The Artist’s Way: Week 10 – Recovering a Sense of Self Protection
This is an ongoing series about my experiences with Julia Cameron’s program, The Artist’s Way: A spiritual path to higher creativity. It’s a 12 week program designed to help reboot your creative process. After hearing about it from several friends over the past few years, I gathered a group of like minded creatives and we are embarking on this journey together! You can find the other related entries HERE.
Choose Your Poison:
This week’s reading focused on some of the habits that can derail us from our creative unblocking. Cameron starts by listing the usual suspects: over-eating, drinking, drugs, unhealthy dramatic relationships. The one that really stuck out for me was work.
“For many, work is the block of choice. Busy, busy, busy, they grab or tasks to numb themselves with.”
Cameron theorizes that our focus on being so busy is a fear response to block the flow of creative energy. If people are too busy to write morning pages, she says, they are probably too busy hear the voice of an authentic creative urge. She goes on to describe how in our society, being busy has been traditionally associated with something good. “The truth is, we are very often working to avoid ourselves, our spouses, our real feelings.”
Thanks for that punch of the face, Julia. Talk about a truth bomb. There are days where I didn’t do my morning pages, or go for a walk because I was “too busy.” When in reality, I just wanted to keep myself occupied so that I didn’t have to think about the scary creative risks I dreamed of taking. The chapter included a handy workaholism quiz, and I was surprised to see how often I made choices that de-prioritized the things that I had described in my pages as being “essential to my mental and emotional well being.”
The Drought and The Fame:
Cameron mentions the cyclical nature of creativity and how everyone will, at some point, experience a creative drought. A drought can be devastating because it is essentially a crisis of faith, a deep rooted fear that we have tapped out our creativity, have lost the ability to make anything new.
I regularly feel this way after a big project, as though I have used up all my ideas. I can attest from my own personal experience that it is terrifying. And yet, this is the time when we have to stick to our morning pages the most, even when they feel horrible and empty. We don’t know it yet, but we are really just giving ourselves the time to replenish. By simply focusing on being present and treating ourselves kindly, we will eventually find our way back to that creative source.
The chapter also covers the concept of fame, the idea that being recognized is a direct link to the scope of your talent. Being solely focused on it can be dangerous, Cameron cautions. The point of the work is the work. Instead of focusing on this lack of recognition, we should instead realize that fame is really just our attempt to attain self-approval. Focus on creating the work for the love of the work not the possible financial rewards.
In that same vein, she encourages us to see competition as proof of a market’s viability. To think “this can be done,” instead of “they’ve succeeded instead of me.” I am guilty of this in my writing for sure. I will come up with an idea for a book and then a quick google search will turn up someone who is inevitably brilliant who has written a book on the exact same topic. Instead of being rational and thinking, “great, this will help me anchor my position even more,” I think “this person is a genius, they have said everything I wanted to say so what’s the point?”
Jesse always like to remind me that bookstores are filled with hundreds, if not thousands of books about the same topic. How many books are there on technology? Creativity? Innovation? Too many to count. Now, I am teaching myself to focus on joining this ongoing dialogue instead of being a creator that exists in a vacuum. Being competitive makes you take snap judgements – quickly discarding ideas and possibilities because they won’t help you “compete.”
“Never ever judge a fledging piece of work too quickly. Be willing to paint or write badly while your ego yelps resistance. Your bad writing may be the syntactical breakdown necessary for a shift in your style. Art needs time to incubate, to sprawl a little, to be ungainly and misshapen and finally emerge at itself.”
The Bottom Line:
My favorite task this week was an exercise called “The Bottom Line,” about carving out our own boundaries to protect our creative space. Mine included writing my morning pages, meditation, and working out. It also includes carving out at least one three hour window to work on my manuscript every day. I have started to guard my time, ruthlessly cutting out anything that threatens to distract me from doing the work that needs to get done. I have started leaving my cellphone away from my computer, and decreasing my time on social media to a few concentrated and scheduled bursts a day. The result? Oodles of time that has opened up for me to write.
There are only two weeks left to go! Next week, we’ll look at our sense of autonomy, and the ways that success must be handled in order to thrive.