“I teach people to let themselves be creative” – Julia Cameron
Several months ago, just before the Coronavirus lockdown, my coach Rosemary suggested I have a look at “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. It was becoming apparent that life was about to change quite radically. I had been trying to write a novel for a while, but my progress was painfully slow. A twelve week course on creativity sounded as if it might be just what I needed.
Simple and demanding
I purchased the “Artist’s Way” book, together with a substantial A4 sized “Morning Pages Journal”. The task at hand turned out to be both simple and demanding. Each week there was a chapter of the book to read, along with a list of optional “tasks” to complete. However the main commitment was to the “Morning Pages” and the “Artist Date”. These were to be adhered to unrelentingly.
Every morning, without fail, I was to set my alarm early enough to write three full pages of “longhand, stream-of-consciousness morning writing”. These pages were not required to have any literary value or any specific content. They were not to be read by anyone but myself, and very possibly not even by myself. I thought of the pages as a brain dump, clearing out all the accumulated rubbish from my mind at the start of each day.
To my amazement, something motivated me to keep at my morning pages. Every single day, I set my alarm for 5.30am, got out of bed, and just wrote. At the weekends I allowed myself a later start, but somehow the pages still got written. A lot of what I wrote was complaints, worry and self-pity. My fears and insecurities about the lockdown, my livelihood and my family were all vented. Occasionally I tried writing (bad) poetry. Sometimes I mused on plot ideas for my novel. Other days I played with tasks from the “Artist Way” book. There were questions like, ‘list ten tiny changes you would like to make to your life’, and ‘what might you have been if you had had a perfect childhood?’, and ‘what do you stand to gain by not doing your creative work?’. All these and more gave my imagination permission to expand in new and playful directions.
I really looked forward to my morning pages. I think it was the lack of pressure. When you spend much of your time trying hard to do things as well as possible, it is liberating to be allowed to do something badly. The morning pages are free space for my inner child to romp around, dancing, exploring or just having a giant tantrum. The lack of structure is unexpectedly powerful.
The other pillar of the scheme is called the “Artist Date”. This one was really quite challenging at the height of the lockdown. The idea behind it is that your inner artist is a child, and she needs space to play. At least once a week, I was to set aside a block of time to take myself on a date. The goal is self-nurture. I was instructed to spend quality time in solitude, pampering and listening to myself, on a regular basis.
Some of the book’s suggestions, like trips to the beach, a movie or an art gallery, were not possible during lockdown. I was forced to be creative, coming up with local walks in new places, home baking and reading novels in the back of my campervan (which quickly got too hot!). As lockdown has subsided I have been swimming outdoors and taking long coastal walks. I am becoming more accustomed to prioritising time for myself, instead of filling all my time with work and family duties.
As a card-carrying busy person, I have found it quite difficult to carve out a block of time for myself every week. But I can happily report that it is getting much easier, and the rewards are fantastic.
Everyone is an Artist
You do not have to think of yourself as an artist to benefit from “The Artist’s Way”. Julia Cameron’s thesis is that everyone is an artist. We are all creative, but many of us haven’t allowed given our inner artist the freedom she or he craves. Following this course is a great way to discover long-repressed dreams and talents. Who knows where it may lead?
Novel first draft
Following “The Artist’s Way” has helped me grow and develop myself through all the frustrations of lockdown. I have gained new confidence to devote time to my novel, Breaking the Waters. The first draft is almost done now. I’m very excited about this. Even more importantly, I have been able to use this special time to try new things, visit new places and explore myself.
Give it a try
I really recommend “The Artist’s Way” for anyone interested in self-nurture and creativity. You don’t need to be a writer, painter or sculptor, although if you are working on any type of creative project you may find the course especially inspirational. Since finishing the course I have missed the daily freedom it offers, so I think I will be beginning all over again. Why not give it a try? You don’t have to wake up at 5.30, by the way! Just find a time and space that works for you. Happy liberation!
You can purchase “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron from Amazon here.
Karen Lawrence is a writer, blogger, yoga teacher and reflexologist. She lives with her husband and several of her seven children in Billericay, Essex, UK.
You can read more of Karen’s writing here: https://karenlawrenceauthor.com/
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