Week 12: Recovering a Sense of Faith

It’s 10:00pm and I’m finding myself doom scrolling the furniture section of the Anthropologie app. Doom scrolling because, what urgent need have I for an overpriced arm chair at this hour, when I should be sinking into bed under the ceiling fan’s gentle blow with my favorite audiobook humming me to sleep. All that the overpriced armchair represents at this hour is my toxic relationship with my phone and the doom that comes as a result of limited self-control at this late hour. So I’ll count it as a win that I put the phone down, and I’m now standing here writing my last blog post for the Summer of Creativity. 

That’s right! Week 12 starts today. I suppose I may do some sort of wrap-up, synopsis post next week but, in a way, I feel like I’m already there. If you hung in there for these past 11 weeks, you probably are too. The Artist’s Way is a therapeutic book, but not the kind that lulls you into a dreamless sleep. No, it’s the kind of book that shakes you awake. A book that helps you see you have been asleep to real life. This is my third time completing it and every time I’ve done it I finish up feeling reconnected with myself, but also ready to leave the exercises and the chapters behind and see what I can make for myself. I think that’s the point.

This chapter, entitled Recovering a Sense of Faith, feels more resonant to me this year than on any previous trip through the book. It’s that word, faith. I grew up understanding faith was “things hoped for and not seen.” I applied the practice of faith when I prayed in sixth grade that the boy I liked would ask me out. He did. The thing I like about that example is it felt like a secret between me and god. I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16, which I thought was a commandment from God, but I still told God what I wanted. I had the audacity to put it out there, knowing that God might smack my hand and tell me it was wicked to ask for such a silly thing. 

Maybe it WAS silly, but it was honest. At least it was honest! It was a tiny manifestation of myself, my desire, my personhood. That is what has become a matter, both incredibly serious and incredibly delightful to me. Originality needs a point of origin. That must be me for me, and it must be you for you.

I believe that definition of faith, the things hoped for and not seen, still holds up for me, though I could simplify it even further. Faith is being willing to believe in magic—rabbit-out-the-hat, leprechaun pot-o-gold, dazzling sunset, riveting conversation, licorice mountain sort of magic. It matters not the flavor, what matters is the willingness. 

Believing in magic can be saying, I don’t know. Sometimes I don’t know is the most powerful statement I can summon. I don’t know leaves open a blank space for the universe to fill. I don’t know why this person came back into my life. I don’t know why these extra work hours fell into my lap. I don’t know how I’m going to organize my time to finish a second book, while trying to get a first published. I don’t know. I don’t have to know. That’s what faith says—I don’t have to know. I can still believe it will be.

Believing in magic can equally be saying, I do know! The thing that’s tricky to remember is that we can only ever know the next right thing. We can’t know seven steps ahead but we can do the next right things (Cue Ana in Frozen 2). 

The next right thing is usually a tiny, little thing. I felt it when I put the phone down and started typing this tonight. I will know it again tomorrow when I wake up. By the way, isn’t it bizarre how we can wake up in such a variety of states? Today I was exhausted. Yesterday I was energized. Some days it feels like the sky is falling and other days, there are so many delightful things I want to do I can’t figure out how to get them all in. And that state is not chosen, it’s bestowed by whatever happens to me in sleep! But the next right thing? It’s almost always to get out of the bed, make coffee, pet the dogs, and write my morning pages. 

How can faith be both I know and I don’t know?  It’s a mystery, literally. Faith itself is a mystery. It’s often born in dark places. We describe it as a beacon, like a candle that should be on a stick where the whole house can see it, but isn’t faith, in its infancy, in its most precious moments, born in the dark. It’s a candle, susceptible to a stiff breeze, or, god forbid, a downpour. It’s delicate and must be protected in order to survive. Your first flickers of faith will be tender too. The first pages you write are groping outstretched hands in the darkness, and must be honored with your cooperation and your protection for them to grow into something more resilient. 

Cameron writes, “Hatching an idea is a lot like baking bread. An idea needs to rise. If you poke at it too much at the beginning, if you keep checking on it, it will never rise. A load of bread or a cake, baking, must stay for a good long time in the darkness and safety of the oven. Open that oven too soon and the bread collapses—or the cake gets a hole in its middle because all the steam has rushed out of it. Creativity requires a respectful reticence.” (Cameron, p.195)

Don’t be afraid to leave yourself alone. We can’t be poked and prodded into self-actualization. Creating that is a process of play. “It’s a paradox of creative recovery that we must get serious about taking ourselves lightly.” (Cameron, p.196) After all, the whole point of creativity is ultimately what it does for you. How does it enhance your life? You don’t need to do something important or make something important. You ARE what’s important. 

In her final helpful tip, Juila Cameron reminds us of the principle of escape velocity. This is the idea that just when you are gaining momentum, just when you feel you might actually have some direction, might actually be able to do something you long to do, life interferes. It’s the test. It’s that scenario when you’re all set to marry a great guy, who treats you right and all of sudden your ex slides into your DMs. It’s when you’re just about to leave the job that is wrong for you, when your boss suddenly proposes a generous raise. A well-placed doubt can do the trick too! This may appear wrapped in the clothing of a concerned, close friend saying, “I just want to make sure you’ve thought it through.” 

We are all subject to being derailed by the test. But we owe it to ourselves, after all of this work, to recognize the beloved, but doubting, Thomas of creative life, as what he is—a wet blanket. “Wrap yourself in something else—dry ones. Fluffy heated towels. Do not indulge or tolerate anyone who throws cold water in your direction.” (Cameron, p.200) You deserve the best cheerleaders and the biggest fan club for each step you take in the direction of your most creative life, but sometimes, that will be you and maybe one or two trusted friends.

Because we are social creatures, we will always look outside the self for validation, but remember to keep looking inside too. Remember what that golden cord that descends from heaven, straight through the crown of your scalp, through your whole being feels like, when it’s plucked. Remember what resonance feels like. Return to that. Tune into it when your hands are in the garden, when your feet are walking the dog, when your face is turned toward the sky. It is the source. It is where magic lives. It is the answer to the childhood prayer. It is the earnest desire that lives in the bottom of your heart.

I wish you an unending ability to return to that resonance so you can create your most beautiful life. Sat nam. Thank you for sharing this journey with me!