Posted by: mew | November 11, 2009

there’s one in me

“Inside all of us is a Wild Thing.”

— Maurice Sendak

The artist date for Week Ten of The Artist’s Way could not have been more apropos.  Week Ten is called “Recovering a Sense of Self-Protection.”  I was feeling pretty overwhelmed and by Monday night (our TAW weeks run Wednesday to Wednesday) had not made time for my Artist Date.  There was always something in the way:  unexpected guests, a neighbor with an emergency, a pulled shoulder that left me practically paralyzed all weekend.

My mood was pretty low.

F. had done an all-nighter on Sunday-to-Monday and was snoring in the bedroom, the kitchen sink was piled high with dishes from me not managing normal cleanup all weekend because of the shoulder, and I’d just hung up the phone with a person calling to request that I meet a totally unreasonable deadline for some work — when something in me just snapped.  “Right,” I muttered.  “I am going to make an artist date happen now, no matter what.”

I grabbed my purse and camera and left the house with no real notion of my destination.  It was getting dark already, and my camera can’t manage to capture much after dark.  Driving slowly through downtown Seneca as the sky dimmed, I found nothing remotely tempting to my artist.  I’d circled around on the bypass and was almost back to my house when I saw the movie theatre sign, brightly shining against the twilit sky.

Where The Wild Things Are was the first line on the list.


Well, duh, I thought to myself.  Perfect for an artist child who is feeling a little down.  Little did I realize how perfect.

This adaptation of the famous children’s book was wonderful.  I ended up with tears sparkling in my eyes during parts of it as I really allowed myself to remember how much imagination had been my salvation as a child, and to feel how much this part of me is still alive, still ready to inspire me and spin out wondrous ideas and images for use in my art — only now it’s my turn to protect her.

I believe this is called something like “reparenting,” and it is what Max does for himself, by becoming king of his own fears and instincts and emotions, the monsters he conquers on his faraway island — and then befriends, once he can look directly into their eyes.  Isn’t that what all of us are doing now, even as adults?

And when he came to the place where the wild things are they roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth
And rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws
‘Til Max said “Be still!” and tamed them with the magic trick of staring into all their yellow eyes without blinking once.

And they were frightened and called him the most wild thing of all
And made him king of all wild things.
“And now,” cried Max, “let the wild rumpus start!”

— Maurice Sendak


Talk about self-protection!  This is self-protection of the finest kind, via imagination and creativity, and that creativity being the source of resilience and self-knowledge and wild joy.  It is like a “magic trick,” as Sendak knew only too well.  I have reason to believe that many, many of my artist friends, who were ultra-sensitive children, will be very familiar with Max’s story.  Only each of our stories will be fantastically different, of course.

I was especially moved by the desire of the characters to build a safe place where only the things you want to happen would happen.  Deep inside me, I know this is what I am doing every time I write a story or draw a picture or collage a little scene on a card:  creating a space that I control, where I say what happens, and only what I want is allowed within my creation.  Of course, those of us who have been creating for a while know that half the battle is learning to let go of that need to control what happens in our art and just let the whatever-wants-to-be-born flow out of our hearts and our fingertips.

Max, too, learns that there are limits to his control, and that there are some things that he doesn’t need to control, after all.


One of the film’s most poignant moments for me is when a science teacher casually mentions that the sun will one day die.  Max’s face is eloquent when he hears this news.  I felt like I was watching a child’s awakening to impermanence in that moment.  (Bravo to the 9-year-old Max Records for his performance here.)  One of my favorite audio recordings by Eckhart Tolle is called “Even the Sun Will Die,” and meditating on this fact for even a few minutes can change my perspective dramatically.

My artist child really enjoyed going out to the movies, just the two of us, and we definitely came out with our perspectives altered and our moods lifted.

The next day, I gave myself a little bonus date:  almost two hours in the garden, under some of the last rays of warm sunshine of the season, planting the garlic that I’d not gotten around to between insane deadlines and the deluge that hit the southeast.  It was restorative to get my hands in the dirt, to rake the well-prepped beds, to hoe up the few weeds that had taken hold, to split the papery cloves and gently press them down into their earthy beds.  Texture and scents abounded, and I felt close to the earth, which centers me as nothing else can.  (There’s a reason we use the term “grounded.”)

Since this was about 10 days before Hallowe’en, I amused myself in linking up this activity to the week’s theme of self-protection, imagining I was planting rows of future vampire repellant.

(Which reminds me, did anyone else see this Hallowe’en invitation?  It may not have garlic, but it does have holy water.  Amazing, isn’t it?)


Just a final note:  I’ve obviously fallen behind on my postings for our Artist’s Way.  Week Ten’s post, chronologically speaking, ought to have been up two weeks ago.  I continued to do as much as I could, right up to the very end, but I have not posted about it.  There’s simply been too much going on.  But I think each of us who participated at all deserves a big, warm hug, and those of us who slogged on until the end maybe deserve that hug, plus a hunk of lovely high-quality chocolate and some alcohol (or similar).

I’m convinced that the reason most of us who signed on for the original project had to abandon it at some point along the way is because, well, life is pretty demanding, and if you fall behind even one week by getting sick or dealing with a major deadline at work, or the start of school throws off your family’s schedule, or perhaps you had to move to a new apartment in the midst of it, or a family member needs to move in with you on an emergency basis (and all of these things happened to one or more of our members), it’s sort of impossible to catch back up and have the time you need to absorb this momentous work, and yet still be as gentle with yourself as you’d need to be in order to maintain integrity.

It’s hard to be saying, “Treating myself like a precious object will make me strong,” while feeling that if you don’t rush and catch up on the exercises you missed, the group will go on without you.  (Actually, that moment may be when you should get out the chocolate, et cetera.)

For the last two weeks of the course, I’ve been incubating the idea of a rerun of The Artist’s Way in the spring, or perhaps moving on to the next book in the series, either Finding Water or Walking in This World, and gathering a small group together to go through the twelve-week course, but stretch it out to cover 24 weeks — with less to do each week and a slower pace.   Ideally, I was thinking we’d have a weekly check-in on certain exercises that everyone would agree to share with each other, either privately via e-mail or by blogging their responses, and that I would e-mail encouragement to each member, myself, and make sure that, as much as humanly possible, we were not letting anyone fall behind.

I’d like to limit the size of the group, too, to foster more intimacy.  Although many contacts were forged in our online group, ultimately, we did not achieve anything close to the kind of intimacy I’ve seen when the group meets face-to-face, and I do think I could try and improve upon our efforts at connection via the net.

If anyone reading this would be interested in participating in such a group, send me an e-mail or leave a note in the comments section.  We have plenty of time to ponder the idea before spring.



  1. […] could also have counted my little tale of my Artist Date for Week Ten of The Artist’s Way.  It was rather fun to pull together all of my notes and […]

  2. Wonderful. I often go to the movies for my Art dates. They are good inspiration. Love the book Where The Wild Things Are. Glad the movie lifted you up!

  3. I have never read the book or seen the movie but your post sure makes me want to. How appropriate for your Artist Date, Meredith! OUCH on the shoulder pain though. I hope you are doing much better now?

    I agree that it’s a good idea to stretch the weeks out to two as life is so demanding and Julia usually lists a lot of tasks. It would also allow more time to truly absorb the chapters. Two weeks would certainly be less stressful when trying to keep pace too especially after dealing with unexpected curve balls life can throw our way.

    Walking in this World is the next book in the series and I bought it years ago, made a start but then, life got in the way and it found its way back to my book-shelf. Another online book club might be the perfect opportunity to finally see my way through it.

  4. Yes, the shoulder is fully restored now. (Thank goodness. I have so much more sympathy for people in back pain now.)

    Wonderful news that you’d possibly be interested in a slower-paced course of Walking in This World (I already have that one, too!) in the spring. Maybe we’ll be recovered from this 12-week course by then 🙂

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