Despite the fact that I haven’t yet finished reading Kristen Lamb‘s Rise of the Machines, yesterday I decided to start reading The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. I’m a glutton for punishment, and somehow don’t feel like I’m torturing myself enough if I’m not trying to do eighty things at once. Viva la insanity.
So the book is meant to be a 12-week program, with each week focusing on a different aspect of creativity (and the resurrection thereof). There are exercises and the like for each week as well, with the intention that you pick and complete about half of those suggested. I haven’t gotten to this part yet because, as I mentioned in an earlier post, there are a number of small sections that occur before the program begins, and I wanted to give some attention to those first.
There are two different introductions in the book, one of which explains how the author came upon the idea of helping artist’s rediscover their creativity. In this intro she talks a lot about a “Great Creator”, which may or may not be God. This put me off a bit at first, but she is actually quite open and tolerant, and speaks about how it doesn’t matter whether you really believe in God or the “Great Creator”, just as long as you can believe in the idea of creativity being something that you can give yourself to. Because of the way she speaks, you can tell that she believes in a higher power guiding creativity, but she also makes it perfectly clear that she doesn’t expect everyone who uses her program to believe in the same thing. It’s a refreshing notion because I’ve heard it said before that atheists can’t be creative because they aren’t spiritual. It’s nice to know that someone as prestigious as Julia Cameron isn’t a bigot. I’m just sayin’.
Then the book moves on to talk about some “basic principles and tools”. Specifically, the author talks about two tools that she is absolutely adamant that we use on a regular basis, throughout the program and forever on afterward.
The first tool is called “morning pages”. I’ve seen these discussed on other blogs and websites, but this is the first time I read about them from the person who created them. Put simply, “morning pages” are three pages written each day (preferably first thing in the morning). It doesn’t matter what you write about, and actually it’s better if what you write about isn’t “real” writing. Rather than focus on prose, for example, morning pages should focus on whatever is in your brain that needs to get out. For all intents and purposes, it’s a diary with a minimum page requirement. The idea is to get all the nonsense out of your brain (even if that nonsense is nothing but negative thoughts and whining) so that it’s out and gone and it can’t bother you while you’re working on your real writing (or drawing, or acting, or whatever your art may be).
I’ve actually been doing morning pages for a while now, though not on a daily basis, which Julia Cameron insists upon, so I’ll apparently have to work on that. I’ve also not been doing the pages freehand, which Cameron suggests. I’ve been instead using 750Words.com, which was actually created for this exact purpose. The webmaster of this site also read The Artist’s Way, and after determining that three pages of his long-hand worked out to approximately 750 words, he created the site. Though I occasionally do enjoy writing longhand, I prefer to utilize 750Words.com because of the speed factor. It takes me a heck of a lot longer to do three pages in longhand than to type it out on my laptop, and time is something I’m all in favor of saving. With that said, I’ve signed up for the August Challenge on 750Words – the challenge is to do your 750 words every day for the month, so hopefully that will be motivation to make sure I do my “morning pages”.
The other important tool that Cameron insists upon may be a little bit more difficult to work in. It’s called “Artist Dates”, and simply, they’re dates with yourself. That’s the long and short, really. You have to take an hour or two, once or twice a week, and go on a date with yourself. Go for a walk, go to the beach, go bowling…just go do something fun and/or relaxing, with the caveat being that you have to do it by yourself. No spouses, no kids, no family or friends of any kind. In the book Cameron talks about how you will resist doing these dates, how you will find every excuse in the book not to do them. She’s definitely right. If even half of her readers are the tiniest bit like me, there are a lot of artist’s out there saying, “Are you kidding? I can hardly find the time to bathe by myself, never mind taking myself on solo dates every week.”
And yet Cameron insists that these dates are important, if for nothing other than keeping yourself sane. I can see her point; how can one be creative if one can’t even find an hour a week to do something fun by oneself? That’s not saying that I’ll do them, but I’ll make an effort, if Cameron thinks they’re that important.
So it’s with those two “tools” in my mind that I move through the rest of this week. Starting this coming Sunday I’ll read the “Week 1” chapter and start working on the exercises. If those exercises happen to involve writing of any sort, I’ll share them on this blog. Here’s hoping that the book will help me as much as it’s supposedly helped many other artists!
Have you read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron? How did you find it? Did it help you “rediscover your creativity”? Do you have any suggestions for someone just starting the program? Please share!