When I was child I made several attempts to maintain a diary, each one short-lived, with my commitment lasting no longer than a few weeks. Suffice it to say, my history as a diarist is fickle.
Warning: the following paragraphs may contain phrases like 'spiritual task', 'shadow artist' and 'creative affirmations'.
If these words makes you cringe, if they send up red flags, or conjure up images of placards declaring 'Back Away! Back Away!' I promise I understand. I felt the same way. Sometimes I still do. But I can promise you this is not an article about Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and its ilk (although, if you want to listen to a hilarious discussion about this book check out episode 10 of the Banging Book Club podcast). If you can get past the self-help lingo–even better, erase the dreaded word from your vocabulary–I promise you that there's wisdom (not mine) to be found below.
Last week I started a 12-week course designed to recover and discover your Creative Self (cue the eye-rolling). Basically, it's supposed to help you sort your shit out. The course was created by Julia Cameron, a writer, director, and teacher, and is laid out in her book The Artist's Way, a self-help guide to freeing your creativity. I first learned of The Artist's Way through my twin sister who in turn read about it in the memoir Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod.
The Artist's Way is for 'anyone interested in living more creatively through practicing an art'. Although Cameron uses words like the 'Great Creator' and 'God' a belief in God is not necessary nor compulsory. Camerson writes, '… you may substitute the thought good orderly direction or flow. What we are talking about is a creative energy'. Personally, I like MacLeod's verson–a Mr Miyagi-clone she envisioned giving advice and projecting a sense of calm onto herself.
Before the weekly chapters, Cameron introduces the two basic tools of the course–the morning pages and the artist's date.
The morning pages are simply three pages of stream-of-consciousness thoughts, a 'brain dump' of anything that crosses your mind. Morning pages are a form of therapy, intended to eventually help you realise your (suppressed) hopes, dreams, and dissatisfactions with life. So far I'm enjoying this part of the course. I've managed to write three pages everyday, although I have failed to complete each entry in the morning. Still, I'm considering it a win. I'm able to write about the good things and acknowledge, and often move forward from, the bad. Of course, stationery geek that I am, the start of the morning pages was proceeded by a trip to Dymocks to buy the perfect notebook for the task because–priorities. In the end I went with a sunny yellow Zap notebook.
The artist date is intended to nurture 'your creative consciousness'. Ideally you go for a solo excursion for a couple of hours. I admit I'm cheating a little this week. I'm going to practice calligraphy at home, maybe go for a long walk or retreat to the park to read afterwards. After all, it will all still nurture my creative self or, as Cameron puts it, 'opening yourself to insight, inspiration, and guidance'. Next I'll week do it properly (I will!).
On top of these two tools, each chapter contains an essay, a list of exercises and tasks, and a weekly check-in. Week 1 challenges your core negative beliefs, exploring the notions you have developed over time that are holding you back. The chapter introduces the concept of shadow artists versus real artists and the use of affirmations to help with your self-improvment. I have to admit, I can't help but think of the self-help seminar in the Sex and the City episode (5x02). Not a great example of affirmations. Fortunately, Cameron writes in a relatable way, providing real life examples of participants in her workshops. For me, it's all about getting past the self-help language to the simple truths. In six weeks time I'll be checking-in again with a post about my experiences and opinions at hitting the half-way mark. Hopefully it will all have been worth it.
Until next time,