I’m wrapping up my first class teaching the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and getting set for a new class to begin in February. This was my second close reading of the book after completing taking the class as a student.
If you aren’t familiar with the Artist’s Way, this book has been in print since the early nineties and has been used by countless creatives–writers, artists, directors, jewelry makers, chefs, homemakers, and anyone who wants to nurture their inner artist. I’m convinced that you could read this book all the way through one hundred times and still find something new waiting for you. The inspirational quotes alone are worth the price of admission.
Morning Pages are useful for a number of reasons. They can be used to muse and record what happened to you yesterday. They can be used to plan the day ahead. They can be used to get out negative emotion. And then they can be used to create. During the Artist’s Way process you are asked to simply write three pages every day. You can use the tasks included in the book as writing starts. Some people find they love the daily writing, others eventually realize that they would like to take that time and spend it toward their art instead, but the act of writing while you are reading through the book is essential.
Don’t Read the Book Alone or you will miss out on a great opportunity for discussion and to make new creative friends. You also increase your chances of not finishing the book or the process. The class I initially took is still meeting every few months for a reunion and to catch up. Our last meeting was full of great sharing and stories of how the course and book sparked action and changes in our lives. My current group has said they hate to see it end because they look forward to meeting every week. If you read the book along you miss a chance at building a community.
Artist’s Dates are essential even the small last minute ones. As part of the course you are expected to take yourself out on a date every week to begin exploring. This is sometimes the hardest to fit in, but has the largest rewards to those who follow-through. It could be going to a movie alone, taking a stop at the antique store you pass every day, browsing a fabric or book store, seeing a new show at a local museum, or showing up early to meet friends for happy hour and to have a few minutes to sketch. Our lives are so busy, and particularly for women we get so caught up in taking care of others or putting our all in at work, but Artist’s Dates allow us to spend time doing the things we’ve been wanting to do without having to worry about what others want to do. Artist’s Dates also help you define your interests and finally your Art itself.
No Reading Week in Week 4 needs to be replaced with No Social Media Week or Digital Minimalism. If I could change anything in the book is THE ONLY THING. When the book was written there was no internet and no Netflix. We’ve moved on from mindless reading to mindless scrolling. After going through this twice and coming to Week 4 and seeing my own reaction and others, it is better to replace this with a week where you put the endless scrolling or binge on hold.
Practicing Art is what will get you past being blocked. The book has many tasks and exercises throughout that will help unblock you, but you also need to realize that practicing art is just that–practice. Art does not come out all pretty and perfect no matter how much we wish it would and this idea of perfection is often what holds us back. You need to start creating art–even bad art to get better. You also need to do the emotional work to find out what until this moment has kept you from creating. I find it interesting that a lot of students end up going back to their “first interest” art. When you were a child you drew or danced and created and didn’t care. Working through the Artist’s Way will help bring back that since of play. For me that play begins with sketching and drawing just like I did when I was in school, and it is still fun.