This is week is dedicated to the introduction of The Artist’s Way (pages 1-24) so if you’re just now learning about this and you haven’t got the book, there’s still time!
Side Note: If you are just now joining, here’s the quick synopsis! I am dedicating this summer to creativity and to make sure that stays on track I will be going through The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. I’ve been through this book twice in the last three years and it has been essential in keeping me connected to my internal voice and keeping the well, from which I draw to create, stocked. Each week we will read and complete the exercises in one chapter. The course is meant to take 12 weeks. This will take 13 because I am devoting one week to the introduction. So grab the book on Amazon here or wherever you buy books (like I said, this one’s old so you may be able to find it at a used bookstore too).
Here we go!
Spiritual Electricity and Returning to Self
These are Cameron’s words for the unseen force in the universe, with which we can choose to collaborate, and whenever I think about this idea, I remember Elizabeth Gilbert’s theology about where ideas come from. She outlines this in Big Magic (and this would be an excellent companion piece to our work this summer if you need a little more to read). They word their thoughts a little differently, but the commonality is this: The Universe WANTS you to create. And just to be clear, I am mostly going to be using the term “the universe” when I’m talking about God, a higher power, mother earth, Gaia, the life force that connects us all, so when I say “universe” you can plug in which ever term best suits you.
The universe WANTS you to create. It’s peppering you with ideas all the time. Most of the time we walk around saying, No, to these ideas. No no no no no no no all day long! Because we are busy doing all the stuff we’ve got to do. But you might have caught yourself actually enjoying putting the soup together for dinner tonight, or deciding to arrange the pillows differently on the couch—these are the kinds of micro ideas that you might find time to say yes to and they should be acknowledged and appreciated for what they are—creativity!
This ideology is radical because since childhood, most of our socialization and life training has been slowly trying to shut down that creative impulse. It takes an act of rebellion to work against that. There is good reason for this. Our brains are incredibly good at keeping us safe and conserving energy, and creativity requires risk and energy. The processes in this book are going to help us to take a close look at why risk avoidance and energy conservation might not be the highest level choice. The process is going to help us to question why we do the things we do, value the things we value and reconnect with the inner child/artist who wanted to make shit just for the fun of it when we were seven.
The Universe WANTS you to create.
The line I want to draw is THAT reconnection is what can open life up in other ways. I’ll try to show that as I explain my experience with these exercises and reflect on what I’ve learned on past tours through this book here on my blog.
Now I want to get into two of the very basic practices that Cameron introduces in this first section.
Morning pages are three pages of hand-written, free-flowing, stream-of-consciousness journaling, meant to be completed each morning first thing or at least each day. This has become my most consistent spiritual practice. Since I started this, I have filled 9.5 journals (I use the Lechturm1917 A5 notebook with dotted pages and hard cover). It just happens. If you stick with it, you will create volumes.
I’ve written about my morning pages here before. The practice helps to clear out the channel between me and my actual life. I sort through the bullshit on those pages. Cameron points out that many people find them to be disgusting, repetitive, impatient, puny and overly-critical—many things we don’t like to see in ourselves. But the point of the pages is to clear that stuff out of the way.
They are repetitive! Mine often start out very to-do-listy, like I’m just writing out sentences of what I have to or want to do that day. Sometimes I get over-the-top on those pages. I write things that belong in a 13th century sonnet—unusable—but liberating to allow that out into the world, onto the page. I whine on the pages. I complain incessantly. I almost always start out writing about how I slept because I have just woken up. There’s a lot of love for coffee on those pages. Literally, you write whatever it is that is on your mind and trust that it is doing something!
During the next 13 weeks, you will be expected to do morning pages every day. You will NOT do morning pages every day. It’s just the law of the universe, we can’t be 100% 100% of the time. So don’t beat yourself up about this. Just be willing to start again, over and over and over. But Cameron is right in saying, the more dedicated you are to this practice, the more transformative this process will be.
The Artist Date
The Artist Date has two essential tenants: First, you must do it alone. Cameron is emphatic about this. You must protect this time. You cannot let anyone infringe on this! Second, you must do something that speaks to your inner artist. I’ll talk more about that in a minute.
You MUST do it alone. The second time I went on a vacation by myself (you can read the full story here), I was in Wapio Valley on the Big Island, Hawaii, the first morning. There was a river flowing out from the valley into the ocean, and I was debating whether I should try to walk across the river or not. I had my laptop in my backpack that I didn’t want to get wet, but I also wasn’t sure if I WANTED to cross the river or if I thought I SHOULD want to cross the river. So I sat on the bank for quite a while considering myself and the river and the beach on the other side. It took a while for me to sort through all the voices inside me to figure out which was actually mine. It became so clear to me in that moment, the only reason for me to do anything here is because I WANT to. Me—that’s it! I did end up crossing the river, but he apex of the story was in connecting with my own desire.
This is why you must do your artist dates alone. Cameron describes it like this: If you were in a troubled relationship and you went to therapy, your therapist might ask if you spend any quality time together. As relationships decay we tend to pull further and further from the other person in an effort to protect ourselves from additional pain and from inflicting additional pain. This creates an even bigger rift. There is likely some form of that rift between you and your inner artist (creative self, deeper self).
The purpose of these dates is to reconnect with that part of yourself, to put some fun back into the relationship. So really think about it like if someone was going to take you on the best date, what would that be? Then take your damn self on that date. This is how you will choose an activity that connects you to your inner artist. Be ridiculous. Be generous. Be youthful.
I’m going to chronicle my artist dates here each week to help you get an idea of how I do it and how I think about it. It doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. But just like you wouldn’t want to date a total cheap-ass, you might not want to be that cheap-ass to yourself. Give yourself a little romance and flair!
Okay! That’s it for now and this is your homework for the first week.
- Read pages 1-24.
- Start the practice of morning pages. (You don’t need a journal. You can do it on regular paper and keep the pages in an envelope, but keep the pages for later and don’t look back through them until prompted to do so.)
- Take yourself on one Artist Date.
- Please comment below, comment or DM on Facebook or Instagram. If you aren’t already signed up for emails, click the banner at the top of the page or the widget on the right and get signed up so you don’t miss any updates!
Each week is going to start on Wednesday, so come back each Wednesday for the next update. If you prefer to listen, this content will be added to my podcast each week on Thursdays. (Click here for Apple Podcasts / Click here for Spotify.)
Good luck! God speed! And remember—this is supposed to be fun!