The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron

I read this book during the Easter Weekend, in a lovely hotel on the Baltic seaside. The weather was far from spring, we actually had snow on the first night and a storm on the lat day, but having a room with sea-view is always amazing. Just hearing the constant roar of waves calms me down and helps to put things in perspective.

I bought this book for my mum few months ago, and because recently I felt stuck, not capable of doing anything creative (including writing this blog) I asked her to take it with her for our retreat. I was already aware of one of the main techniques advocated by the book – the morning pages, I actually have been doing this religiously for few months now, not as means to unleash my creativity, but more as means to calm my anxiety, either way it works, so I needed no convincing here. I read the book in two days, growing more and more annoyed with each page. The skeptic again…

It is not a bad book and it made me realize two things I’ll get to a bit later, but what really got on my nerves was the whole spiritual babble (you see, the skeptic), at the beginning of the book it was still tolerable, but I think around week 8 it became too much and I started skipping whole sections. My goal was to read the book and see if I’d like to have my own copy to actually go through the 12 weeks program. I still haven’t made up my mind, on one hand I am tempted, because it’s not only about creativity but also self-care, on the other I am not that much of  a spiritual person. I’ll give it few days/weeks and will come back to the topic.

Basically the book describes a 12 weeks long program of recovering and caring about your creative side. Cameron believes that we are all creative at heart and that creativity is not something reserved for the few talented individuals, a belief I do share, maybe we shouldn’t all publish or play gigs, but certainly we can all be creative. This does require a certain degree of selfishness and navel-gazing, not in a bad way, but to become creative we have to have time for ourselves, it really is difficult to be creative in a group, or with your loved one, especially if creativity is understood as self-expression, we need a self to express. All things I agree with, but the whole talk about spiritual force flowing through us, the god, the energetic connection, this just puts me off. As you can see this is probably not for everyone, but even for a person like me it has its advantages. I did learn two things and I do plan to apply at least one more technique from this book.

What did I learn? You cannot be an intellectual and an artist at the same time, in the same moment (that is not to say you cannot be both throughout your life, just not in the same second), this is something that felt obvious to me when I read it, but never crossed my mind before. I was always intellectually focused, but also dabbled creatively, so I did both, but I never noticed how differently I use my brain in both. My intellectual brain is set on taking things in and analyzing them, learning, reading, listening, watching and then associating, categorizing, making sense. But to be creative you need to set your brain on giving things out, on synthesizing rather than analyzing, focus on talking, writing, playing. It’s a different set of verbs, a lot more active for creativity than the passive ones describing intellectual part of my brain.

The other thing I realized was that I haven’t had fun in years. I do many things and a lot of them bring me joy, but they always have a purpose, it’s been ages since I had fun for fun’s sake. What do grown up people do for fun? Sad isn’t it? But now that I realized it I can do something about it. Because of that I want to use one more technique that Cameron wrote about: artist’s date. She proposes to have a block of time, around two hours weekly, to do something for our creative self, almost a play date. It should be planned and defended and needs to be done alone, it can be anything, a walk, an adventure, a visit in toy store, anything that is not a chore and has nothing to do with our routine life. It’s like skipping school to go do something fun, just now that we’re grown ups we have to skip our daily routine (nothing will happen if the laundry is done a day late). I definitely want to try this, but I also feel it will be challenging, as I do have tendency to use my ‘me time’ to catch up on my duties. But I am gonna fight for my right… to have fun.

There is one more technique that Cameron described that I am certain helps your creativity flourish, but this one is so difficult that I am dreading it: reading deprivation. Basically it is about not reading anything for a week. Painful, eh? I read a lot and I read everything (it’s known that I read medicine leaflets when there’s no other reading matter). Now imagine I’m not supposed to read for a week, what will my brain do? Well according to Cameron it’ll do what all kids do, become bored and then devise its own entertainment i.e. become creative. If it’s not fed stimuli, information, does not have to constantly analyze, ingest, judge, decide, process, it will have time and space to do its own thing. I’m pretty sure it would work, but I am too scared yet to try.

As you can see it is definitely a book that makes an impression, even if it’s a mixed one.

A question to all of you: What do grown up people do for fun? What do you do?

Let me know in comments.

Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska 

7 thoughts on “The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron

  1. Sarah

    I’ve used this book over and over again, and have found it to be a lifeline in helping me to overcome creative block. However, I totally agree with you about the spiritual babble. I have to skim over the god stuff as that doesn’t sit comfortably with me (read: drives me nuts!)
    Of all the recommended practices, I’ve found the morning pages and artist’s date to be the most effective, although I find the latter the most difficult to stick to. Have fun on your play-dates! 🙂


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