Sunday, 5 January 2014

by Julia Cameron

Countless people have said that this book was instrumental in enabling them to find the ‘vein’ of creative gold they instinctively felt to be present inside but that had seemed, until then, to be remote and inaccessible. 

I believe that, whether we consider ourselves artists or not, we are all instinctively creative beings.  Look at the cornucopia of magazines and television programmes inspiring us to re-create our homes and our gardens; see how attendance at art exhibitions has risen so sharply in recent years (The Louvre in Paris attracting over nine and half million visitors in 2012, with the Tate Modern attracting just under five and a half million visitors in the same year); notice how YouTube is saturated with shared music that brings so many millions utter joy; just peek into a bookshop and see tables and shelves aglow with the work of inspired writers and illustrators; glance through people’s windows as you walk by and see flowers in funky vases, not to mention paintings and photographs framed in fur and mosaic and perspex, and chandeliers made from twisted cutlery and....

We are such sparky beings, and there seems to be no end to the variations seen in the field of design, be it in the world of cars or furniture or ceramics or perfume bottles or socks or airport concourses ... We delight in it and would, I believe, go into a very real decline as a society if such expression was quelled and quashed.

But, moving on a little into the more private world that we each inhabit, some of us find ourselves yearning and dissatisfied, and often we cannot work out why.  It is almost as though the beauty external to ourselves, in nature and in that created by our fellows, causes a dawning sense of wild homesickness.   Something deep within starts to stir, and almost immediately we close it down.  It is a whisper .... I could do that.  I want to do that.  But .... I can’t.  I am not an artist.  I can’t. 

Julia Cameron, in her wise and deeply spiritual book, tells us otherwise.  She declares, on behalf of each and every one of us, that we are born creative.  We need only to identify and then gently and lovingly dismantle the barriers that are holding us from this natural creativity.  She has written a book which invites us to re-discover and embrace our inner artist, and although it asks for a commitment to ‘creative recovery’ that can sometimes feel uncomfortable (and even painful), it is chockful of intoxicating tasks and games which very soon start to bring a joyful sense of recognition ... a recognition that we are so much bigger than our conditioning and our upbringing and our teachers and our society have led us to believe!  We recognise that a huge part of ourselves has been temporarily disowned, placed in the shadows.  Synchronicities begin to happen in our lives which give us a startling and delicious sense that we are part of a universe which is friendly, supportive, eager for our fulfilment.  

She has created a course comprising twelve weekly sessions, each of which presents tasks that unmask the self-appointed tyrants of perfectionism, self-criticism and downright fear (fear of failure, of scorn from peers etc), and which very quickly reveal the riches beneath. 

One is, in addition, asked to gift oneself with a little extra time, each morning before rising, in which to write of one’s joys, one’s gripes, one’s conundrums and certainties, one’s current state of mind, anything that is filling one’s mind, on three sides of A4 paper.  This is a powerful process, which somehow or another creates space and clarity and an increased intuitive sense.  Basically, these ‘Morning Pages’ give you permission to be who you are.  They are a radical invitation to self-acceptance.  They enable you to honour the true you.  And when you honour yourself, all self-criticism is rendered impotent and irrelevant, and the creative energy that is waiting to flow, flows ... through you ... with no resistance.

And how about this ... the Artist’s Date!  You give yourself permission to joyfully go on a weekly date with yourself!  On this date, you do things, buy things, see things, which feed your inner artist.  The deal is, the instruction if you like, is that no-one comes with you.  You choose; you experience; you enjoy.  You commit yourself to a time each week in which you nurture and feed your neglected creative soul.  The relief and joy this brings cannot be over-stated.  This is another statement given to yourself: no matter what, this date is an important commitment to enable myself to completely embrace my full creative nature.  None of this need cost very much money necessarily.  After all, your inner artist is a child needing nurturing and fun, and it is the attention and time which is important.  A solitary visit to a gallery or the bookshop cafe.  A search for as many gargoyles on as many churches as possible in an afternoon.  Going back for the pair of hand-made earrings you saw last time at the weekly craft market.  Treating yourself to your favourite author’s new novel in hardback, thus honouring and supporting yourself and the author.  A visit to the art shop to pick up a box of handmade pastels.   The purchase of ten exquisite postcards showing your favourite works of art.  

These tasks, which of course could be seen as daily/weekly rituals regardless of whether one follows The Artist's Way, contain a strangely mysterious power.  We come face to face with a self we might have lost sight of, even mourned.

I may run some courses here in my home town.  In the meantime, the book remains on my shelf:

Click here to see 'The Artist's Way' description and reviews.


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