I've been reading The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I found it wedged between a duplicate copy of some Christopher Hart cartoon guide and another Ultimate Guide to Drawing Stuff and Things. It's kind of like a self-help book for creative folk.
In the first few chapters, The Artist's Way introduces the concept of the shadow artist. Shadow artists don't have a badass origin story about being born in a pit of darkness, fulfilling some kind of prophecy, or anything like that. It's kind of a sad one, actually.
You're seven years old. You like to write. Maybe you draw too. You spend hours in your room with a pack of printer paper and colored pencils, pinning your designs to your walls. You write plays you make your siblings perform with you in your living room. You explore all the things that make you wonder. Your parents, your teachers, and all the well wishers cheer you on. Long story short, you create a ton of stuff all the time and you love every second of it.
Fast forward you're in high school. You've got a part-time job because your parents want you to learn some kind of responsibility or how to manage money. Now you just doodle for fun during your lunch break. Instead of writing stories, you're prepping for your SATs and ACTs. You're corralled into an AP Physics course and told it'll boost your class rank—so you take it instead of an art class. Then comes the college applications and career fairs. This is where it gets real. You want to be a painter or a poet or a playwright, but the same people who were once rooting for you are now telling you these things won't pay the bills. (Most have good intentions though). You take a second look at those printer paper drawings, and now they don't look as good as you thought. So you take their advice and put your passions on the back burner. You get the picture.
Shadow artists are basically people who grew up to love to create but walked way for one reason or another. Their parents told them they wouldn't make a living as a playwright. They didn't think they were good enough and that their form sucked. They thought they weren't true artists/creative folk. They hang around other creative people so that they can vicariously live out their dreams through other artists instead of claiming their own “birthright” as a creative person. And you can bet they beat themselves up about it. They're essentially caught between the dream to act and the fear of failing.
Sometimes to ensure some shred of success, a shadow artist pursues a “shadow career,” or a job similar to what he/she wants to do. So instead of being a fiction writer, you're a journalist. Instead of being a director, you're a film critic—and so on.
The other ugly part of being a shadow artist is when you believe you can't be “great” without giving up something else you really, really wanted. That author of that book I keep mentioning says, “In other words, if being an artist seems too good to be true to you, you will devise a price tag for it that strikes you as unpayable.” So, the price of being a talented comic artist means you'll die alone. If you want to be an incredible novelist you have to develop a dependency on alcohol and cigarettes. In your mind, you can't have it all.
I'm saying all this because I'm a recovering shadow artist. (At LSB we don't really like to talk about ourselves on here, but sometimes it just helps to use ourselves as examples.)
I grew up with a passion for drawing. I spent hours in the basement of my old house just drawing and hanging my pictures up on the wood-paneled walls with my mom's hospital tape. As I got older my sister and I started writing short stories back and forth (most of which were Spider-Man themed), and people said I had a knack for storytelling. I skipped AP classes and took art classes instead. At some point, someone said I can't make a living as an artist. I know this person genuinely meant well—most people who say this do. But eventually I started having these crazy thoughts about not being good enough and how all my ideas sucked. So what did I do? I walked away. Instead of being a fiction writer I majored in journalism (because those things are similar, right?). I reduced my art to being a hobby I did on weekends (until I became so self conscious I quit art entirely). Trying to write a story became an excruciating endeavor. This led to an on-and-off relationship with writing for a few years.
Getting back into it isn't easy. In my experience the best place to start is to take yourself seriously. You're an artist. You're a writer. You're a whatever-the-heck-you-want-to-be.
And it's okay to feel like you suck or are out of practice at first. Julia Cameron says, “By being willing to be a bad artist, you have the chance to BE an artist, and perhaps, over time, a good one.” Anne Lammott says something similar in her essay, “Shitty First Drafts.”
Ramble, mess up, get lost in it. You'll be busting your ass learning how to play again, and it'll be hard work.
You owe it to yourself to at least try.
I have a friend in California, he sends me postcards.
A super funny guy, and I can tell was never a lifeguard.
There are all kinds of places I still want to see.
But for now I have to settle for PA, crackers, and brie.
I am going out there, out west I mean.
I am SO tired of snow, and the East Coast Scene.
So off to Cali, I will eventually go.
Time for something new, time to grow.
Surfing, and hiking sound like just the thing.
Change my name officially, get another nose ring?
All sorts of opportunities out in the west.
Something different, a change in scenery, a whole new quest.
It's going to happen, eventually.
Gonna cost an arm and a leg to relocate, consequently.
California, yes I am dying to go back to you.
The only things I'll miss on the East Coast are the moos.
I have a friend in Cali, I hope he stays.
Or at least until his lease is up, I think it's May.
Sending postcards has been super neat.
We're both Russians, and love beets!
Sending me cards from my favorite places.
Joshua Tree, Sequoia, he covers all the basics.
West Coast here I come.
Just have to work a little bit harder and increase that income.
By: Ash Catcher
Photo Credit: @ugly.luck.heaven
Location: Cafe Volo, Manayunk PA.
It's alright to be unwell.
It's nothing major, maybe some days it's just a spell.
It's alright to not be okay.
I think at this point everyone these days is a little gay.
You don't have to always feel satisfactory.
But please stop eating all the snacks in the pantry.
You don't have to seek anyone's approval.
But self improvement is crucial.
As long as you keep trying, who really cares.
Trading software for eclairs.
It’s fine to not be up to mark.
Because of Covid, I’ll probably never go to another amusement park.
Life is never up to par anymore.
The highlight of my week has been the Traders Joes in Ardmore.
Things are a bit different now, and it's kinda shitty.
But that's okay cause at least we both have kitties!
Things aren’t even close to being copasetic
That one AJJ song that ended in parasympathetic.
It’s fine if things aren't going so swell.
Cannot believe it’s been over a year since I was gonna meet Drake “Bell”
- See ya next Wednesday!
Here is something that I had to to be the littlest bit high to come into realization. ( I am typing this with one hand to, my cat is heck a needy this morning) I cringe at the thought of me have graduated college almost 10 years ago, some people think I have very little to show for it- I am not focusing on those people today- instead I am more focused on how much I have learned outside of a state instituted learning facility. You’re right that was a Suicidal Tendencies reference, that's literally the best way I can sort of describe my time at college.
I learned a lot academically, but nothing I learned in college really prepared me for daily life struggles. I am an artist. I didn’t take any personal finances, I know zilch about the stock market, nor do I really care to. I guess really the only useful thing I did learn and graced my semi developed adult brain with was learning, and becoming moderately good at learning another language.
Learning Russian, while I am no way not the best opened a lot of doors for me, I started teaching at Russian speaking school, got a real taste for the culture, literally I am mostly sour cream, if you have had a late night diner run with me you know Betty, at Suburban Diner just hands that shit out to me. Learning Russian sparked something else in me too, it was that I noticed I was never satisfied. If I finished a project, as soon as I handed it in- instant regret, I would always say to myself I can do better, I can push more, I can be more. My take on college was much more serious than in high school, I did not give two flying fucks about high school. However I felt like my parents had so much expectation for me to even attend college that I do what I do with most things…. I rush through them. I don't take my time, I feel like sometimes if I can get away with the bare min I will. Learning in a classroom isn’t for everyone, trust me I have been on both sides of that smart board I know.
Nowadays, I obtain most of my information from reading. Yes like from a book, but also I am on Reddit way too much- But yea books, I have a lot of those and in an enormous variety of different topics, and sizes. To anyone who had the displeasure of helping me move, I know they’re heavy, and yes I do have a Barnes and Noble Membership still, why, do you need to borrow it? Recently I have been even more into spirituality, I guess more so than I used to be, I am not 100% cause you know this could be the all up in my head, and then again maybe not? I see WAY too many synchronicities, repeating patterns, and odd things happening around me. My town is weird as shit, and I am like semi-conscious at this point that there is something bigger going on- I am also a little bit stir crazy being at home on my only day off for the next two weeks, ya girls got some grinding to do- literally I’ll be grinding coffee for the next 2 weeks haha.
Back to it Ash- Some would say that learning is a relatively permanent change in behavior, I disagree I think if you don't contradict yourself are you 1: real? And 2: are you really learning if you aren’t constantly changing your view on something due to what you just read. I value peoples in-site, and yes I get caught up in the comment section, I think people are both endearing, and severely misguided. I love that. But seriously the way I choose to educate myself post Malone college has very little to do with my IQ. Not sure what it is up to now, but if it is anything like my credit score we may be in business! I do like the fact I have broken a DISC test 3 times running, that made me feel semi special, and also crying into a personal Ben & Jerrys. I can't understand the horror! I was never good at fitting into boxes. I have no time for personal hang ups, and I certainly prioritize myself, my home, and now my cat?
Real quick I am going to throw this out there:
Some quick ways to learn something new as you go about your day are:
See you next Wednesday
I am having trouble recognizing people's faces without a mask.
The whole lower part of their faces remains a mystery,
and then I see the rest of it and I just can't recognize them.
Instant cognitive facial recognition dissonance. It almost sounds like a real thing.
I just want to travel back in time.
Or at least to 2009.
Where in pictures everyone had one eye; intentionally
And had mastered the art of camera angles.
I miss when malls were actually a thing.
When Apple didn’t lock all of my music
Causing me to lose MONTHS of songs.
( That shit was carefully curated dammit)
I miss running in the gym without a mask.
I just want to have a real conversation with someone without yelling at them.
I am becoming so fucking deaf.
Or one of my headphones just cut out.
I don't mind waiting in line at the grocery store.
Because I never really liked it anyway.
But I know it will be worth it because I will walk out with a cute plant.
I love my new tree. I named him Benji.
If you feel like you’re craving normalcy.
You’re really just craving something that you know.
Something that is comfortable
Like that whole I've been here before I know what to expect.
It's not so scary, but I need you to know that “THIS"
I am pretty sure this episode of Twin Peaks, just turned into The Twilight Zone, and is about to pull a Black Mirror.
Whatever happened to that show: Am I going to be searching for "Freaks and Geeks" for free for the rest of my life.
I should have bought the dvd when I had the chance.
I NEED TO GET THE FUCK OUT OF THIS HOUSE.
I can't recognise anyone when I go outside.
I don't recognise anyone inside either.
Wow this warm weather huh?! I feel both amazing because of the increased levels of vitamin D and Serotonin, and yet I am still terrified of global warming, and you should be too. That being said, it's back to shorts, skirts, and dresses at least for this week. I get a-lot of unwanted questions about my legs, specifically my leg tattoos. I would like to once again focus on my shin tattoos, The Cape May LightHouse, and a scene depicting the dessert of Joshua Tree State Park in California. ( Where I fully intend to die) Both these tattoos, while they do represent huge monumental travel opportunities in my life, have a whole other meaning. We have the East and West coast represented, but what does a Lighthouse and a tree have in common? They both anchor you to the ground. Where they are both things that are rooted into the earth, I can always look down if I feel myself start to float up into my head too much. Call it what you want, it's one hell of a reminder to sit down. Shut up, be grateful, and get grounded.
Clearly I wasn’t so grounded the other day, when I am in my head too much I get mad and clumsy.
What does grounding mean to me? Grounding is just a way that I redirect my focus on to something else if my mind starts to trail off into a place I don't want to go. I literally have all the control in the world. That being said here are 10 ways I get grounded, when I start to go too into myself:
Written by Ash Catcher.
Not quite pastry, not that flaky.
What exactly are you?
Just sitting there unassuming, planning the next brunch coup.
You are weird, and not the good kind.
Guess I am going into your holes blind.
Not a pancake, or a crepe, yet you’re shoved in my face.
When late to work, I guess you fit into a briefcase.
Jams, Syrups, and Ice Creams, doesn’t matter how you jazz it up you’re nothing underneath.
And I'll be damned if you keep getting stuck in my teeth.
Oddly undercooked doughs of checkerboard.
And yet when it comes to breakfast you’re so idolized and adored.
A waffle station, you boujee little shit.
If you're in a cone form and fall, kids pitch a fit.
When it comes to you waffles, I think you have lost me.
More expensive than pancakes, all batter should be free.
When it comes to waffles, I guess we could write a novel.
But then I would be waddling to work or school.
Definitely a some time treat.
I guess if you really wanted to I could eat you with meat.
But that would be gross, and I am a fucking vegetarian.
Waffles they’re alright I guess, but they cannot spell antidisestablishmentarian.
By Ash Catcher.
Well guys, or gals, no binary pots and pans- the unthinkable happened and I think I have a cat now. Or a foster cat to say the least. It is safe to say that this big ol ginger cat that belongs to my next door neighbors prefers my house over the home he has grown to know his whole cat life. Oh Philly, you get me every time. I have been constantly looking up cat behavior and they are some quirky mother fuckers. I found out that cats wander because they seek happiness, and comfort. I do pride myself on the fact I love my house and how I run things, given that I have stayed home much more than usual over the past year or so. So why not splurge on those nice sheets, and several blankets. The cat literally comes into my house just to take a nap. Something tells me that a house of 5 and a dog doesn’t make for great working cat conditions. Cats can be attracted to new sights, sounds, and smells that entice them. Like most animals (and people) cats are drawn to friendly people! If you are warm and welcoming to an outside cat chances are he's going to want to pay you a visit or two.
Like just look at this TURKEY!
I love this cat now, I look forward to coming home from work because I know that if he isn’t already on my sofa waiting for scratches he is going to be meowing his small cat brain till next Tuesday until I open the door to let him in. He loves chicken, and while I am super allergic I am looking past it because he is legit the cutest fucking thing on the planet. So why do cats go to their neighbors house? I am legit curious. I read that male cats tend to step out and stray from their homes more than female cats. (Typical men!) but that still doesn’t explain why this cuteness gingerbread muffins on me and makes biscuits on my bathroom rug. Banner you sir are a mystery. Are you my sort of part time kitty?
When I am unsure of something like most people my age I go and consult Reddit:
AITA for keeping my neighbor’s cat in my house at night?
not the a-hole
A few months ago, I went to let my cat inside, and this kitten followed him in. He went straight to the food dish and ate an entire can of food. He was pretty thin, and didn’t have a collar, and seemed pretty hungry, so I let him eat and hang out for a little while before letting him out.
Since then, I’ve recently figured out that he belongs to my neighbor.
Nonetheless, he comes inside once in a while and eats before going home.
He and my cat get along really well, and my neighbors are cool with it because at least they know where he is.
But lately, he’s been showing up really late at night (like 1:00-2:00am). When I look over at my neighbor’s house, the lights are all off, and it’s starting to get really cold at night, so I’ve just been letting him stay the night and shipping him out in the morning.
Except my neighbors are really peeved about it. They claim that they wake up in the morning and try to get him in, and then they get nervous when they can’t.
They seem to be fine with him stopping by for a snack and a play date, but spending the night is not okay.
So, what do I do? Do I shoo this cat outside in the middle of a winter night and hope they let him in? Or am I doing the right thing by keeping him inside?
TL;DR: Neighbor’s cat comes over, sometimes late at night. I let him stay the night instead of putting him out in the cold, but neighbors get mad because they can’t find him.
Indeed I am not the asshole, I just have a lot of love for Banner and want him to be safe. If that means he takes a 5 hr power nap on my bed, or he needs extra chin scratches I will do just that. He is a super sweet cat, I am normally not a cat person but he is certainly doing a great job of persuading me. Also pretty sure my neighbors knows he comes over so often, we haven’t had a talk about it yet so I assume everything is Ashton Kosher!
See ya next Weds Noobs.
Recently I've learned that sometimes you just have to let things go.
I'm not referring about that girl you've been hung up on since middle school. Or that jerk who cut you off in traffic during your morning commute. Or the moment someone absentmindedly says the drawing you spent four days on is “not too bad.” (Though, these are all probably things you should move on from.)
I'm talking the need to find define a style, especially if you're still learning the basics. It's okay to not know right this second. I've been told it's something that emerges from years of work. Even then, it changes as you do.
I mean reminiscing/beating yourself up about missed opportunities. You can mourn, yeah, but I'd let it go. You're better than that.
There will be times you need to be brave enough kill your darlings. I often ask authors what they edited out of their work. Their answer always surprises me.
Add expectations to the list. This could be expectations to be exactly like someone – maybe Ray Carver, M.C. Escher, Salvador Dali, Barbara Kruger, Rembrandt, James Joyce, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Andy Warhol – you get it. Just because you like them doesn't mean you have to be them. You can appreciate a Minimalist, Maxamalist, Surrealist, or Realist style but desire to not be labeled. Or, you can label yourself an Impressionist but still play with Cubism from time to time.
Or the expectation of forcing yourself to fit in with a specific group because you're tired of being on the outside looking in. I've heard the “inside” can be a bit cramped and there aren't enough chairs. Hell, I've met folks who prefer the fresh air.
Also, ideas. I've had plenty of bad ones. I've had a handful of good ones. Just before writing this article I looked through an old folder on my flash drive and re-read some old writings and ideas. Some I wished I jumped on. Others I found genuinely laughable. I've found poem lines and story starts that just don't resonate with me anymore. In all cases I'm surprised I even thought up any of these.
I've thought up characters who fall and get amnesia and wake up in Victorian era England that blessed me with this awful line about a handyman, “He can fix just about anything, from broken doors to broken hearts.” I've had whodunit murders on trains (like that hasn't been done before) named after Lincoln Park albums. I attempted to pen a Stepford Wives knockoff – only with a guillotine at the end. I've stashed poems I've written for former roommates. Or my personal favorite – a reporter who took a serial killer by surprise in the killer's car by hiding in the back seat.
I started keeping plants this year
It seems to brighten up my room.
But it's kinda too cold in here. Cause I am at the back of the house
and rather drafty too.
You’re super cold, and closed off
With very little room to grow.
And just like my house plants I have been ignoring you intentionally.
I just thought that you should know.
I am fully aware of what's going on, I get it no I really do.
I hope you’re eating well, and have stopped smoking (finally) and addressed the drinking too.
Because you and I don't know boundaries, we just say fuck it, fuck off and fuck you.
But I know better than to entertain that now, you still kicking it with the same karmic, toxic crew?
But if you ever feel like branching out, just know I may not know exactly what to do.
I am not exactly going to be pleased, you bent some pretty big leaves with me.
I am always at that crossroads of okay sure fuck it why not, and fucking leaf me be.
You planted me , and what did you expect, I had no clue you had a whole garden to tend.
But no, I get it things don’t always go according to plant.
I just can't stand it when you don't listen and just rant.
It kills me inside, and then I shut down.
So without being said, let me know when you're in town.
Written by Ash Catcher.