I have never been one to read only one book at a time. I usually have at least two, often three books going at once. While I have been fairly dedicated to getting through Shogun lately I have been thumbing through a few other volumes that I keep by my reading chair. These are usually books on spirituality or motivation, poetry collections or theology.
One book that I’ve pulled off the shelf to start again is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It is a book about unblocking creativity. For those new to me I am a writer, or rather, a would-be writer. I do, however, carry a lot of baggage from the life behind me; no details here. That would be another blog for another time, possibly another place. But I definitely have a struggle with getting the flow of creativity off the ground. It is sometimes like the first flight of the Wright Brothers; the plane gets off the ground and glides above the surface of the sand dunes for a few minutes before crashing to the ground. Like the Brothers Wright I get all excited over the few moments of flight. Unlike the Wrights I jump and clap excitedly then I return to the workaday world and I forget to keep the creative flow going.
I’ve started Julia Cameron’s twelve week exercise before but I always manage to talk myself out of it around week three or four. I should note that in the introduction Cameron predicts this will happen to many people so I’m not unique in that respect. This time I intend to complete the twelve weeks. I figure either one of two things will happen. At the end of twelve weeks I will have seen some efficacy and will be seeing my way to embracing creative flow, running with it, working within it, and finally get all these projects I’ve started finished, and find the avenue to start pouring out all the ideas that keep banging around in my head, or I will have read a pretty good book with lots of pretty motivational quotes in the margins of each page, and will have ticked off another slot on the Journey of One Hundred Books.
There are two things at the start of the book that I like. I’ve liked them each time I’ve picked up the book and toyed with completing the course. One is the contract. Cameron calls you to be accountable to yourself and actually sign a contract with yourself.
I, ___________________________________, understand that I am undertaking an intensive, guided encounter with my own creativity. I commit myself to the twelve-week duration of the course. I, ________________________________, commit to weekly reading, daily morning pages, a weekly artist date, and the fulfillment of each week’s tasks.
I, ___________________________________, further understand that this course will raise issues and emotions for me to deal with. I, ______________________________, commit myself to excellent self-care–adequate sleep, diet, exercise and pampering–for the duration of the course.
I also like her list of The 10 Basic Principles.
- Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative energy.
- There is an underlying, in-dwelling creative force infusing all of life — including ourselves.
- When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the creator’s creativity within us and our lives.
- We are, ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves.
- Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.
- The refusal to be creative is self-will and is counter to our true nature.
- When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to God: good orderly direction.
- As we open our creative channel to the creator, many gentle but powerful changes are to be expected.
- It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity.
- Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward our dreams, we move toward our divinity.
She also advises the use of two tools that need to be used regularly; The Morning Pages and The Artist Date. The Morning Pages is a daily brain dump. Your start your day writing three pages of whatever is in your stream of consciousness. You don’t think about, you don’t edit it, you don’t judge it, you just write for three pages without stopping. Sometimes you simply write “I can’t think of anything to write” over and over again until eventually something vomits out of your brain. The thrust is to keep the pen to the paper and in motion. I have found using it in the past that it can clear the brain for the rest of the day. Sometimes you will state a problem or conundrum you have just to have the answer pop up a day or two later simply because you got it out of the way. The second, The Artist Date, is a commitment to you to spend one to two hours per week with yourself; just you and your inner artist. No kids. No significant other. It could be time in a coffee shop, time in an art gallery, time walking a trail, as long as it is time committed to spending time with you. These two are very powerful tools if taken seriously.
So the final step for me at this point is to jump in and commit to twelve weeks of doing the advised exercises, the two basic tools, and being accountable to myself.
Here’s to the second book on my list.