I have been working through The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. It is a twelve-week workbook designed to reignite creativity. Each week there is a reading portion, sometimes with a few one time or week-long exercises embedded into. There are also ten activities to do. Knowing that it will not always be feasible to complete all of them, it is suggested that you at minimum do the one that most excites you and the one to which you are most resistant. In addition, each day you are supposed to hand write three notebook pages first thing in the morning, and each week have an artist’s date (a time of fun or exploring by yourself). At the end of the week, there are four questions you answer to gauge how your week went and whether any progress has been noticed.
If it sounds like a lot of work, it is. It is something you have to commit to doing thoroughly in order to experience real progress or breakthroughs. As I write this, I am a little over halfway through the book. I have been working through it with an online group. It helps me with accountability to actually do it but is also nice to hear others’ experiences. We all have different things blocking us from our creativity and we have to individually discover what they are and how to get through them.
I thought that the hardest part would be the daily writing (appropriately called Morning Pages). I didn’t want to have to get up earlier to do it so I either do it right after the kids go to school (on the weekdays) or first thing when I wake up (on weekends). I also agreed with myself that if I woke up before my alarm on weekdays, I would get up and do the morning pages before the kids got up. I have woken up early on weekdays far more than I thought I would. Perhaps my mind recognizes the importance of this practice and is coordinating with my body to make it happen.
I have actually come to really enjoy these pages. It is like a brain dump first thing so I can get on with the rest of the day. I have been surprised at the emotions and issues that have surfaced during my writing. I have become more aware of how I truly feel about events and circumstances and have been able to admit fears and feelings of guilt or shame. I now look forward (most days) to this new routine.
I was worried that writing three pages by hand each morning would use up all of my desire to write for the day, but it hasn’t. Sometimes, I have thought and written more on the issues that arose in the morning pages. The early morning writing seems to get me into the writing mood and mindset. Even if I don’t end up writing again during the day, it has helped me feel accomplished.
What I have struggled with the most is the Artist’s Date. It isn’t a set length or a set activity (which really messes with my perfectionist tendencies). It’s supposed to be something that I find fun and might help spark creativity. It’s hard to produce new content without inspiration that can be drawn from experiences. If all I do is sit and write, where is new material supposed to be drawn from? Getting out into the world and interacting with it can help. Consuming the art of others can also be very useful (plays, music, artwork, movies, books, nature). I have found that seeing others’ creative work inspires me.
This sounds like fun, so how could there be a problem? I struggle with the belief that everything I do should be productive. How is having fun, especially fun by myself, beneficial to others? I tend to feel guilty when I think about doing something that I want to do that does appear to have a real purpose. I especially feel guilty at the thought of spending money on fun I have alone. Why do I think I deserve to finance fun? Who do I think I am? I’m not making any money, so spending it on myself is selfish. These are the thoughts that permeate my mind. Yes, I have managed to come up with quite a few fun and free activities for my artist’s date but am still struggling to accept that it’s okay to have fun and pay a little for it. I am hoping that I can work through this hindrance and find freedom.
So has there been any progress thus far in the journey? I have noticed creative spurts throughout this process. They have not all been connected to writing and I have enjoyed the variety. I am feeling encouraged to have more fun and be less rigid in life – not to completely get rid of a schedule but to be more open to spontaneity and change. I am being reminded that my Creator is inviting me to partner with him in my own creative ventures. I was created to be creative. It’s not selfish to use my gifts and abilities in creative manners. I am learning that I have a lot of fear in taking risks. I want to be assured of success before I risk. It is helpful to be reminded that stretching myself and trying things is a success in itself. The attempt may fail but it yields new knowledge and information.
I don’t know what will happen in the second half of this work, but I am confident that it will be beneficial. I already feel greater confidence and empowerment in what I have received thus far. It is a great read for stimulating and encouraging the artist inside me.
Do you have a greater desire to experience more creativity in your life? Consider going through this book to learn how (this is not a sponsored post, just an enthusiastic and inspired reader).