I assume most artists are at least familiar with Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way. I had heard about it for years but wasn't really quite sure what it was all about. At the beginning of this year, I decided to get a few female artist friends together to tackle this book with each others support. Here are some of my thoughts on the book and my experiences.
My favourite thing about this whole process was the great group of girls that I did this alongside. We met up once a week to share our experiences and help push each other along. I loved seeing many tasks done so completely different as each of us saw it in a unique way. If anyone out there is considering trying out this book, I highly recommend finding a small group of other enthusiastic artists to do it with. Not even in the same field of art. I did it with two mixed media abstract painters, and two writer/actresses. We were likeminded in terms of very artistically driven and wanting to put our all into this, but creatively very different. This way we were able to share very contrasted perspectives, opening up new creative ideas to all of us.
In the book, it is a self guided twelve week course. There is a chapter to read and weekly tasks to complete. She doesn't expect you to complete all the tasks, but I liked her way of picking which ones to do if you don't have time. She says to pick those that appeal to you, and those you strongly resist. Leave the ones you feel neutral about to last. This way, you are doing tasks you are excited about, and also trying things that you would never try by doing the tasks that you would normally push hard against. Through the whole book, I did almost every task. Mostly for my own curiosity of what each task would bring. I was surprised by some that I thought I was excited about, but didn't have as much fun on them as I thought I would. But other tasks that I didn't have many feelings towards, brought some inspiring new things to light that I never would have experienced.
My first and most apparent hurdle that I found I had with this book, was her mention of god and praying and the other cheese in the book. Those things turned me right off. Absolutely no offence to anyone who has those beliefs. I think everyone should believe what you want, so long as your beliefs aren't hurting others and you aren't forcing other people to believe in your ideas. But for me personally, when she would talk about those things it would throw me right out of it and actually irritate me a little. She says though that she doesn't expect you to believe in the same things, and to change those words if you need. So whenever I saw them, I changed them to what was right for me, and that helped get past it.
(Getting back to nature)
There are a lot of things that I took from this book. Before this, I struggled to put my thoughts, emotions and ideas into words. I still struggle with that a lot. But with help of really writing EVERYTHING down and after filling an entire book in a couple months of writing morning pages, I guess I am now less afraid to at least try writing things out. I don't care as much anymore about perfection with writing. That is probably why I don't write much, and most of my art is visual. For those of you who aren't familiar with the book and don't know what morning pages are, they are basically a bit of a brain drain. Three pages that you write first thing in the morning about anything. It is just a way to clear your mind in the beginning of the day. I found it as a great tool to get rid of things on my mind that were bothering me. As a way to record it, lock it away, and get on with the rest of my day, rather than carrying it around with me. I haven't kept up with them so much since finishing, but I bring them back into my life here and there when I feel I really need them.
One of the other main core parts of the book is the Artist Date. The Artist Date is a block of time (a couple hours if you can, once a week) to do an excursion. The main rules, you must do it alone, and not to do what you THINK you should do. Do what intrigues and interests you. A sense of duty will numb you. Follow the sense of the mysterious, not your sense of what you should know more about. Change your usual route, try something different, let yourself play. Artist dates fill the well, your artistic reservoir. You have to replenish your creative resources as you draw on them, otherwise they will dry up. Since finishing the course, I am also not as strict with these as I was. I don't do them once a week, but I do make sure to still make time for them and continue to take time for myself whenever I can to explore or try something new.
(Trying new things)
I learned quite a lot about myself from this book. She talks a lot about negativity, jealousy, grief, artist blocks, criticism and failure and how to get over those hurdles. I learned more about my habits, where I need to be more strict with myself, where I really need to ease up on myself. Also things that I need in my life to continue to grow as an artist. Things that I put off and probably many other artists do. Needing to make sure I am taking time out of my day or at least week to try new things, or do activities that keep me happy and inspired. Drawing, painting, researching or even exploring subjects that aren't for a specific show or commission. This can open up new ideas or artistic paths that I would have never thought to wander down.
There were a lot of inspiring quotes and ideas through the whole book. I have pages and pages written out that I have saved to go back to when I need them. Here are a few!
"As artists, we cannot afford to think about who is getting ahead of us and how they don't deserve it. The desire to be better than, can choke off the simple desire to be. As artists, we cannot afford this thinking. It leads us away from our own voices. It asks us to define our own creativity in terms of someone else's."
"Anger is not meant to be acted out, or acted upon. It points the direction"
"As a creative being, you will become more productive when coaxed than when bullied"
"For an artist, withdrawal is necessary. An artist requires the healing of time alone. Without this period of recharging, we become depleted."
"Creative living requires the luxury of time, which we carve out for ourselves, even if it is as small as fifteen minutes."
"Art isn't about thinking something up, but getting something down."
"Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead. It is a closed system that causes you to get stuck in the details, and lose sight of the whole, Instead of creating freely and allowing errors to reveal themselves later as insights, we often get stuck in getting the details right."
"Perfectionism is not a quest for the best, It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough."
"We cannot escape fear. We can only transform it into a companion that accompanies us on all our exciting adventures. Take a risk a day. One small or bold stroke that will make you feel great once you have done it." -Susan Jeffers
"A risk is worth taking, simply for the sake of taking it."
"As working artists, we may want to explore a new artistic area, but we don't see where it will get us. We wonder if it will be good for our career. Fixated on the need to have something to show for our labours, we often deny our curiosities."
"A successful creative career is always built on successful creative failures, The trick is to survive them."
On creative drought - "In any creative life there are dry seasons. These droughts appear from nowhere. Life loses its sweetness, our work feels mechanical, empty, forced. We feel we have nothing to say, and we are tempted to say nothing."
"It is the ego's demand that our work be totally original. All work is influenced by other work, all people influenced by other people. Originality is the process of remaining true to ourselves."
"Many hits are sure things in retrospect. We call many creative swans, ugly ducklings. We abort the lives of awkward or unseemly projects that may be our finest work."
"To kill your dreams because they are irresponsible, is irresponsible to yourself."
"Creatives should remember to commit themselves not only to projects that are a sure thing, but also to those riskier projects that call to their creative souls. You don't need to overturn a successful career in order to find creative fulfillment. It is necessary to overturn each day's schedule slightly to allow for those small adjustments in daily trajectory that, over the long haul, alter the course and the satisfactions of our careers."
On creative growth - Climbing up the winding path of a mountain. As we climb it, we circle back on the same views, over and over, at slightly different altitudes. "I've been here before" we think, hitting a spell of drought. And in a sense, we have been. The road is never straight, doubling back on itself. Rough terrain or storms. A fog may obscure the way we are going and how far we have come. The occasional vista may dazzle us. We must proceed one step at a time, focusing on the path beneath our feet as much as the height still before us.
"As grey, as controlled, as dreamless as we may strive to be, the fire of our dreams will not stay buried. The embers are always there, stirring in our frozen souls like winter leaves."
If you have made it this far in reading my little blog post, I would like to give you a little task. I challenge you to take yourself on an artist date. I would love to hear what you did and your experience with it - did you love it, did you hate it, did you become inspired?
One last thing, a little shout out to my fellow lovely art ladies that went through the artist way with me.
Julia Pileggi http://www.juliapileggi.com/
Souzan Rezai http://www.theoddbear.com/
Lisa Wills http://www.lwills.ca/