Friday, February 1, 2008

The Complete Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron

Of late, I have begun reading a three-book compilation by author Julia Cameron, The Complete Artist's Way. This includes The Artist's Way, Walking in This World, and Finding Water.

If you're not familiar with Cameron, in The Artist's Way, she advocates two simple concepts as major tools for transcending creative blocks. Doing these activities on a constant basis is meant to unleash the creative soul within each of us - whether we are sculptors, writers, homemakers or business people looking to engage more fully with the artistic aspects of ourselves.

I have never read the second and third books in the set, and the total sum of advice covers over 700 pages. Cameron says that following this model throughout her own multi-faceted career path as a filmmaker, writer and speaker, has paid off.

Slowly, I've begun to chip away at this heaping of inspiration on the train each day. I enjoy how she blends the process of accessing our creative urges with beginning to open up spiritually. Although Cameron uses the word "God," it is not in the sense of linking her teachings to the Christian ideal. She encourages anyone of any faith (or lack thereof) to respond in his or her own way, saying that pure creativity comes about from a combination of this unseen force in collaboration with our own intentions.

The first step recommended for all who wish to seriously pursue this course is to complete "The Morning Pages." This is a "brain dump" of sorts, with a requirement to write three pages daily, no matter what your mood. The goal is to write whatever comes to mind (even if it seems petty, angry or boring, and you hate it -- even if you write three pages that read, "I have nothing to say today.") without stopping to edit or judge its content. The product of this free writing is meant to get you out of your own way. Only then, can you be ready to embrace those first thoughts that spring from the well of your imagination. This will send you onward on the path to developing as an artist.

The second step for those of us who seek to become unblocked creatives is known as "The Artist Date." This involves making time to go out alone and attend an event or take part in a hobby you enjoy. This tool is designed to work in tandem with the Morning Pages. While writing the required three pages per day is akin to sending a request to the Universe (or God, Buddha, whatever) to express your dreams, the Artist Date is how you are to receive inspiration and guidance from the Universe.

The book is filled with well-chosen quotes and numerous practical exercises. Over time, these should allow you to delve into your past and understand what caused you to bury your creative side, to disconnect from the flow of creativity in the first place, hence to aid in your recovery.

As a side note, the Morning Pages can be penned within the plainest of notebooks or in a journal Cameron specially designed to accompany your work. It is up to you. However, it is not recommended that you type your pages. Cameron also states that you shouldn't even read them for at least 8 weeks (so you don't end up critiquing yourself right out of keeping to this goal). Also, it's not advisable to ever show them to other people. The pages are meant to function as a sanctuary for only you, so that you can begin to "rest on the page," as Cameron puts it.

I began my Morning Pages before Thanksgiving, and I lasted about one week. I managed the mighty task of ditching my usual morning nap and disciplined myself to do them. I was really starting to feel my load lighten and my mind grow in clarity, with each day accomplished. Then, my boyfriend and I left to visit his parents in Missouri. Even though I had the best of intentions, and brought my journal with me, I didn't even crack the cover. By the time we returned home, I had veered off in other directions.

So, here I go again.

There seems to be much validity in reading and partaking in the tasks in Cameron's books. Groups in many parts of the world have formed for the purpose of working through the process together.

The one line from Cameron that sums everything up for me is "Leap and the net will appear." Doesn't that say it all? If we can detach ourselves from our fears and find out how to dig deeply, down to the blood that pulses through the center of our lives, our needs will be met. But, in order to do so, we have to take that first step.

PLEASE comment if you have used Cameron's books, and let us know how they worked for you. I've been familiar with her books for years, but only now at 35 years old, do I find that I can sit still long enough to probably hang on to the very end.

I also just came across The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right-Size, and I immediately ordered it. Looks fascinating and unique.

4 comments:

Rebecca said...

I'm glad you are looking at this work. I have long been intrigued by it, but didn't want to commit to a new "program" while I'm still working on my GTD stuff. I'll live vicariously through you for the moment. :-) Thanks for the update.

Anonymous said...

We belong to a creativity group called “Necklaces and Ties”. We have been working on creativity with different books “The artist‘s way” by Julia Cameron, “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne”, Women who run with the wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, and others.
Visit our blog http://englishwithpleasure.wordpress.com/ and post.
Experiences, ideas, points of views on creativity well be welcome.

Anonymous said...

We belong to a creativity group called “Necklaces and Ties”. We have been working on creativity with different books “The artist‘s way” by Julia Cameron, “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne”, Women who run with the wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, and others.
Visit our blog http://englishwithpleasure.wordpress.com/ and post.
Experiences, ideas, points of views on creativity well be welcome.

Anonymous said...

Oh do keep trying ! I've been facilitating AW groups for over 10 years and have seen amazing results. The important thing is to just get back onto the horse. With Mp's the thing that helps for me is a cup of real coffee, a blank unlined notebook and a cheap cartridge pen - easier to write quickly and smoothly with. But most important is to do the Artist Dates that is were the real change comes in.

If you can find someone to meet up once a week do a few exercises with them and discuss the results that will help you along a lot.

mary
www.creativevoyage.blogspot.com