My Artist’s Way

Or How to Repair Broken Creativity

A few weeks ago, I came across a book about creativity called The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. This has been around since 1992, but it’s new to me. And now that I’ve heard of it, suddenly I keep seeing articles about it. It claims to have helped all sorts of high-profile creatives retune their mojos. Isn’t it amazing how fragile creativity is?

Ms Cameron’s idea is that anyone who wants to can be an artist. Basically, we are our own worst enemies. When it comes to being creative, we block ourselves from creating by all the negative thoughts we have, by all the negative things people have said to us over our lifetimes about our ability to be artists in any given field.

It started with our parents and teachers who, only thinking of our future, of course, made it clear to us that striving to be a writer/painter/poet/musician/fill-in-the-blank would lead to a life of desperation. No steady income, no security; you’ll become an unhealthy loner, doomed to drugs, alcohol and promiscuity. (Well, she says that’s what we were indoctrinated with when we were kids anyway.)

I can’t say that was my experience, so I can’t really use that as an excuse for not working creatively. I don’t have any memories at all of my parents or teachers discouraging me from creative endeavors. But nor do I have any memories of them encouraging them either! I suppose you could call it a neutral environment. Just do your schoolwork, get good grades, go to college (…do pass go, do collect $ 200). Oh yeah, and you’ll need a job, too.

Cameron also started out as an alcoholic who was destroying herself and her creativity by thinking that her writing was a function of her alcohol consumption. It turned out not to be the case. She was able to quit (kudos to her!) and become much more productive. That was the beginning of her “system” of helping individuals develop their imagination.

Her book takes the user through 12 weeks of tasks, starting with the most basic requirement of writing morning pages. Three each day, to be exact. Longhand. Doing these pages will transform your life, so she says. I hope she’s right. As I tried to do that this past week, I kept on being sabotaged by that life that needs to be transformed. Things kept on popping up that kept me from doing this. On some days, morning pages became late afternoon ones. Well, better then, than not at all.

Her second weekly task is to make an artistic date with yourself. That is, go somewhere, preferably on your own, that will promote your imagination, perhaps your magical thinking. I haven’t quite gotten to grips with that yet. But God willing…

Which brings to mind, she does refer to God the creator quite a lot. We should let him work through us. While I’m not so keen on seeing my own creativity in terms of a religious experience, if that suits you, fine. I prefer to see it as a touch of magic. And if Ms Cameron’s system helps me feel that magical touch more often, that’s fine with me.

Each week includes several exercises to get you thinking about what is blocking you from being the artist you want to be. I need to make up my mind to put in the work. I’ll report back next blog post and let you know if it’s working.


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