I have, once again, started reading The Artist’s Way. I bought it a while ago at a library book sale, because it is One Of Those Books; the kind I should read and want to read but I never quite get to it. Or I read the first chapter and decide – yes! I am going to do this! And then I discover Pinterest.
It’s not just a book; it is an in-depth course in jump-starting your creativity. So, I thought I’d talk about it here, as a sort of public commitment to the process. I’ve been doing Morning Pages for a while now, albeit with sporadic levels of enthusiasm and consistency. (Morning pages, if you are not familiar, are three pages of unedited, stream of consciousness writing that are done on a daily basis.) The writing is pretty much garbage, but my hope is that I can subject the private morning pages notebook to my terrible prose and get it out of my system so you nice people don’t have to read it on my blog. Plus, I get out all my crazy, manic issues on the page, and I’ve found that they are less likely to surface at inopportune moments.
In order to really get into the book and the program, I need to deal with some labeling issues that I am finding myself tripped up by. Namely, am I declaring myself an artist by participating in this creative process? If I’m an artist doesn’t that mean I have to leave my husband, live in a SOHO loft, take up binge drinking and wear flamboyant pants? Don’t I have to suffer?
I was listening to an NPR interview recently, with an acclaimed young writer. Her first novel is getting tons of attention, and she was asked how it felt. She laughed and she had a hard time defining herself as a writer, let alone a successful one.
I, too, struggle to claim the title of writer. Clearly, the fact that I’ve been writing stories since I could hold a crayon and have a hard time going a whole day without expressing myself on paper is not enough. Because when you tell people at a party that you are a writer – or an actor or painter or anything else that feels artsy – you are automatically required to prove it somehow, as if you are alleging to be a unicorn. The lack of official credentials seems to relegate artistic pursuits to a murky fantasy world that isn’t quite legit. No one does that with plumbers. No one puts on the cynical face and says “Oh yeah? What do you plumb?”
It’s not fair. We need art in this world, just as much as we need that leaky faucet to be repaired.
I’m enjoying this book and the ensuing artistic adventure thus far, and Julia Cameron speaks to my love to awakening to life. She says wonderful and relevant things, like:
The precise moment I was in was always the only safe place for me. Each moment, when taken alone, was always bareable. In the exact now, we are all, always, all right. Yesterday the marriage might have ended. Tomorrow the cat might die. The phone call from the lover, for all my waiting, may never come, but just at the moment, just now, that’s all right. I am breathing in and out.
So, through all this murkiness of labels and self-definition, I delve into the Artist’s Way. It really is an amazing spiritual journey and anyone could benefit from this chance to get to know yourself a little better. Even if you think there is no art in you at all. Even if you are a plumber.
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