About this time last year I bought myself a copy of The Artist’s Way, almost on a whim. This is basically a book for “Blocked Creatives” based on the Twelve Step program, and I’m probably one of the least creatively blocked people I know. Or at least, thats how I see myself.
But then again, don’t we all have things to learn!
In the introduction the author, Julia Cameron, sets out two key practices. Morning Pages, to do every morning, and The Artist’s Date, to do once a week or more.I’ll start with these:
Morning Pages basically involve splurging your brain onto paper longhand, for three pages, and then not looking at it for at least a month. It lets you empty your head of worries, and helps you notice patterns. In my case it also highlighted my tendency to plan and allowed me to get the lists of plans out of my head before the day started. You end up with a clean slate for the day, and, if you do look at it again, a reflective bit of writing which can highlight patterns.
And yes, they really are helpful. I managed to keep them up for the whole 3 months I was working through the book (only missing a few days sometimes) and almost 6 months after that. The best part for me was learning that I can keep up a daily practice, I can show up for something every day. Before this I hadn’t considered myself very well disciplined. Now I know I can be, if I choose to.
The Artist’s Date, pretty much what it sounds like. Taking a few hours, or a whole weekend, out to go on a date with your inner artist. Find something that inspires you, nurtures your creative impulses, makes you feel happy and relaxed, and make time for it. Especially if its fun.
I found this harder to do every week, but when I did it always lead to good things. For one I found a commercial art gallery… in which were paintings in the similar pure tube colours that I love to use! I saw this and felt a part of me verified: art with pure colours can be great! Since then I’ve noticed more of these… but that image has stayed with me and still makes me smile! For others I’ve set aside time to play with materials, or treated myself with water-soluble crayons (which are really really fun) and been inspired by the process of simply creating. Making time to be inspired, nourished and creative: very shiny.
The rest of the book is divided into 12 chapters, each one designed to be read at the beginning of the week, and then mused on during that week. They all have exercises, suggestions, quotes and stories to help inspire and explain the concepts they talk about.
For once, I started a self-led course and actually made it to the end. Each week I read the chapter and worked through most of the exercises.
Each week highlighted something new, and built on what had come before.
Each week was well explained, interesting and helpful.
Over the full 12 weeks I explored my emotional situation, the state of my life, my past, my dreams, my beliefs… every element of life was covered. And I found myself guided in exploring what I really want my life to look like, and developing a plan for how to get there. I bought two roses, and they’ve lived, and flourished for a year despite my firm belief that I cannot keep plants! I’ve completed more projects than I’ve managed to before, including my Faery cards, and I’ve learnt about myself in more general ways too.
The only complaint I’ve seen about this book is when people have objected to her use of the word ‘God’, but to me it felt like she explained it well, and left you the possibility of choosing your own way of understanding the term, or substituting it for something else if you prefer, including ‘Good Orderly Direction’. I didn’t have a problem with this myself, and it certainly didn’t feel preachy, but if you have a knee jerk reaction when you read the word ‘God’, then perhaps you might give the last couple of weeks a miss.
All in all, an inspiring book which helps you to illuminate your life, and your own potential. Good even for people who don’t feel blocked!