The Artist’s Way – Week 5: Recovering a Sense of Possibility

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.

This Week, The Artist’s Way Cautions to be Careful What You Wish for Because You Just Might Get It

Cameron talks a lot about God in this book, about a higher power who is on your side and wants you to achieve your goals. I have tried to ignore this until now, glossing over any mention of God or the idea of a benevolent universe that is prepared to work in my favour.

As a lapsed Catholic, the notion of God or even a higher power has negative connotations. I think more of a force that is there to keep me in line and punish me for any transgressions. I cannot envision a God that has an interest in what I want, or in making my creative dreams come true. The God I grew up with demanded conformity and service, sacrifice and submission. The God I grew up with was not there to help me on my journey to creative self-fulfilment. He was there to be worshiped and obeyed. My personal fulfillment or anyone else’s did not come into it at all, except where it coincided with service to God.

At their funerals, the elder women in my family have been praised for their self-sacrifice, of always putting others before themselves. This is regarded as the highest level of achievement for Catholic women; to become as great a martyr as Christ Himself. To want things for yourself, things that have nothing to do with the service of others, would be considered selfish in the extreme and not worthy of God’s blessing.

Growing up, I was often told that my dream to be a writer was highfalutin and ridiculous. And so, I watered down my ambition to write novels to the more practical one of being a journalist. At least I could still make a living from writing. But even this was too much to hope for. I was told that journalism was such a competitive field that it was not even worth bothering. And so I didn’t. On leaving school, I took the first job that came along, and thought myself lucky to get it.

Shamed out of my writing dreams, I put them aside. Being a writer was not for me. Being a writer was for other people. There were only a select few that were chosen for this vocation and I wasn’t one of them.

This week, The Artist’s Way offers an exercise where you write down a series of wishes. As with the free writing of the morning pages, you must write the wishes down automatically. You cannot put too much thought or censorship into this exercise, you simply write what you feel. The last wish you must write down is for the wish you most especially want to come true. I wrote down that I wanted to make a living from my writing.

Over the past few months, I have been keeping a journal of my experiences during the COVID lockdown, which I sent to a small press. I was pleasantly surprised when they emailed back and said they would like to include several of my stories in their anthology.

While I was over the moon by this validation of my work, I could barely trust myself to believe it. I thought that the publisher would change their mind and decide not to make the book. I thought that they would find better stories from other writers and decide to leave mine out. I thought that they would go broke and the bailiff would come and take all their furniture.

For my artist’s date, I went to my favourite coffee shop. For the first time since the lockdown started, I sat down at their little wooden table and the friendly staff bought me a latte with a love heart on the top.

As I scrolled through my emails, I found one from the publisher. It congratulated me on having five of my stories included in their anthology and confirmed that the book would be available in June 2020.

I smiled, sipped my coffee and thanked my higher power.

Posted by naomilisashippen

11 comments

We should all pursue our “highfalutin” dreams. Sometimes they pan out. If they don’t, then we can drop the high part and just go back to plain-old falutin around like the rest of the non-dreamers.

naomilisashippen

Ha, ha! That’s so true. We should always aim high, even if we don’t get there, we are still better off than when we started out.

I broke up with The Artist’s for similar reasons. Maybe it’s time for another visit. Congratulations on the anthology!

naomilisashippen

Thanks, Lorna and I hope you give The Artist’s Way another go. It has been of great benefit to me.

Sandra Muller

Lapsed Catholic over here, too and I can relate to so much of what you wrote. Instead of God, I have ‘The Universe’ cos I’m too Aussie to call it what it really is – me. My brian. My willpower. My choices.

One day I will do the Artist’s Way again. It’s so good.

And one thing that leaps out at me from this piece – you write. And write well.

Sandra Muller

Lapsed Catholic over here, too and I can relate to so much of what you wrote. Instead of God, I have ‘The Universe’ cos I’m too Aussie to call it what it really is – me. My brian. My willpower. My choices.

One day I will do the Artist’s Way again. It’s so good.

And one thing that leaps out at me from this piece – you write. And write well.

naomilisashippen

Thank you so much, Sandra, I really appreciate that. It’s amazing how much the church stays with you even after you leave it. I can recommend doing The Artist’s Way, it really gets you thinking and challenging the idea that creativity is a luxury for a privileged few. It definitely frees you up to do the work you want to do and the serendipitous occurrences you start in motion will surprise you!

Wow!! As a catholic girl I have had my struggles too. The way you explained how it was is spot on. Thank you

naomilisashippen

Thanks so much, Cheryl, I am glad this resonated with you. I think growing up Catholic stays with you forever.

I never told my family I wanted to be a writer because they would have laughed me out of the room. I was meant to play the piano and find a wealthy husband to take me off their hands. That’s all they thought me capable of. As for the God stuff, I was also raised a Catholic and still half-heartedly practice (in that I sometimes get to mass) but I never had that negative experience of God. I didn’t get the guilt thing and I‘ve never thought of God as just someone who punishes. And while I’m not one for Bible quotes (Catholics are traditionally terrible at knowing the bible) there’s this: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours”, which ties in with the stuff Julia Cameron talks about. I’ve found The Artist’s Way really gets me energised and moving in the right direction.

naomilisashippen

Thanks for reading, Rose, sounds like we have some commonality with our experiences. I’m glad you’re getting so much out of The Artist’s Way, it’s well worth the time and effort.

Leave a Reply