Book Club: The Artist's Way - Weeks 10,11, and 12
May 25, 2023
Can you believe that it has been three months since we started The Artist's Way journey?!
Speaking frankly, I'm delighted to be done with the book. If not for Book Club, I would have chucked the book ages ago. But, I'm glad I kept up. Here are the final three chapters of the book and a wrap-up:
And after three months I can say...I don't feel like a better artist. I do feel a bit burned out by the book. Julia Cameron asks for a 1-2 hour commitment every day for twelve weeks. That's a lot. And I didn't fulfill that commitment. Nevertheless, here are some things that I think you can take away from The Artist's Way:
- Morning Pages: Julia Cameron encourages a daily "Morning Pages" practice, which involves writing three pages of stream-of-consciousness thoughts each morning. This exercise is designed to help clear the mind, release creative blocks, and access new ideas. Some people have been doing them for decades and swear by them.
- Artist Dates: Julia Cameron encourages you to take weekly "Artist Dates" with yourself -- 2-3 hours in which you engage in activities that inspire and nourish your creativity. This can include visiting museums, exploring nature, attending concerts, or trying new artistic techniques. I pushed the boundaries and included all kinds of self-care routines like going to the nail salon and treating yourself to breakfast in a restaurant.
- Creative Rituals: Both Morning Pages and Artist Dates are creative rituals. Julia Cameron encourages developing additional personal rituals or routines that signal your commitment to creative practice. Creative rituals could involve setting aside dedicated time each day, creating a sacred space for your art, or anything that helps you get into a creative mindset. This very much reminded me of the book, Watercolor is for Everyone, which was a Book Club selection last year. The author, Kateri Ewing describes her painting ritual (I vaguely remember a rock being involved) and encouraged you to also develop a ritual.
- Creative Recovery: This is the cornerstone of the book and one that I really struggled with. Julia Cameron tells us to treat the creative journey as a process of recovery. But I think this assumes that everyone needs recovery. As I discovered at the end of the book, the original title of this book was "Healing the Artist Within," and I think it's written as if that were still the title. If you don't feel that you need to heal your inner artist, don't read this book.
- Limiting Beliefs: As you can imagine, because of the "creative recovery" theme, a big chunk of the book is dedicated to identifying and challenging the limiting beliefs that hold you back from fully expressing your creativity. This is often negative people in our lives or our own beliefs about who artists are. We are told to replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations and empowering thoughts. We are also told to avoid comparison to others. Comparison can stifle creativity and hinder your progress. As Theodore Roosevelt once said: "Comparison is the thief of joy."
- Regular Reflection: This is one of the tenets of the book that I can get behind. I believe in the power of reflection. Julia Cameron instructs you to use reflection to explore your artistic identity, values, desires, and dreams as well as regularly assess your progress and celebrate milestones achieved.
- The Inner Artist Child: I might have rolled my eyes a few times about the "inner artist child," but if you change the terminology to something like, "embrace playfulness," then I'm all in. That was probably one of my biggest issues with the book: language that just pushed me away. But I respect the notion of reconnecting with your inner child and embracing a sense of playfulness in your creative pursuits. Allowing yourself to experiment, take risks, and have fun without judgment or expectation is key to the creative process. It's important to cultivate curiosity, aka: stay curious and open-minded. Explore new artistic mediums, subjects, and techniques. Engage in continuous learning and seek inspiration from diverse sources.
- Boundaries and Accountability: Julia Cameron says that we must establish healthy boundaries to protect our creative energy. We should learn to say no to activities or commitments that drain our creativity as well as prioritize self-care and create a balanced lifestyle that supports our artistic endeavors. Part of that balanced lifestyle is finding "trusted" friends who can provide encouragement and feedback. In many ways the book is a solo journey, so I was a bit surprised by the contract at the end where you're asked to fill in the names of two people who are creative colleagues you will check in with at least once a week. Though I suppose that Julia Cameron's way of encouraging accountability, which she does often discuss. You need to show up consistently for your art.
- Trust in God: This is really the part of the book that I wrestled with the most. I think I would rewrite it with a slightly different angle, moving away from trusting in God and towards trusting your abilities and your impulses. Embracing uncertainty and trusting the creative process is certainly a tenet of my own artistic practice.
During Book Club a few weeks ago someone said: "It's a buffet. Take what you want." And that thought has carried me through the back half of this book. The Artist's Way is a guidebook, and each individual's creative journey will be unique. I think we each need to adapt and personalize these ideas to suit our own needs and creative aspirations.
Thanks for stopping by!
PS: The next Book Club will be in July and we will be chatting about Helen Wells' book, Expressive Sketchbooks.