A while back, my friend Carly blogged about reading Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. The whole book is filled with reading and exercises designed to help artists get unblocked and move forward with their creations. Recently, she started up a little group on Facebook for a bunch of us to do The Artist’s Way together. And since there was a group (and accountability) involved, I got started.
In the past, I tried the Creativity Cure twice. While that was okay, I like The Artist’s Way a bit better so far. I feel like while there is still a lot of work to be done, it’s much easier to get it all taken care of, or at least get close. And I feel like I am making real progress and loosening up a bit. So I wanted to write a short blog post to share my experiences so far.
Week One: Recovering a Sense of Safety
The first week went surprisingly smooth. Usually when I have a task that I am supposed to do every day, I slip from doing it very fast. Part of the Artist’s Way is doing three solid pages of free-writing every morning. I did okay with it, only missing one day. So far, my biggest fault with the morning page has been not doing them in the morning. But I have still found them to be a wonderful release. At first and a few times since, I find some of the things I write to be upsetting or uncomfortable, but it’s easy to get over that. Nothing in the morning pages is supposed to be reread or shared, so that really lessens the stress of writing out things that may feel icky.
Quite a few passages in the first week’s chapter really hit home for me. Discussion about how families often view artists and how creative types can be treated as children were really, really familiar to me. Even now, I often get talk from some people closest to me about what I “should” be doing. More often than not, artists are “those” people, not me.
Out of the first three weeks, the exercises in the first have been the least interesting to me so far. They are all foundational exercises, but I didn’t find them as interesting as I had hoped. I suppose the best one was writing out your blurts… those tiny, nagging negative thoughts that just pop into your head. For each one, you change it into an affirmation. At the very least all the exercises forced some new thoughts and got the ball rolling.
Week Two: Recovering a Sense of Identity
This chapter talks a lot about toxic relationships and protecting yourself as you heal and move forward. I did just as well with the morning pages: six out of seven and sometimes in the morning. However, I did show some improvement in the other big exercise of the book, the artist’s date. The artist date is a block of time spent totally alone getting your brain and spirit recharged. It’s a good exercise to have in place because it forces you to build time alone into your schedule. I missed the artist date the first week, but I did get it done the second week. It may only have been grocery shopping, but it was wonderful. No husband, no kids, just time to browse and drive alone.
The exercises this week were much better. Ten tiny changes was really fun for me, and so simple. I came up with a list of things I wanted to get done including cleaning up my jewelry bench. Getting that list made and then completing clearing my bench both made me feel so wonderful. Such a tiny thing felt like momentous progress and really lifted my mood. That’s been the best part about getting any of these exercises done.
One thing that was really eye-opening was tracking my time. Task two was all about finding out where your time goes during the week. I went a little super nuts on it and tracked time in seven categories instead of five, and over five days. It was over the top, but once I put everything into my little color-coded sheet, it was really interesting to see how I really spend my time.
Week Three: Recovering a Sense of Power
This week was the biggest breeze so far, but I am sure that is because it was the same week we went camping. It was so bloody cold out the first full day there that I spent a good chunk of time in the camper doing my morning pages as well as two-thirds of my exercises. I even knocked out my artists date, a nice long walk with my dog along the lake shore.
This week had the most challenging tasks so far. The last three covered listing people I admire as well as deceased ones I wish I had met. Then I had to examine them to think about the differences between who I really admire and who I think I should admire. In the end, I had a very mixed bag. My list includes Frida Kahlo, Anselm Kiefer, Mr. Rogers, Jim Henson and Hunter S. Thompson. I guess if nothing else that shows my brain didn’t get stuck in one area.
The exercise on bad habits that kill your time was easy to do, but it needed to be done. When my son was born last year, I spent months in my chair. I was feeding him constantly and healing myself, so I watched a lot of television. Add to that an extra cold winter and energetic four-year-old and I managed to watch more than I really wanted to. I totally forgive myself for that because it helped massively with my own healing and sanity. But that level of t.v. watching has carried over too far. Luckily my daughter doesn’t watch much any more. But when she is napping, it’s too easy for me to slip into old habits. Turning on Fraiser, Numbers or 30 Rock is a huge crutch, even though I have seen every single episode. Twice.
so good! I am really liking this so far. Since I started reading this book and following the exercises, there have been some positive changes in my life. Nothing huge, but things that either make me really happy or are changes that needed to happen. The biggest one so far is finally buckling down and super cleaning the house. Clearing clutter, deep cleaning and finding homes for everything had been lifting stress like crazy which makes it so much easier to be creative.
Now I just need to keep up the momentum over the next few weeks. If you are in a place in your life where you need something to change and you need to loosen up or unblock your creative side, I really, really recommend this. Even if you only try a few weeks and it doesn’t suit you, you really haven’t lost anything at all.