Stamping on the Monsters

Looking for monsters? My worst enemy is myself. But I rummaged around in my memory and pulled out my old art teacher

Early Morning Writing

A Birkbeck writing tutor recommended Dorothea Brande’s excellent book, Becoming a Writer. I found Dorothea’s exercise of early morning writing incredibly useful. It really freed up my writing ‘muscles’ and allowed me to work more productively.

More recently, the writing guru, Julia Cameron, advocated a similar practice, which she calls morning pages. When I found a copy of Julia’s book The Artist’s Way in my local Oxfam shop, I couldn’t resist buying it.

Now I should be getting on with refining my novel, variously called The Reluctant Scribe or The Tang Warrior, depending on my mood. Instead, I am working my way through Julia’s exercises. (I hope this will turn out to be helpful and not another successful strategy for procrastination!)

Stamping on the Monsters

Julia Cameron suggests making a list of people who have had a malign influences on your own creative process, something she calls the Monsters’ Hall of Fame. Pick a monster and write down everything you can remember. Then compose a ‘letter to the editor’, complaining about that person. She also suggests drawing a cartoon.

I found it hard to find many monsters. My worst enemy is myself. But I rummaged around in my memory and went back to school days and, after a moment’s hesitation, pulled out my old art teacher. I hesitated because he turned out, eventually, to be a helpful and supportive teacher. But his attempts to get us to see things differently were brutal. Or, at least, they seemed brutal to a group of 12-year-old girls.

My old art teacher being stamped onThis is what he did. He asked us all to draw our favourite picture. And then he went around the classroom systematically demolishing everybody’s attempts. The aim was, of course, to slap us out of our comfort zone and force us to start drawing what we could really see, instead of pulling stock images from our imaginations. It worked: I stopped drawing like a child and began to draw like an adult. But it was also a long time before I trusted my own judgement. And his technique raised the fear level in the classroom. At least I was fairly confident in my drawing ability – and I went on to take art O level. Other girls simply gave up at this point and spent the next few years keeping a low profile until they could drop art as a subject.

Anyway, here is my cartoon drawing of my old art teacher. I added the stamping foot at the end.



Anyone else tried this exercise? And who were your worst monsters? Teachers? Parents? Yourself?

Author: Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, Doctor, woman, etc.

3 thoughts on “Stamping on the Monsters”

    1. Hi Susan. It was hard to find ‘monsters’ for my Monsters’ Hall of Fame, as Julia suggests. Most of the people in my life have been incredibly supportive and helpful. I’m lucky, I guess. And even my old art teacher turned out to be a good teacher in the end 🙂

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