The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self
The Artist’s Way is a 12-week program based on the book of the same name, by Julia Cameron. The program is designed to enhance creativity, with weekly exercises based on free writing, affirmations and regular excursions. Come with me as I take this 12-week course and see what I discover along the way.
Week 1 – Recovering a Sense of Safety
The first thing I heard about this program were the morning pages, which are one of the “bedrocks” of this course. The morning pages require you to complete three pages of free writing at the start of every day. You write whatever comes into your head, without censure, you can even write that you don’t know what to write. These pages are for your eyes only, and not even that. The Artist’s Way tells you not to edit and not to look back. And I don’t. The idea is to focus on the process and not the end result.
At first, I thought these pages were a waste of time. I already have an established writing routine, so why waste time writing drivel when I should be getting on with my next novel? But morning pages work in mysterious ways. Combined with writing lines of affirmations, I find a new strength in my writing voice. I have started writing about topics I would usually shy away from and things that other people might not like.
I shared some of these writings with others and I was blown away by their response. They remarked on the tone, urgency and pace of my work and said that I had really found my voice.
And that’s what the program does.
It helps free you from the inhibitions that hold you back; the fear of rejection and the desire to please. It’s ironic, but in trying to please our readers, we are actually short-changing them. We produce work that is disingenuous and wishy-washy, half-arsed and craven. It takes courage to write about what really matters to you, and The Artist’s Way is certainly making me feel braver.
Affirmations are the second part of the morning pages routine. Cameron offers a selection to choose from, and in Week 1, you write ten lines of your chosen affirmation every day.
Writing ten lines of “I, Naomi, am a talented and prolific writer” felt silly at first. I imagined my grandma telling me that self-praise is no recommendation and my mother screwing up her face in disgust. I pictured my cousins giggling and my kindly aunt patting me on the hand and saying, “Of course you are, dear.”
These objections to our affirmations are what Cameron calls “blurts.” Blurts are the negative little voices that pop up when you write your affirmations. Cameron tells us to reverse every blurt we get. If a blurt tells you that you can’t write to save yourself, you simply respond with, “I am a good writer.” Cameron says that our blurts “hold us in bondage” and “must be dissolved.” And it’s amazing how easily dissolved they are. As I continue with my daily affirmations, grandma, my cousins, my aunt and my mum all fade into nonexistence.
The other bedrock of The Artist’s Way program is the artist’s date. The idea is that every week, you take yourself on a little excursion to fill up the “creative well”. You don’t need to spend a lot of time or money. You just take yourself out of your usual routine to see and do something different, to stimulate your senses and kick start your imagination.
No one can come with you on this date, it’s just you and your artist. Your inner artist, that is. According to Cameron, there is a little artist that lives inside us. Like a child, this little artist must be encouraged and nurtured.
Another batty idea. But still, I play along.
Being in lockdown has some limitations, so I decide to use Cameron’s example of going out to buy cheap stationery at a thrift shop. I used this stationery for some of the exercises for this week, which included writing letters to myself about people who have variously encouraged or mocked my creative efforts. In thinking about these things, I am very happy to realise that the positive feedback I have received by far outweighed the negative.
With Week 1 complete, I have formed a daily habit of writing my morning pages and affirmations and of attending a weekly artist’s date. And as silly as the exercises felt in the beginning, I can feel them doing me some good. My inhibitions have loosened and I am writing more what I want to write, not what I think I should.
As the repetitive nature of the exercises becomes ingrained, I feel my writing muscles getting stronger.
As Mr. Miyagi says to his young apprentice in The Karate Kid, “Wax on, wax off.”