Synchronicity takes up a big section of Week Three: Recovering a Sense of Power (you can read about the rest of the chapter here). Enough that I thought it deserved its own post.
I can see why Julia Cameron put it in this chapter on Power, along with Anger and Shame and Growth. Synchronicity is the power of manifestation, of making things happen, of initiative and setting things in motion.
It’s also an aspect of this book that I struggle with. It goes back to my basic struggle with belief. With one side of me being the most hyper-rational skeptic and the other side believing (or at least wanting to) in magic and miracles.
There’s a task in one of the later chapters to record yourself (she was probably thinking tape recorders at the time) reading one of the essays in the book, and I chose this one because I struggle with it so much. (Next time, I’m picking a shorter section to record!)
Synchronicity, and My History Playing With It
When I was doing AW when I was younger, I believed in this synchronicity stuff more, and generally believed in things that could be believed in more. I was maybe a little skeptical but eager to try it out. And the results were…mixed at best.
Sometimes the best that I could hope for was that something would seem like synchronicity, maybe I’d say I wanted to go to the Grand Canyon, and the next day a friend would bring it up out of nowhere and we’d make plans, but then it would all fizzle out when the other person canceled. (Side note: I lived in Flagstaff for two years and never saw the Grand Canyon; the closest I came was one time two friends and I drove up to it just before sunrise but since we didn’t realize how expensive it was to walk-in, we had to turn around and drive back to Flagstaff).
It’s hard to say if those things were the norm, but it started to feel like that. Each week henceforth has a check-in question asking if you experienced any synchronicity, and when I think back, I just remember getting hopeful about a lot of things that never happened, and the never happening being outside of my control. It started to feel like instead of writing about synchronicity and the universe falling in with my festive plans, I was just writing about disappointment.
So, I struggle with this one. I struggled with it mightily going through the book this past Spring, mostly feeling that that old pattern of hope-then-huge-disappointment was all that happened with anything I thought might be synchronicity, with a few exceptions. So, it’s hard. I want to believe but my own life evidence, anecdotal as it may be, is fairly consistent, and growing. And yeah you can rationalize away (maybe it was actually better not to see the Grand Canyon for x, y, z, mental gymnastics reason you don’t believe) but still.
But, like a broken record, I’m really, really, really trying to go along with some of this stuff more, to say it doesn’t hurt to experiment with it one more go-round.
There was one really weird thing that happened in the spring that seems like legit synchronicity, maybe the only one out of everything I wrote down that whole go-through of the book.
In my goals posts, I’ve been talking about digitizing my old handwritten writing (introduced here). It’s been on my to-do list for like fifteen years. I’ve put it as a goal for my year for the last several years. My friend Leo and I made “19 for covid-19” goal lists in the early days of the pandemic, when we probably should’ve known better than to think it would only last a couple of months but couldn’t imagine that it would.
Soon after, I was on the page that comes up when I open a new tab in my browser. It usually shows up full of all kinds of articles–covid news, politics, how-to articles, productivity hacks, music news and interviews–but this day there was something about an old diary and I clicked it. Unlike everything else that was ever on that page, which was exclusively nonfiction, this was some weird horror story about a haunted diary. It didn’t seem like it had any business on this newsy page.
In this story, the haunted diary is from the early 1900s and the handwriting is impossible to read so the author or main character uses an OCR app to access what it says. I’ve been familiar with OCR apps (and how crappy they are at actually turning handwriting to text) for years now, but the fact that they were talking about it being able to elucidate writing that was much older (by a century) and in illegible handwriting (mine isn’t) even though this was all in a fictional story, got me going back to check in on OCR apps for digitizing.
Most of them are worse than terrible. Most of them have no business calling themselves OCR apps or charging anyone for them, not if you want to digitize handwriting. Some scan entire pages and only spit out maybe three disjointed letters or pieces of punctuation. Utterly useless.
But I also found one that is…just terrible and not worse. And that’s something. And I’ve been using it. And it’s awful and tedious and mostly still spits out gibberish, but it’s gibberish that’s closer to what the handwriting says than anything else I’ve found.
Like I said, though, it’s something, and I’m not sure I would have thought to go back to trying an app (I probably would’ve tried to do it by hand, which is even more tedious and awful though way less gibberish, and probably would’ve given up out of sheer exhaustion and frustration and hopelessness after a week) without that weird, trippy, Halloween-y story that somehow showed up among news articles sometime in April. So, there’s that.
One aspect I wish she brought up in this section is discernment. I think she’s so worried about people getting these magical opportunities knocking unexpectedly at their door and turning them away that she doesn’t address the ones we should turn away.
Sometimes, an opportunity comes and you resist it out of fear, out of feeling you don’t deserve it, out of feeling it’s too big or too much or too soon, out of wanting to cling to the comfort of your regular life even if it feels stiffled and small.
But sometimes, an opportunity comes and you resist it out of a gut instinct. Sometimes an opportunity comes up that looks shiny–especially those that offer money or some other benefit–but deep down you know it would take too much away from you, or it feels like a scam (there are scams out there that prey on people who want to be artists of whatever flavor or medium), or it feels like it goes against your values, or it feels like it’ll take you down a road that’s moving away from what you want instead of towards it.
You don’t have to say yes to everything just because it seems like it might be synchronicity at work. If you declared that you wanted to start dating again, and the next day out of the blue a friend wants to set you up with someone, when that guy tells you he’s forty (let’s just say you’re twenty-five) and living with his parents and contradicts himself, going from “I’ve never been a party person, never into drinking or drugs” to “this one time when I was out of my mind on coke speeding down the Florida highway” in one breath, you don’t have to go out with that guy just because the initial setup seemed synchronous.
That’s a true story, by the way.
But my point is, along with learning to say yes to amazing opportunities that come our way, a part of that process, a part that is emphasized a lot in other chapters, is trusting your own instincts and perceptions and insight.
It may take some practice to hear it, or to learn to trust it generally, I think, you know what’s right for you. You know when you’re saying no to something out of fear or clinging to the way things are and when you’re saying it because your true internal compass is yelling no. You know when the opportunity, or the job, or the relationship (of any sort) is going to suck the life out of you. You know when something feels right, if scary, and when it doesn’t. You know when something feels really right as opposed to just to your head or your fears or your ego right. Saying no and saying yes, I think, should be given equal importance, and the common theme is to trust yourself.
Something a little similar to this, saying no to the tempting but destructive possibility that dangles in front of us, does come up in the final chapter.
In the spirit of being open to experimenting, once again, with synchronicity, here are some moments of it I’ve experienced since starting Week Three. Moving forward, since this is asked in every check-in hereafter, I’ll put a Synchronicity section heading in each chapter post to list anything like this that’s come up.
I wrote (on here) that one of the people I admire is Shonda Rhimes (creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and I think co-creator of How to Get Away with Murder). The next day, a friend randomly sent me a link to MasterClass, which was having a deal for students where you could get a year’s subscription for just $1, and so, knowing that Shonda Rhimes has a class on there, I signed up. There’s lots of other cool stuff too. It’s all pre-recorded video so it’s not like getting to interact with her but still getting to learn from her.
I also have been writing and thinking a lot about seasons, wanting to really experience them, and a couple days ago, a med school friend invited me to a Mabon feast for this weekend.
For my book project Moonchild, I’ve been re-reading old journals, especially from my senior year of high school, and keep being surprised at how often I wrote things along the lines of, “I wonder if I’m doing everything all wrong” because I think I want to study astronomy instead of creative writing, which is what I’d based my whole college search on, and “If I wasn’t visually-impaired I’d be planning to major in astronomy.” Spoiler alert: I went to school for creative writing and after the first year transferred to study astronomy. That was my first career attempt that was thwarted by discrimination (as I refer to in the “I think I’ve seen this film before” section of my post about leaving medical school).
So, in re-reading that, I keep thinking about how I used to get Astronomy magazine, and how much I enjoyed it, even as a layperson before studying it formally, and how skygazing has come up a couple of times on this AW journey. I thought to myself, I wonder if that magazine still exists, but never checked it out. Until I got an email from my niece that she’s selling magazine subscriptions through Girl Scouts, and there Astronomy was as one of the options. So I’m thinking of subscribing, hoping to reconnect with a sense of wonder I used to have and a night sky I have no access to now with so much light pollution.
My school’s antiracist book club just decided on its next book, Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family by Mitchell S. Jackson. Myself and three other students founded the book club and I was really excited for the book. A day or two later, Corporeal Writing, the writing workshop place in Portland that I LOVE, posted that they are offering a seminar taught by none other than Mitchell S. Jackson, and it sounds amazing, and my dear friend Tracy said if I signed up she’d pay for half of it. So yeah, I’m going to that seminar.
Have you experienced any synchronicity lately, in big or little ways? Are you toying with any new–or new again–dreams that you’d like some synchronicity on?
Two main things to bring up here.
The first is that next week will be Week Four, and Week Four has probably the most challenging part of all of AW, and that is a week of reading (and media) deprivation. JC goes into her rationale for that in-depth in the chapter.
It felt worthy of a heads-up because I think this is much harder to do now than it was when AW first came out in 1992 (and it was surely tough even then). To the point that complete reading and media abstinence is not really possible, unless maybe you’re on vacation (which I was going to be for this week when I was doing AW this spring but covid changed all that).
So it’s worth looking ahead and thinking about what’s realistic in order to get the benefits of this challenging but potentially fruitful endeavor.
Okay, second thing is that looking ahead, we’ve got a lot of chapters right in a row, without so much time between them with extra posts like this one. All of October is one chapter after another. It might be good to pick a day of the week for reading new chapters, and a day of the week for the end-of-week check-ins.
The nice thing is, these are a little lighter (with Week Four being the least light, but there’s no way I was going to stretch the chapter with reading and media deprivation over two weeks). The tasks, especially for Weeks 5-7 are more playful and fun.
Then, starting with Week Eight, we start stretching out the weeks again to give extra time for some of the more in-depth tasks.
PD: The picture that goes along with this post is the cover of an Astronomy magazine. It shows a picture of galaxies and the main article that it features is called “Our Trillion Galaxy Universe.” I picked it because of the whole bit about Astronomy magazine in the Synchronicity Lately section, and because when dealing with a section of AW that talks so much about The Universe in a mystical way, I liked the idea of having a picture that represents the literal, physical universe.
The Artist’s Way Reflections is a weekly column reflecting on the 1992 book on discovering, recovering and reconnecting with creativity, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. Each week, I reflect on some aspect or tool or exercise or essay from the book.
Here are some previous posts from The Artist’s Way Reflections column:
- Jumping Back into the Blogging Ring – where I first introduce this column
- My The Artist’s Way Origin Story
- The Basic Tools: Morning Pages
- The Basic Tools: The Artist Date
- Re-Starting the Journey
- Preview Digression on Spirituality
- Week One: Recovering a Sense of Safety
- Time Travel – Creative Monsters and Champions
- Week Two: Recovering a Sense of Identity
- Week Three: Recovering a Sense of Power
Schedule for the Rest of 2020
- October 1 – Week Four: Recovering a Sense of Integrity
- October 8 – Week Five: Recovering a Sense of Possibility
- October 15 – Week Six: Recovering a Sense of Abundance
- October 22 – Week Seven: Recovering a Sense of Connection
- October 29 – Week Eight: Recovering a Sense of Strength
- November 5 – Goal Search
- November 12 – Week Nine: Recovering a Sense of Compassion
- November 19 – Blasting Through Blocks
- November 26 (Thanksgiving) – Creative Goal Setting (for 2021)
- December 3 – Week Ten: Recovering a Sense of Self-Protection
- December 10 – Setting Bottom Lines
- December 17 – Week Eleven: Recovering a Sense of Autonomy
- December 24 (Christmas Eve) – Week Twelve: Recovering a Sense of Faith
- December 31 (New Year’s Eve) – End of Book Wrap-Up