Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Artist's Way to a Great New Year

Many many years ago, in 1995 in fact, I discovered Julia Cameron's THE ARTIST'S WAY. It was a fad back then, and since I was working as a paid freelance writer as a career, in addition to being a stay-at-home Mom at that time, the program was one that naturally appealed to me. Nearly every writer, artist, musician and free spirit who I encountered during the mid-90's was reading and doing, and discussing the 12 week Artist Way program.

The way it works is each week, there is a corresponding weekly chapter that you read about in the book, and then exercises related to whatever the theme for the week happens to be. In addition to the weekly reading and activities, there were two over-arching activities that a person does regularly throughout.

Two overarching and critical activities:

Morning Pages - each day, you write 3 pages of freehand journaling per day, preferably in the morning, before you go about your morning rountine - it's a first of the morning "mind dump" and is a mental dump not unlike the physical dump that happens each day in the bathroom. Rather gross, and I apologize, but it's true. Instead of the sweet little diary entries that many of us learned to write as kids, this is a release of all the mental stuff that is clogging up one's creativity - all the gripes, complaints, annoyances, fears and mental limitations that are preventing you from moving forward in every area of your life. You flush these negative feelings about your career, your relationships, your friendships, your finances and anything else into your Morning Pages and then release them, freeing yourself to move forward with your day less encumbered and hopefully freerer.

My feelings about this used to be mixed - I believed in "postive thinking" at the time, and was worried writing these bad, negative things would make me a negative person, since I tend to lean toward the negative anyway. Well, contrary to my fears, doing these Morning Pages each day really did make me feel better and perform more effectively. It truly DID seem to foster my creativity. Don't know why but it sure did. Just to be safe, I counterbalanced the Morning Pages with a separate small notebook I called "Evening Pages" and they were just a short list of 3 things I was grateful for that day - the good things that happened that I could appreciate and thus end the day on a high note.
Just to clarify: the Morning Pages aren't ALL negative - it is simply stream-of-consciousness writing - you write about absolutely anything that occurs to you until you write 3 complete pages - it can be about anything. But it's yours and should be totally uncensored. One thing that I used to do was write, at the beginning of the notebook, a caveat for my loved ones, just in case anything catastrophic ever happened to me and they read it. If I were concerned that something seriously might be miscontrued that I'd written in anger, then I might considered tearing up or removing those pages after the vent was complete. Kind of like writing a letter or email just to get the thoughts out - but never mailing it.

Artist's Date. Once each week, you plan something fun, creative and enriching to do to enhance your creativity. Rather it be coloring in a coloring book with crayons, spending the afternoon sitting in the park listening to classical music, spinning or knitting, or touring a museum or gallery - whatever it is, lofty or mundane, you do it unfailingly each week - preferably a different activity to add variety of stimulation into your life. Julia Cameron suggests the importance of doing this activity individually and not with spouse, friends, children, etc. However, this activity is so vital that I find myself sharing it with loved ones sometimes and find it enriches both my creativity AND my relationships with others.

In order to get back "into" the Artist Way mindset, I decided to buy The Artist's Way CDs so that I can listen to them in the car. Anyway, I am going to be starting The Artist Way program again as part of my new year's routine - so feel free to join in if you like.
In case you are put off by the word "Artist" and find yourself thinking, "But I'm not an Artist (with a capital "A") - why yes you are! We all are.


Rebecca said...

sounds lofty for me but i know you'll do great opening up in this way - enjoy the journey :D !

tina said...

I'm kind of inspired to do this!!!! which is really pretty crazypants b/c THIS artist barely has time to breathe. Now that I'm working so much more from home, my drive time listen time is less-------- but there is the whole iPod thing. I'm mulling------ I too read the book some time ago.