Rather than explore a physical trip to “juice up” creatively, I thought I would reflect on an inner journey, and a life-changing book I’ve read that continues to inspire me.
Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity was first published in 1992. It was written to help people with artistic creative recovery and is still popular and respected today. Within this 12-week creativity course, Cameron correlates the connection between artistic creativity and a spiritual connection to God as she explores techniques and exercises that can help people to harness their creative talents and gain more self-confidence.
Back to the Beginning
I first read The Artist’s Way nearly twenty years ago, and still use some of the tools found in its pages. As I recently paged through it quickly for a bit of inspiration, I realized that I could benefit from another full reading, exploration, and active engagement with the exercises within. Flipping through the pages was like entering a world I am extremely familiar with. Yet, I realized there are many useful nuggets that I’ve forgotten.
Two Pivotal Tools
Since first reading the book, I have done my best to practice what Cameron considers the “two pivotal tools in creative recovery”: “morning pages” and the “Artist Date”. However, so often, I have fallen off track. There have been large swaths of time—sometimes when I have been at my most creative, other times when I have felt blocked—that I have not practiced them.
Cameron defines morning pages as three pages of handwritten stream-of-consciousness writing. They are meant to be a way to set down whatever comes to mind. They are not meant to be art. The goal is to write without worry. It doesn’t need to be perfect. The idea is to get all the petty thoughts that stand between you and your creativity out on the page and to avoid censoring yourself.
Not a writer? Morning pages can still be a great way to get out of your head and make room to be creative. They can help you to follow the path to, and map out, your interior. They can help move you to any creative endeavor—design, photography, writing, painting, dancing, acting, problem-solving. One reviewer of the book, a painter, used morning pages to draw ideas, thoughts, and feelings rather than write them down.
Morning pages send your wishes, dreams, thoughts, feelings, etc. outward. The artist date is meant to take the world in, to fill the well. Artist dates can open you up to “insight, inspiration, guidance.” Schedule out a block of at least an hour or two weekly for you, and your inner artist, to nurture your creativity by going on an excursion or pursuing an activity alone. It can be a walk in nature, a drive to the country, a sports activity, listening to music…. Don’t be afraid to play and spend time pursuing an activity that really speaks to you.
I don’t always go on artist dates “solo”, it is the perfect way to try new things, do what speaks to you, and to honor what is important to your inner artist. Nantasket Beach Time Travel, Tapioca Memories and In the Boneyard are examples of solo excursions. I’ve spent other dates to learn new Illustrator techniques, draw and paint, walk the beach, play with forms, scrapbook, snap photos, make collages, and color.
THE ARTIST’S WAY
The Artist’s Way was self-published in 1991 by Julia Cameron and was originally titled Healing the Artist Within. After the book began to sell, the title was changed and it was published in 1992 by Jeremy Tarcher. The 25th Anniversary Edition was published in 2016.
In addition to the main tools of morning pages and artist dates, this 12-week creativity course provides several exercises a week. They are designed to help creatives, or those who want to be more creative, to remove artistic blocks, foster confidence, and gain artistic inspiration. Once you’ve checked out The Artist’s Way, look for and read the two companion books: Walking in this World: The Practical Art of Creativity and Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance.
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Buy a notebook and begin writing daily. Three pages. First thing in the morning. Don’t censor or judge yourself.
List five to ten activities that are meaningful to you, that can help nourish your creative spirit, that fill your soul. Then, book some time weekly — even just an hour or two — to pursue those activities. Make the commitment and don’t compromise it for anyone or anything.