The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self
The Artist’s Way is a 12-week program designed by writer/director, Julia Cameron, to help develop creativity. The program is for creatives of all types, and has 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 2: Recovering a Sense of Identity
With my new routine now established, I sit down at my dining room table every day to do the morning pages. They no longer feel like an imposition on my time, but a necessary kick start to my day, just like my morning coffee.
For some reason, I prefer this space I share with my family, to the privacy of my desk in the spare room. If anyone’s up and about, they’ll stop to have a chat, turn on the TV or generally go about their day. Usually, I would find this background noise distracting while I write, but with the morning pages it’s different. I need the stimulation they provide to give me ideas.
Cameron often stress the importance of paying attention to what’s going on around us in order to fill up the creative well and stimulate our imagination. We must learn to balance our outside experience with the times when we sit down to write, and that’s where the morning pages come in.
This week, an idea literally came to me in my sleep and the next day when I sat down to do my morning pages it wouldn’t leave me alone. Rather than fight it off and save it till after I had finished my morning pages, I incorporated my story idea into my free writing and then developed it over then next few days.
When this story was complete, I shared this it with a few trusted friends and received some honest and helpful feedback. It is very important who you decide to take on your creative journey with you and Cameron cautions against “poisonous playmates.” Just as we would steer our children away from others we would consider a bad influence, so too, we must avoid those who we know would undermine our creative efforts. There are exercises in the book that help clarify who you should and should not allow into your creative circle.
Just as we must be selective in the company we keep, so too, we must be selective in the use of our time. Cameron dispels the myth that an artistic life requires “great swathes of aimlessness,” but argues that artist need to be extremely focused. We must pay attention to our surroundings and be present in the moment, so that we have plenty of supply when we go back to produce our art. The exercise on mapping out how I used my time each day was vey telling and has help we avoid some of the pitfalls of wasting this precious resource.
For my artist date, I went to the bookshop and browsed the mystical section. I bought a small pack of tarot cards for a nominal amount of money. I have always had an interest in tarot readings and put it on my list of 20 Things I Enjoy Doing, and l wrote next to it the last time I had a tarot reading. It was over thirty years ago. I took the cards home and spent time reading the instructions and learning how to set up and interpret the cards. It was a fun little exercise, that as an ex-Catholic, felt a little bit daring.
Setting up and reading the cards allowed me a little sliver of time, just for myself. It was a time of introspection, focus and fun. It is these little chunks of time out of your usual routine that allow you to nourish your inner artist and give you some breathing space from the usual obligations of life.
This week felt a little gentler than the one before, and I was less resistant to the morning pages, the affirmations and the exercises. I did not feel guilty for taking time out for myself or feel silly about taking care of my artist.
As I gear up for week three in The Artist’s Way, I now feel safe in claiming my identity as an artist.