Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Artist's Way & Breaking its Rules

I'm not big on the "self-help" genre of books, but The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron has been a mainstay in my life during transition times. I have undergone the twelve-week "course" twice, and both times was able to surprise myself with the artistic output and through spiritual transformation. Each of the twelve weeks corresponds to one chapter, so in part, there is some "textbook" style learning: the artist reads a chapter a week and completes several "tasks" at the end of each chapter. The tasks are designed to uncover artistic blockages or fears that we all have and overcome them via our chosen artistic expressions. In addition, the two primary activities are morning pages and artist dates. Morning pages are three pages of freewriting to be done first thing every day. Cameron insists they must be done in the morning and no other time. The artist date is a solitary activity of any sort that is to get the artist away from normal life and into the artistic "place". Examples are museum trips or walks through the park, really the only criteria is they are done weekly and alone and somehow stimulate the inner-artist.

As I fumbled through my battered copy, I decided to undergo the Artist's Way "light." That is, for now anyway, I am not going to re-read the whole book, a chapter a week, for twelve weeks. I am going to do the artist date and the pages, but that is where the rules will be broken.

I'm changing the "morning" pages into "anytime" pages. I have learned that for myself, when I write is not as important as that the writing happens. Inevitably, the more I write the more ideas I have, which fuels more writing. My committment then is to pick up my notebook once a day and write whatever the hell I want for three pages straight. If more comes, more comes, but three pages is the minimum. This is a blatant breaking of the morning pages rules, but it's better than not writing much at all. The artist date is trickier because I already do many things on my own. I go movies alone, eat at local cafes alone, so the notion of an outing all to myself is not that intimidating. In a sense, I'm already living the "artist date" lifestyle because I often allow my inner child out to play during these solitary meanderings. However, I do need to pay better attention to the play itself and transform it to writing. Therein lies the task.

Throughout the book, Cameron has wisdom and insights to share of her own journey and brings home the ties between the artistic and spiritual lifestyles. Thumbing through the book, I find there are many passages and sentences I underlined because of how striking they were. I will close with a couple of them.

"Fantasizing about pursing our art full-time, we fail to pursue it part-time--or at all."
"Creativity occurs in the moment, and in the moment we are timeless."
"Usually, when we say we can't do something, what we mean is that we won't do something unless we can guarantee that we'll do it perfectly."
"It is impossible to get better [at something] and look good at the same time."

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