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The Artist’s Way

April 16, 2013

I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron a few months ago, and really enjoyed it. I’ve been meaning to share quotes with you here for quite some time.

It is written as a self-help guide for people with “blocked” creativity who would like to become “unblocked,” but I got more out of it that just that. To me, it felt almost more like therapy in the form of a book, whether you consider yourself an “artist” or not. Although, by the way, creativity is defined really broadly in the book to mean anything from writing to cooking to drawing to crafting to all kinds of other pursuits, so I don’t think really any of us are left out of the audience.

Cameron writes about the creative process, self-care, happiness, fear, the universe, different ways to meditate, movement as it relates to creativity, self-destructive behaviors and relationships, God, faith, addictions of various kinds, and the difference between working hard and being a workaholic. Some of the ideas dovetailed with BrenĂ© Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection, and others were new to me. Everything felt encouraging, validating, and comforting.

The book didn’t really reel me in until the fifth or sixth chapter, but after that I used dozens of post-it notes to mark passages I wanted to write down, and made plans to reread the entire text with a highlighter when I get my own copy instead of relying on the library’s.

Some of the main themes of The Artist’s Way are:

  • Being kind and gentle with yourself will spark more creativity than trying to use willpower to force yourself to be productive.
  • Blocked and underused creative energy can manifest as self-destructive behavior. As we allow ourselves more time to be creative, those negative behaviors often taper off.
  • God (or the universe or a higher power) is unlimited in supply and has more than enough resources to support us and our creative endeavors. He wants us to be happy and values our creativity.
  • If we are ambivalent or negative about the possibilities in front of us, so is the universe. Taking ourselves, our dreams, and our creativity seriously triggers the support of the universe and opens doors for us.

There are two specific practices that Cameron recommends throughout the book. She calls one “morning pages,” which means sitting down right after you wake up every morning and writing 3 full pages of stream of consciousness thoughts from your brain. I think about this as kind of clearing out some of the random things bouncing around your brain to make room for creativity to blossom, and also putting you in touch with yourself to help clarify your true feelings, intentions, and values.

The second practice near and dear to Cameron’s heart is a weekly “artist date.” You take yourself on them to do something fun that interests you, like visit a museum exhibit or spend time in a fabric shop. It is an outing you want to do, a sort of playdate just for you that is not shared with any of your loved ones. Artist dates nurture yourself and your creative spirit, spark your imagination, and feed your work with ideas, experiences, and inspirations.

For me, The Artist’s Way was inspiring, informative, and thought-provoking. Many of Cameron’s ideas really resonate with me. I’ve noticed that making more time to be creative does seem to ease my anxieties and make me feel less wound up. A welcome change!

It is a huge shift for me to view creativity as a necessary part of wellbeing rather than a luxury to allow myself only after I’ve been “productive” and finished my to-do list. I still catch myself thinking that doing things simply because they are enjoyable is a “waste of time!” I am trying to trust that we each have our own natural rhythms and balances that include both work and play, and that allowing ourselves time to enjoy life and be happy, may actually make us more productive when we do sit down to work.

What about you? Do you have any deeply held beliefs or mottos about taking time to be creative and enjoy life, or about the balance between work and play? Has this kind of thing been challenging for you in our fast-paced, Type A world? Is it just me?

If you read the book, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! Also, you may want to see if classes or groups based on the book are available in your town. I live in a pretty small city, but when I checked the book out of the library, the librarian told me that his wife was taking a class at the University of Alabama specifically for women based on this book. I did not investigate further, but I wonder if there are more opportunities like that out there!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Gay Katilius June 1, 2013 at 8:29 am

finally catching up with my reading, and this post really hit home for me. I’m really not creative in the artistic sense, but still need to realize that it’s important to take the time to do fun things just for the heck of it. I realize that, instead of just acknowledging that it’s okay to take a break from all the things I HAVE to do, I sneak in a mindless few minutes of solitaire. This isn’t a break at all – I should just allow myself to do something fun on my break :)

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granolagrits June 14, 2013 at 8:43 am

Oh my gosh, I didn’t realize you and I were such birds of a feather AGG! YES, I completely feel the same way. I think maybe creativity can be lots of different things that are not technically “artsy?” Like writing, thinking, word play/witticisms, imagining, putting an outfit/jewelry together in a way you like, cooking, planning a unique outing or surprise, coloring those Mandala circles, discovering new things at a yard sale, etc? And from what little I’ve read, I am really starting to believe that maybe we all have that energy inside of us that needs to be recognized and given space to grow and wonder and play a little bit in order for us to be whole and happy and balanced. I’ve seen people say before that today’s society sort of “glorifies” being busy, and I think that is so true. We are all trained to work, work, work and cram every day full, and then we wonder why we end up unhappy, stressed, sick, etc. We are trained to kind of ignore our minds and bodies when they ask for a break, but maybe that is causing us great distress in other ways, and making us less productive when we try to keep working to boot.

Hey, you might really like that Brene Brown book “The Gifts of Imperfection!” It is a pretty easy read and I LOVED it, it really resonated with me and touches on some of these exact things. It is much shorter than The Artist’s Way and is more general, so it may be a good starting point. :) I found it at the library!

Anyway, I could probably write pages and pages on this, but I will cut myself off for now! I am so happy this hit home for you! Thrilled to be able to share some little tidbits I have come across that may help you and others. :) I don’t think I have it all figured out yet, but every little bit helps! :) Thank you for sharing and for reading!

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