In a world where creativity often takes a backseat to the demands of everyday life, reclaiming our artistic spirit can be a transformative and soul-stirring experience.
In my personal quest to explore the creativity within me, I embarked on a 12-week journey guided by The Artist's Way, the renowned book written by Julia Cameron. As an aspiring artist seeking to break free from creative blocks and self-doubt, I've been guided by Cameron's insightful and practical approach and was led to a newfound sense of inspiration and self-discovery.
I had tried to start the project a few years ago when I first moved to Portland, OR, but I had borrowed the book from the library and felt pressed with time. I think I also was simply not ready to embark on this journey...
A few months ago, I heard that Marlee Grace -who I had discovered when they used to post daily dance videos on Instagram- was about to start "The Artist's Way" online book club and I felt like it was the right time (June-September) and setting for me to try again.
The weekly emails and encouragements, the Discord channels to exchange with fellow readers, and the two Zoom meetings (at week 6 and week 12) seemed like the ideal combo!
The Artist's Way is not merely a self-help book; it is an invitation to embark on a twelve-week creative expedition, uncovering the depths of our artistic potential and nurturing the creative soul within. Through a unique blend of writing exercises, weekly tasks, and thought-provoking insights, Cameron's methodology acts as a nurturing companion, gently nudging us to unlock the barriers that stifle our creative expression.
I dove in headfirst and never looked back. If you know me in real life, you've undoubtedly heard me talk about my project, my morning pages or my artist dates over the past 2 months!
Typing this, I cannot believe it's already been 8 weeks! I rarely commit to more than a 30-day yoga challenge! I've always thought my routine was not dialed enough to keep a lengthy daily morning practice!
The Morning Pages
I've never been a journaler, or at least a consistent one. I'm always jealous when I hear people have been journaling since they were kids and I was very regretful when I started listening to the Mortified Podcast and had a glimpse of what was going through people's heads in their awkward teenage years. Oh how I wish I could read about my daily life as a teen in rural France, how I was processing my first loves, heartaches. I also wish I had this tool to process what was happening in my life!
Anyhow, I've always felt I was good at processing events in my head and didn't need to put my thoughts and feelings on paper. Journaling has been recommended to me several times, more recently when I mentioned I had not been sleeping well.
Well, it turns out that the rumors are true. Journaling is pretty magic! I thought I'd never have enough material to write three pages, considering how uneventful my life is here in a small town in the high desert. But Cameron's exercises and general reflections about my life make the task pretty easy to complete. It usually takes me about 40 minutes every morning, and so far, I think I've only missed a day when I had to be awake all night for a competitive exam that was scheduled in another time zone.
In a month, I filled an entire notebook I had punctually journaled in over the past three years! I've run out of ink twice and ordered a new notebook just in time so as not to run out of pages. I opted for these notebooks when I realized that my local bookstore did not carry my favorite ones anymore. I love how lightweight and inconspicuous they are!
The Artist Date
I thought the task would be pretty breezy, as I have a very flexible schedule and spend a lot of time by myself. It started out very well with me planning dates, inspired by a list of suggestions provided by Julia. But as weeks went by, I realized I had not kept track of my dates and forgot what they had been entirely. So I decided to keep a list. Here is what they have been so far:
- Week 1 - I listened to a few interviews with Björk about her creative process for each one of her albums
- Week 2 - I reread a beautiful coffee table book I got for my birthday a few years ago about style icon and jewelry designer Loulou de la Falaise
- Week 3 - I attended the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show
- Week 4 - I went to see the movie "Past Lives" at an indie movie house in the nearby city
- Week 5 - I took a drawing class with Lisa Condon on Creative Bug, to which I have access for free through my local library
- Week 6 - I visited a ceramics studio and a beautifully-curated thrift store
- Week 7 - I journaled in a new (to me) coffee shop and attended the re-opening party of my favorite apothecary after it moved
- I have yet to choose what my date will be this week
I bookmarked this blog post in case I run out of ideas.
Here are a few more items on my list:
- A (foot?) massage
- A session in a sensory deprivation tank
- Visiting a museum
- Relaxing in a hot spring
- Visiting an art supply store
- Taking a dance class
- Attending a kirtan performance
I feel like I need to better prepare for these dates, make time for them, and create a ritual to differentiate them from my regular alone activities. I also need to journal about them too, how they made me feel, how they inspired me (or not), and whether I should repeat them.
I never thought I'd be one to say that THIS BOOK HAS CHANGED MY LIFE, but it did! This daily practice of writing about my day, my life, my to-do list, my past, my present, my future, of processing events recent and old, of taking inventory of the things I used to create when I was a kid, of what I create weekly without really thinking about it, of really thinking about giving structure to my creative practice has been eye-opening, and very beneficial to my mental health.
Like I said before, writing things down (instead of simply mulling over them in my head) really has a different impact. I'm being more honest with myself. For some reason, I feel like I cannot lie to myself if I give my thoughts a physical existence in my notebook. I also commit to doing hard things when I mention them in my pages, things I need to do, things I need to say, things I need to welcome into my life or let go of.
I feel more at peace, more in charge of my life. I feel like I have a new purpose in life. I'm excited about what the future holds.
I might into more detail about each week (each chapter starts with "Regaining a sense of...") in another article. I will also have to reflect upon the dreaded Week 4 "reading deprivation" challenge. And I will touch upon the constant mention of "God".
In the meantime, I'll say this: the ritual of the morning pages and the way the artist dates have awakened my senses have reshaped my perspective on creativity and self-discovery. I AM AN ARTIST. WE ALL ARE ARTISTS!
I'm already anxious about getting to the end of the 12-week experiment.
I feel like I have breezed through the first weeks, trying to find my bearings, and I really want to do a deep dive into each exercise. I've avoided a few, most notably the ones that consist in writing letters to your younger self or your future self.
I want to take the time to reflect a little more about each week, about the challenges and breakthroughs and the profound impact The Artist's Way had on my life.
I'm already considering starting it again on September 9th. I've mentioned it to a few friends in town so I have an accountability group. Will you join?
I'd love to know if you've done The Artist's Way before! How did it go? What are your takeaways? Do you still write your morning pages and take yourself on artist dates? What was the hardest? Did you have any breakthroughs?
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