Over the past 7 weeks, I have been working through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Reading the chapters, writing the morning pages, and gathering with a group on Saturday mornings to discuss progress. It has been an enlightening experience and has brought me to a place where I can more clearly what has been stifling my creativity over the past several years.
When I first started the program, I was reticent because the spiritual side of it made me feel a bit lost. My belief about a higher power is very much based on nature and energy. I do not believe in a personification of deity that makes the higher power a male father figure. Because of my commitment to this belief, I thought that the spirituality of the program would get in the way of my growth, but it has not. The spirituality connected to the program is actually very in line with how I believe and how anyone else might believe. It is not a one belief system and so it is a program that anyone can partake in. This has made it a lot easier to get through the weeks so far and it has allowed me to open up to the enlightenment that comes with each week’s work.
One thing that has been extremely useful is the habit of writing morning pages. Each morning, I wake up and prepare for work and before I start my workday I take time to write 3 pages. The pages do not have to pertain to anything in particular and they don’t even have to make sense, but what they do have to be is 3 pages, every day. This is the ‘work’ part of the program that for some people is difficult, but this is where I find my best inspiration. I have uncovered things from my past, within these pages, that I would have never come across had I just gone about my daily life without this reflection. The pages have allowed me to dig more deeply into my past and present existence and help me craft ways to move forward into a more creative future. There are no set topics for the morning pages and, therefore, they provide a space to really delve into the psyche, in 3-page spurts. If I take away nothing else from the program, the morning pages will be the thing that keeps me on track in the future.
Another weekly suggestion is to take oneself on what Cameron calls an Artist’s Date. This can be simply going to to the craft store to purchase supplies, roam the halls of a museum, attend an artistic event, browse a library or bookstore, or any other thing that provides inspiration to the individual. The key to the artist’s date is that it is to be done alone, so one can be with one’s thoughts and gain inspiration. Buying supplies might not seem inspiring, but walking up and down the aisles of a craft store, even if nothing is purchased, can trigger something deep down. A bit of repressed creativity will be surfaced.
Together, the morning pages and the artist’s date help the individual flush out the deep-seated beliefs and then inspire new ideas, in order to excavate the creativity that has been buried. It is a recovery of the senses that allows one to move forward into a more creative life. I have found it to be wonderful and am very glad that I decided to take the step back into a creative life through these processes.
For many years I have been repressing my need to create. When I was young, I did many creative things with my time. Sing, dance, act, write, bead, etc. All of these things felt like they were solely in my past and that my future had to be practical. Practicality, in fact, is one of my biggest blocks to creativity. The idea that if an activity will not make me money, it is a waste of time. But that is simply not true. Creating something out of nothing can be a reward in itself. It is in creating that we gain worth. Even if we don’t make any money from our art/craft there is value in the doing. Practicality was the first block to surface as I began my morning pages and it is the most frequent self-limiting belief to pop up when I am getting ready to begin a creative pursuit.
In order to be creative, one must push through all the voices (internal and external) that block the creative flow to get to the other side. There is active energy all around us and we need to simply tap into that creative flow and ride it forward. Creativity comes in waves and each of us has a unique way of riding the waves. This is where it gets a little difficult to embrace the concepts in The Artist’s Way, but if one can move past the ‘woo woo’ nature of the ideas, it is a useful way to reframe creativity. Believing that the flow of energy surrounds us and that we can be a part of that energy is a key concept to grasp within the program. It took me a while to truly believe it, but now that I have embraced the concept of energy flow in my life, I feel a lot more free to be who I was meant to be. Creativity flows within each of us and we simply need to be one with the energy to live creative lives.
Another block that I encountered during this time has been my perfectionism. Being a perfectionist was something I always rejected. When someone would suggest that I was, I would downplay it and say that I was just being thorough, but thinking it through with a clearer mind has allowed me to see how being a perfectionist has held me back from many creative opportunities. If I couldn’t sing or dance or write perfectly, I would discard a project I was working on to move to something else that I could try to perfect. There is definitely something to be said for becoming an expert in a specific creative pursuit, but the expertise comes from years of practice and reimagining what we sometimes perceive as mistakes. Looking at imperfections not as flaws, but as portals to new ideas is a way to combat perfectionism. Artistic activities are not meant to be perfect, they are meant to be enlightening and joyous. Focusing on the act of doing something well, rather than doing it perfectly, is a way to counteract the perfectionism that is ingrained in many of us.
As I move forward in my creative pursuits, and complete the Artist’s Way program (although it is really more of a journey than a destination and I will continue to work the program even after the book is read and the workshop has ended) I will continue to post updates here to keep you, my reader, in the loop. This will also serve as a way to keep me accountable to my creativity and work out any new blocks that come up in the morning pages. Sharing with others is a great way to move forward and I am happy that you are here to witness my creative growth. I hope you can also grow some creativity of your own and share with me in the comments!