Photo used with permission by Alcosphoto
The Artist’s Way: Pursuing My Artist Within
“If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country
Today, I started work on the course, The Artist’s Way. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a course with a workbook, by Julia Cameron. It’s been around for over twenty-five years but is still popular and relevant. My friend, Victoria, and I are taking Part Two together at a local university, even though we haven’t taken Part One. There is a lot of reading, writing, and “tasks” to catch up on but I think, if I’m able to stick with it, it will be fun, insightful, and inspiring. An important part of my mindful lifestyle journey.
I’ve always felt lacking in any kind of artistic instinct or skill. My lifelong stance has been, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” Now, after reading only one chapter in Julia’s book and having finished most of the tasks for Week One, I realize how this negative assumption has held me back from expressing the creativity that is available within each of us. So, I’ve signed the “contract” that Julia says will start me on a spiritual path to higher creativity. As I do the Part One exercises over the next five weeks and then attend Part Two at the university for the subsequent five weeks, I’ll share with you what I’m experiencing and learning.
At the heart of this course is “Morning Pages,” a commitment to writing three pages of “stream-of-consciousness” every single morning. What? Every single morning? When I sent an email to Victoria expressing my incredulity over this requirement, she wrote back, “Writing three pages a day will be like child’s play to you, Cindy.” I was pretty taken aback by her comment. After I read chapter one in the workbook, I realized that Victoria’s comment is an awesome example of how uncovering and changing our negative beliefs about ourselves can literally change our lives. This should not be “news” to me. I’ve worked for decades on helping managers to uncover their own limiting beliefs about themselves, their employees, and what successful management behavior looks like. But, I’m learning this lesson again in my own life.
Julia presented a list of commonly held negative beliefs in chapter one that she says come to us from our parents, our religion, our culture, and our friends. I checked off the ones that my personal gremlin has whispered at various times in my ear:
I can’t be a successful, prolific, creative artist because:
- I will embarrass my friends and family.
- I don’t have good enough ideas.
- I will do bad work and not know it and I’ll look like a fool.
- It’s too late. If I haven’t become a fully functioning artist yet, I never will.
Challenging these negative beliefs and converting them into positive affirmations is the foundation to unleash our latent creativity. Here are my new creative affirmations:
- As I create and listen, I will be led.
- My creativity helps myself and others.
- Through the use of a few simple tools, my creativity will flourish.
- I am willing to experience my creative energy.
Another basic tool in The Artist’s Way is the “artist date.” An artist date is an excursion to nurture our creative consciousness. It may be a visit to an art gallery, or an aquarium, or attending a music concert. It might be a long walk in the woods or watching a sunset over the ocean. Julia strictly forbids that anyone accompanies you on your “date.” It is a weekly commitment to spending quality time with your inner artist and no one else. Julia warns that while this idea may sound exciting initially, experience has shown that our inner critic (or my gremlin, as I call it) will try to talk us out of our artist date. “We don’t have time.” “This is stupid; we could do something more constructive.” “We can’t relate to this.” I have a feeling that as time goes on, I’ll be arguing with my gremlin often and I plan to persist!
“In order to have a real relationship with our creativity, we must take the time and care to cultivate it. Our creativity will use this time to confront us, to confide in us to bond with us and to plan.” (Cameron, Julia. The Artist’s Way 25th Anniversary Edition, 2016, p.20).
So, wish me luck as I embark on this journey in creativity. Maybe you’d like to join me! I love the poem below. Enjoy!
Oh, The Places You’ll Go (excerpt)
by Theodor Seuss Geisel
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
You’ll look up and down streets. Look ’em over with care.
About some you will say, ‘I don’t choose to go there.’
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
And you may not find any
you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you’ll head straight out of town.
It’s opener there
in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.
And then things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.
THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!