The Artist’s Way is a twelve week course in rediscovering your creative self. I mentioned this time last week that I was planning to take myself on this creative adventure and to my surprise many of you were keen to join me. So for all of those out there in internet land that are sitting down to week one reflective questions, getting prepared to begin your journey, awaiting the arrival of their book or e-course, or who are just all ’round curious as to how it all works. Welcome!
The Commitment Contract
Each week author Julia Cameron provides a new ‘recovery’ theme, readings, activities, a set of tasks and a set of reflective questions to tackle. Before committing to the firsts weeks activities one must sign a ‘creative contract’ to commit themselves to the course. The contract warns that the journey will require time and effort and may raise emotional issues. One of the key reasons I decided to embark upon this journey was for a daily commitment. The lives of two scientists can often be chaotic; between the Mr’s overseas work trips, and my unpredictable plant science schedule that is literally dictated by the weather, I was craving some kind of daily routine. Signing up to weekly readings, daily writing, dates with my inner artist, and weekly tasks seems to have sorted my cravings out nicely.
As part of the commitment contract I am signed up to ‘excellent personal care’ throughout the course meaning plenty of sleep, exercise, healthy food, and pampering. Being a pretty good sleeper, committed exerciser and healthy eater I decided to ramp up the pampering (something I am not so good at) by treating myself to beach front yoga sessions in the morning. It has taken some self organisation but the results have been BLISSFUL! Above is my ‘yoga studio’ view (sorry for the grainy phone photo, but I don’t want to lug the big camera to the beach).
Weekly Tasks and Reading Review: Week 1
This weeks theme was ‘Recovering a Sense of Safety’. The theme is based around the idea that in order to create we need to feel a sense of support surrounding our creative endeavours. The theme looks at two different ways that our sense of safety or security as an artist can be compromised. We may be battling external demons, like the first grade teacher who told you that you ‘weren’t very good at colouring between the lines‘, or perhaps the parents or careers councillor that stated that ‘artists don’t make any money, be a doctor instead‘ . The second way that we can feel a sense of insecurity about creativity is internal negativity, this can build as a result of external forces, such as ‘mum was right, artists never make money, I better be a doctor instead‘, or as something we develop from our own perceptions or ego ‘I’m far too busy to be creative‘. Whatever the source of the negativity, we can knowingly or unknowingly hold onto these beliefs and they can cause blockages in our creative energies.
Many of the tasks for this week were based around the negative criticism that we have been subjected to throughout our past ventures. Luckily for me, despite the hours of reflection, I couldn’t find any damaging negative comments in my past. There were a few silly events I could come up with, like the time a professor insisted on giving me shoddy marks for a book review despite my protest (I knew I deserved better), then later finding out that a guy I knew who didn’t even read the book or own a copy for that matter got better grades than me. These kind of events make me laugh more than anything which made my attempts to answer many of this weeks questions quite ‘light on’ for content. Fortunately there were plenty of opportunities to reflect on the positivity that others have provided regarding past creative pursuits. These were fun and inspiring to work with and made me feel a sense of gratitude for my past experiences.
Of the weeks tasks I found that tackling my own personal negativity was the most beneficial. Cameron offers many creative affirmations to work with such as ‘I am willing to use my creative talents‘. For many of us using affirmations will let out those pesky mind demons, or as Cameron calls them ‘blurts’. Those are the little voices in your head that like to rebut our positive affirmations. Stating to yourself ‘I am willing to use my creative talents‘ might result in your mind demons blurting back ‘yeah sure, you are willing but good luck finding the time‘. Using some of the techniques provided in the book, along with some other resources that I will discuss next, I have been feeling very positive about my creative energy and I’m only one week in! Brilliant!
Checking in and Reflecting
Ok, so with the weekly tasks discussed it’s time to look at how I went. Some of the issues I had with this week is that I didn’t have enough issues. This is a nice problem to have because it made me realise how lucky I am to have had my creative ventures so strongly supported by everyone that I meet. On the other hand it made me wonder if I am completely oblivious to negative feedback regarding my creative pursuits? Either way I am a happy camper and have no complaints!
As part of the course I am now committed to three pages of writing every morning. Being someone who is quite diligent about ‘getting things done’ (I blame being a Virgo for this) I have found morning pages to be a fun and easy addition to my day. After morning meditation I sit down with my pen and paper and write whatever junk happens to come my way. The first rule of morning pages is to not talk about morning pages, the second rule of morning pages is to not re-read your morning pages. I’m now breaking rule one and stating that my morning pages began with a man who had a magical talking pet camel and was trekking across the desert of desserts, and has ended in a serious reflection on my goals, dreams, and attitudes towards creativity. Morning pages are a really fun and totally unpredictable experience. I believe my crazy ideas were reined in from the first days pages to todays pages by the books I discovered on my Artist Date, which I will now discuss.
An artist date is a personal commitment to your creative self. On an artist date you are required to do something you enjoy, something that will make your soul do a cartwheel with glee. To be totally honest I wasn’t very good at thinking of an artist date for myself that could follow on from the excitement of attending the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition. It was a hard one to top. So rather than getting my hopes up or trying to ‘top’ the JPG experience, I just went for a bit of a wander.
Artists Date: Manifest Your Destiny
My meandering took me right past the op-shop (as it often does) and I ended up in the book section debating the purchase of a book by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer titled ‘Manifest Your Destiny‘. Being a woman who enjoys a cosmic gamble I said to myself ‘if I have money in my purse I can buy this book’. I hardly ever carry cash and three dollars was a stretch. The universe accepted my challenge and I had two one dollar coins, a fifty cent piece, one twenty, two tens and two fives, exactly three dollars in the most obscure denominations possible. I devoured this book in one day. It was a fabulous read and I can recommend it to anyone who is interested in developing their ability to understand and channel their energy. Science is often an industry that is depicted as ‘separate’ from spirituality which makes little sense to me when science works on the principles that ‘energy cannot be created or destroyed’. For me, the way that Dyer explains the principles of manifestation is perfectly in alignment with my studies as a scientist and as a yoga instructor.
Artists Date: Thrive
After reading and putting in place some of the practises of the nine principles I ‘came across’ (one of the rules of manifestation is to not gloat about manifesting so for now I ‘came across’) the very book I had been drawn towards while purchasing The Artist’s Way, at a price I could afford, ‘Thrive’ by Arianna Huffington. Thrive is part personal memoir, part researched self-help book from the co-founder of the Huffington Post. Huffington is calling on us to redefine the popular idea of success being based on our accumulation of monetary worth and power, to include what she refers to as the missing ‘third metric’ of well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving. She suggests that we take time out on a regular basis from our constantly connected lifestyles to look after our health, focus on increasing our wisdom (in particular getting in touch with our spiritual selves), stopping to smell the roses or gaze at the stars, and to opening practise giving without explications. Thrive has a very balanced and methodical approach to each of the areas of the third metric with ‘hard evidence’ in the form of scientific/academic studies. One such study by the Harvard Business Review caught my eye as it really backs the process of taking ‘time out’ for creative inspiration
‘When Creativity is under the gun, it usually ends up getting killed…Complex cognitive processing takes time and, without some reasonable time for that processing, creativity is almost impossible.’
Reflection on Week One
For me, the experience of committing to my creativity with The Artists Way, then finding the very tool I have been requiring to hone in my energies to create a world that fosters my sustainability ventures with Manifest Your Destiny, and having the ‘handbook’ for shaking off the stresses of modern living in Thrive, has made my first week of the course a very successful one. I know it seems a little like Alice’s adventures down the rabbit hole to start at one book and end up at two other ones, but creativity is unpredictable and that is why it is so much for to explore!
Looking forward to hearing any throughs, experiences or feedback you have had either working through your own artists adventure, or any queries or comments you might have as curious/interested parties.
Very excited to be sharing this adventure with you. Please leave your comments below.
Ps. Photos are random ones from my week all taken with my iPhone.