I’ve been reluctant to share this publicly for a few reasons: embarrassment, fear of being seen as weak, but mostly because it seems like a petty little problem given the real life-and-death problems people faced during the Covid years. We all lost people we loved. So “boo who” for the sensitive little creative who lost his artistic way. At least that’s what the Resistance in my mind whispered to me.
But (deep breath), I’m sharing it now, before I chicken out, because I now realize this is what happens to a blocked artist and the only way back from it is to connect with The Sovereign Artist Within. Perhaps, I can help a few other lost artistic souls reconnect to the source of creativity and find joy once again.
I’ve been referring to this central piece of “connecting your soul to the source” as “Your Truth” in our previous articles. But “Your Truth” never really quite captured the idea that I’m trying to get across here. What I’m trying to express is that you must connect with your true artistic self. That is, you must connect with The Sovereign Artist within. If you don’t, all creativity will come with a price, and eventually you’ll pay that price, as I did. As I still am. All creativity, just like all magic, requires a price to be paid. However, if you are connected to “The Sovereign Artist”, the price is paid by an unlimited universal energy source and that good energy brings you joy. If you shut that source out, you will pay the price directly, mentally and, eventually, as I did, physically.
In the end, all of us artists have the same core truth. And that core truth is this: what I call “The Sovereign Artist” lives at the center of your soul.
The Sovereign Artist is the source of our creativity. It is unfettered fun and play. It is the joy of life. It revels in watching a butterfly land on a leaf. And it inspires us to say or create something about the beauty of the universe all around us. It is grateful. It is magic. It is “the force” from Star Wars. It is the Creator. It is God for those that believe in a god, though it matters not what you believe about it. It will work for you whether you believe in it or not. Creation is not something that happened. Creation is something that is happening and, if you tap into this creative well, it is something that is supposed to be happening through you. You need only get your false self out of the way. Once you tap into this source of THE Sovereign Artist, you will BE a soverign artist. You will be free. You will be creative. You will find joy. Even if your external circumstances have not changed at all, your inner world will suddenly be full of light, energy, freedom, joy and possibility.
Did you ever paint a painting and simply “lose your self” in the flow? “It practically painted itself!” artists say all the time. That’s what tapping into The Sovereign Artist feels like. “You” are gone and are in harmony with the universe when you are in such a flow state. You are channeling the Source.
So the “formula” for finding your way back to your True Artist Self is this:
Your true artistic self = [The Sovereign Artist Within] PLUS [uniqueness] PLUS [serendipity] MINUS [societal programming]
To reconnect with your true artistic self there are four pieces to this formula:
1. The Sovereign Artist Within
This is the never-ending force of the universe and you don’t have to do a thing to it except uncover it and notice it within you. Know thyself.
2. Your Uniqueness
This is your unique way of thinking and seeing the world. Your likes and dislikes, the real ones, not things you’ve been programmed by society to “believe.” Often you can recall your uniqueness when you think about the things you did for play when you were a child. For example, I drew a lot, I oil painted a lot, and I made fun computer programs, a lot. Wow, that sounds a lot like the business I’m in now, doesn’t it? If you allow yourself some fun, your uniqueness will automatically shine. Your uniqueness is like a filter that the unchanging source of the universe shines through. We are all created completely unique as the universe experiences creativity in all its different forms. After all, the True Sovereign Artist is in the process of creating everything possible.
3. Openness to Serendipity
The Sovereign Artist will help you once you start the process of reconnecting. Opportunities will fall in your lap. New directions you hadn’t thought of will appear. I suddenly found and joined a writers group. What a surprise that was to me! You can call it coincidence. You can call it synchronicity. You can call it answered prayers. It doesn’t matter at all what you call it. You don’t even have to believe in it. It only matters that you remain open to new possibilities and directions when they appear. Don’t allow your small self’s preconceived notions of what “should” happen blind you to the opportunities that are happening. You are likely being nudged for a reason.
4. Your Programming
You have been programmed by society, your friends, your family, your obligations, etc. And this is the place that we usually have to do the most “inner work” to see through these falsities. You might not even know (yet) that they are false. You have to uncover and remove guilt, fear, apathy, and anger to get back to truth. You will get excited about something and then think, “I could never do that.” You must let go of such thinking and, truly letting go, well, unfortunately it can take a long time to lose all of it. But you will see progress rapidly if you are sincere in walking the path. In essence, reconnecting with The Sovereign Artist isn’t about adding anything. It’s about removing and seeing through your false beliefs that keep you separated from all that you could be.
How did I find my way back to my true artistic self you might wonder?
Once you become disconnecting to the Source, you must undergo a rite of passage to find your way back. And the only rite of passage that works is an ancient one. To be reborn you must undergo the universal and sacred rite of passage: death and resurrection. Only once you “die” and are reborn will you regain the connection to the sovereign artist. You have to spend your time in the desert.
So, after my breakdown, I took a, somewhat forced, sabbatical to “find myself.” I had no clue what that meant. I had never taken time off work other than vacations (and the last one had been years prior) and so I just, well, I didn’t call it this then, but I guess I “played.”
I started meditating. I journaled daily. I wrote down my thoughts, my feelings, things I thought might interest me to explore. I wrote a song. I played guitar. I started going to the neighborhood pool and floating in the water watching clouds overhead. I played guitar some more. I sat outside in the back yard. Sometimes I meditated outside. I went for walks. I watched sunsets. I watched sunrises. I started running. I pet neighborhood cats and dogs. I meditated some more. I wrote in my journal some more. I started a new blog. I started following writers online that I found interesting and inspiring. I made some new friends. I connected with people online that had nothing to do with tech and software. I journaled some more. I started writing down things I was grateful for. I journaled. I played. And I prayed.
At the time, I had not ever read a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. But, I read it this past week and, as those of you who have read it already know, you can see that I was a classic “blocked creative” and I unwittingly recreated for myself the process outlined in The Artist’s Way.
I’ve been amazed as I’ve read through the book The Artist’s Way that every symptom listed about blocked creatives, I had. And everything she suggests doing to reconnect to what she calls your “creative self” are the very things I did, and continued doing for the past two years. The things I am still doing. Oh yeah, I should probably mention that - this is a lifelong process. Not something you “do”, heal, and then stop. If you stop, you’ll get irritable again, you’ll get disconnected again. It’s a way of living, which is why creating art creates magic. We are the people who still believe in such nonsense.
In fact, The Artist’s Way is so close to what I’ve spent the past year writing about, I wonder if I should continue writing my forthcoming book or simply point you all to The Artist’s Way instead. But then I tell myself, that’s my doubt and fear talking, that’s The Resistance. And there is, perhaps, some value for the world, for creatives, in my need to express similar ideas through MY uniqueness. My filter. There must be because it’s what The Sovereign Artist keeps pushing me toward.
Reconnecting with The Sovereign Artist within can take time, especially time to see the fruits in your own work.
But the process of healing starts as soon as you intend to connect with The Sovereign Artist. The Sovereign Artist wants to connect with you. The Sovereign Artist wants to create through you. It is the purpose of everything.
So, what does this process of reconnection look like?
That’s what I’ll get into in the next article but, for now, I would recommend following the ideas in The Artist’s Way, particularly the two main, and most powerful tools Ms. Cameron discusses: Morning Pages and The Artist Date.
The Morning Pages are a form of journaling about how you feel. And they will help you uncover and eliminate the false programming of society. They will help you uncover what you truly want and not what you pretend you want because it’s what society actually wants from you.
The Artist Date is a weekly date with yourself where you do fun, creative activities to reactivate your sense of wonder.
Those two activities, you’ll see, if you compare them to the list above of the activities I undertook during my “sabbatical” are essentially what I did. I just called them something else.
I uncovered a lot in the (ongoing) process. For example, one of the things I uncovered about my true artistic self is this: I am a writer. That isn’t how I made my living, and it’s certainly not what our customers expected from me. But, once I removed expectations and fear, and experimented with new directions it became crystal clear. I am a writer, I always have been, and I’d been suppressing that truth. No wonder I had a breakdown! I now even write fiction.
So, for now, if you’re trying to align all the “Circles of Art Marketing” we’ve been discussing and something feels “off”, then I suggest that you journal every morning, and allow yourself some play time. The kingdom of heaven is there, you know, within you. You just have to see it again.
Clint Watson, writer.
PS - I am using the symbol of a fleur-di-lis to represent the deep truth at the center of us all, what I call “The Sovereign Artist.” The Tao which can be named, after all, is not the true Tao, so I’ve opted to use a symbol instead. This symbol reflects what you are in your deepest self - free and sovereign over yourself. The fleur-de-lis stood as a symbol of the king's divinely approved right to rule and, when you connect to this power of the divine, you are granted the power to rule over yourself. The red fleur-di-lis is the famous symbol of the most artistic city in history, Florence which, in latin, means flowering. Through this process you will flower in to your truest, most free, sovereign self. And you will be unstoppable.
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