Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Journey with The Artist's Way

I started The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron back in September. A dear friend bought me the book a year ago and it sat on my bookshelf gathering dust.

Then out of nowhere, a wonderful neighbor bought me my very first journal. She told me she was starting an Artist's Way group and suggested I join. She told me that the book was designed to help blocked artists get 'unblocked.'

I hate any kind of commitment like this. It totally freaks me out. I am certain I will let down those around me and I always find an excuse not to finish what I have started. I know myself well enough not to commit to anything anymore.

I'm not sure what made me say yes. Probably it was her non-committal way of approaching me. We planned a quick meeting and that was over 12 weeks ago. I stuck with it the whole time. And it was an amazing journey. I thoroughly enjoyed the process and have learned so much from it. For me, it gave me permission to be a little less judgmental about my work and a little less hard on myself.

The first thing I actually committed to was something called morning pages. You must try and write three pages every morning, long hand. Some mornings I found that I had nothing to write so I just wrote, "I have nothing to say," over and over again! Some days I just worked out plot points for my book.

As hard as those three pages were to right every day, they became I kind of salvation. I had begun this blog and was determined to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. The kids started school and I felt such remorse. I needed to face the fact that my kids didn't need me as much anymore. So, I wrote my morning pages, wrote my blog and then began writing my novel.

Ms. Cameron suggested that I take myself on an artist's date once a week for at least an hour. This hour needs to be spent alone doing anything at all. The purpose-- to fill the well. This ended up being the most difficult part of the process for me. I'm not exactly sure why, but I think the things I wanted to do, I wanted to share with someone else. The artist's date was meant for me and me alone. The weeks I did take myself out, I noticed things I would never have noticed before. It was astonishing. It was the small things that caught my eye and made me take pause.

At the end of the journey Cameron suggested that I look back at my morning pages. I was not suppose to read my morning pages until the end of the 12th week. And trust me I had no desire to do so. I recently got the nerve to read my thoughts. One of the members of my Artist's Way group suggested I share some of my words on my blog. I find them illuminating, funny and just so me...

"September 1, 2009

Up early for me this morning. But I'm wide awake. I knew I had these empty pages staring at me. What a joy to have something for me to do creatively. What a burden to have to something to do creatively. In my darkest moments I wonder what will sabotage me from this pursuit. I have a sharp pain in my left breast. Breast cancer? Chemo? Will this stop me? ..."

We started the group eight strong. Only three of us ended up finishing the book. Life got in the way for the other five people.

But I did it and the three of us are still meeting weekly. We are there for each other as creative support. We meet because it keeps us on track and honest. We meet because we know that "Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what people fear most." Fyodor Dostoyevski


  1. Terry... The Artist's Way sounds like the "Culture Club" on a more sophisticated (and meaningful!) level. Good for you! Have you tried drawing? Having never drawn in my life, it sure does inspire me to try new things, now that I am drawing landscape plans and perspectives. Sometimes even my bad drawings inspire me, by taking me in a whole new direction! It's lonely work, though. I sometimes have to fight that alone feeling from getting the better of me. I'm going to give the one hour a week thing a try... T

  2. Tomi...knowing me as well as you do you must have laughed when you read the first lines from my first morning pages. You were on to me way before I ever was!

  3. Fabulous post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and more importantly your feelings. You are not alone and your courage to put yourself out there is inspiring. Keep going. And don't forget to enjoy the journey along the way. You never know where it will lead, but the journey itself is its own reward.

  4. Thank you Anonymous. That makes me feel so good and just a little more brave!

  5. Hi Terry - Thank you for reminding me of this book and some of its most important concepts. A good friend of mine died very young and his fiancee (a writer and photographer) shared this book with me, explaining the ways in which the morning pages concept helped her focus her grief and emotions after his death.

    I think it might be time to get my own copy.

  6. I think I need the group to do this right ... or write depending upon how you look at it. I started and got really mad at The Artists Way becuase I felt like I had so much else to get done. It was another thing on the list! Isnt that sad? It should be the first thing on the list!! I may need to share another burrata...

  7. Emily I don't think I could have done this by myself. And you don't have to write everyday. People would come to our 30 minute meetings and say I didn't get a chance to write this week.

    BUT I would love to share another burrata.... And I have been diligently fixing the voice of my narrator!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Will way to go honey!! you are so good a it! maybe I can try that someday that will be fun! probably not! otherwise I will turn up as a snowball :( love you a lot! kitty

  9. will you look good in your alfet
    love Diego