The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

Rating: 9.5/10

This is a great book for me even I am not an artist. The observations in this book not only apply for artists but also for entrepreneurs since both of them do not like rules and yearn for creative thinking. This book is easy to read with dedicated practices at the end of each chapter.

The author explains root cause of psychological and emotional feeling in each artists (actually in each of us). These feelings turn out to be myth and it creates lots of anxiety and stress on our mind which prevent us from taking actions.

What blocks artists (also entrepreneurs) are fear, censor and condition from surrounding environments.

Spiritual electricity

The heart of creativity is an experience of the mystical union; the heart of the mystical union is an experience of creativity.

When we engage in the creativity recovery, we enter into a withdrawal process from life as we know it. Withdrawal is another way of saying detachment or nonattachment, which is emblematic of consistent work with any meditation practice.

Many of us find that we have squandered our own creative energies by investing disproportionately in the lives, hopes, dreams, and plans of others.

The basic tools

Morning pages

Every morning write 3 pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness or whatever you have in your mind. It can be anything, don't feel embarrassed by it since you are the only person to read.

Worry about job, the laundry, being tired of doing chores -> write them down.

We are victims of our own internalized perfectionist, a nasty internal and external critics (The Censor). Stop taking the Censor as the voice of reason.

Do it everyday. Don't skip it regardless of your mood. Keep doing it until you fill 3 pages.

Morning pages get us to the other side of fear, of our negativity, of our moods. They get us beyond our Censor.

We have logic brain and artist brain. Logic brain(Our Censor) reasons everything and keep us survived. Artist brain is our inventor, our second thoughts. Morning pages teach logic brain to stand aside and artist brain play.

The artist date

An artist date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist.

You cannot afford not to find time for artist dates. Your artist is a child. Its time with a parent matters more than monies spent. Spending time in solitude with your artist child is essential to self-nurturing.

Our art is like a well/pond with fish inside. If we overfish the pond, there is diminished resources. The pond needs to be refilled.

Art is the imagination at play in the field of time. Let yourself play.

Week 1: Recovering a sense of safety

Shadow artists are people who do not realize their dream. It takes nurturing to make an artist. Shadow artists did not receive sufficient nurturing and often blame themselves for not acting fearlessly.

Your artists is a child. It needs to take baby steps. Judging your early artistic efforts is artist abuse. Remember that in order to recover as an artist, you must be willing to be a bad artist. Give yourself permission to be a beginner.

Your enemy within: core negative beliefs. You are attacked by the culture and people around you.

Your ally within: affirmative weapons. Affirm that you can be the artist you want.

Practice:

  • Every morning, spend half an hour to write 3 pages. Never read again, never let anyone read it.
  • Take yourself on an artist date. For example, take 5 dollars and go to your local shop.
  • Time travel: list 3 old enemies of your creative self-worth.
  • Imaginary lives: if you had five other lives to lead, what would you do (e.g. painter, computer hacker, country singer)? Do not overthink. The point is to have fun in doing them. Pick one and do a small trial this week.
  • Do check-ins every week. Remember that the recovery is yours.

Week 2: Recovering a sense of identity

Creativity flourishes when we have a sense of safety and self-acceptance. Just like a child, it needs protection from haters.

Creativity is blocked by our falling in with other people's plans for us. We want to set aside time for our creative work but we feel we should do something else. We are not focusing our responsibilities on ourselves but on others.

Soon enough, the techniques you learn will enable you to teach others. Soon enough, you will be a bridge that will allow others to cross over from self-doubt in to self-expression. You will learn that it's easier to write than not to write, to pain than not to paint => when practices become habit and "good addiction".

Very often, a creative block manifests itself as an addiction to fantasy. Rather than working or living the now, we spin our wheels and indulge in daydreams of could have, would have, should have. One of the great misconceptions about artistic life is that it entails great swathes of aimlessness. The truth is that a creative life involves great swathes of attention. Attention is a way to connect and survive.

Week 3: Recovering a sense of Power

Artists are intimidated by shaming. Artists must learn self-protective learn when criticism is appropriate and form whom. Not only the source but the timing is important.

Growth is an erratic movement: two steps forward, one step back. Growth occurs in spurts. You will lie dormant sometimes. Do not be discouraged. Thinks of it as resting. Very often, a week of insight is followed by a week of sluggishness.

Week 4: Recovering a sense of integrity

In order to have self-expression, we must first hav a self to express. This is the business of the morning pages.

The process of identifying a self inevitably involves loss as well as gain. We discover our boundaries, and those boundaries by definition separate us from our fellows. As we clarify our perceptions, we lose our misconceptions. As we eliminate ambiguity, we lose illusion as well. We arrive at clarity, and clarity creates change.

We often believe that creative life is grounded in fantasy. The more difficult truth is that creativity is grounded in reality, in the particular, the focused, the well observed or specifically imagined.

Art lies in the moment of encounter: we meet our truth and we meet ourselves; we meet ourselves and we meet our self-expression. We become original because we become something specific: an origin from which work flows.

Reading deprivation: no more reading. Without distractions, we are once again thrust into the sensory world. Reading deprivation casts us into our inner silence, a space some of us begin to immediately fill with new words - long, gossipy conversations, television bingeing, the radio as a constant, chatty companion.

Reading deprivation is a very powerful tool - and a very frightening one. Even thinking about it can bring up enormous rage. For most blocked creatives, reading is an addiction. We gobble the words of others rather than digest our own thoughts and feelings, rather than cook up something of our own.

Week 5: Recovering a sense of possibility

An artist must have downtime, time to do nothing. Defending our right to such time takes courage, conviction, and resiliency. Such time, space, and quiet will strike our family and friends as a withdrawal form them. It is.

Many recovering artists sabotage themselves most frequently by making nice. There is a tremendous cost to such ersatz virtue.

For example, a women who wants to take a pottery class could not take it because her duty with 2 children. She cancels pottery and plays the good mother - seething on the sidelines with resentments.

We strive to be good, to be nice, to be helpful, to be unselfish. We want to be generous, of service, of the world. But what we really want is to be left alone. When we can't get others to leave us alone, we eventually abandon ourselves.

Afraid to appear selfish, we lose our self. We become self-destructive. Because this self-murder is something we seek passively rather than consciously act out, we are often blind to its poisonous grip on us.

Creatives who are caught in the Virtue Trap sill cannot let themselves approve of this true self.

Week 6: Recovering a sense of abundance

Money is never an authentic block for artist. The actual block is our feeling of constriction, our sense of powerlessness. Art requires us to empower ourselves with choice. At the most basic level, this means choosing to do self-care.

For Alan, music is the great luxury. A musician when he was younger, he had long denied himself the right to play. Like most blocked creatives, he suffered from a deadly duo: artistic anorexia and prideful perfectionism.

For many blocked creatives, it takes a little work to even imagine ourselves having luxury. Luxury is a learned practice for most of us. Blocked creatives are. often the Cinderellas of the world. Focused no others at the expense of ourselves, we may even be threatened by the idea of spoiling ourselves for once.

Creative living requires the luxury of time & space, which we carve out for ourselves. Creativity lives in paradox: serious art is born from serious play.

Chapter 7: Recovering a sense of connection

The ability to listen is a skill we are honing with both morning pages and artistic dates. The pages train us to hear past our Censor. The artist dates help us to pick up the voice of inspiration.

Art is not about thinking something up. It is about the opposite - getting something down. The directions are important here.

If we think something up, we are straining to reach for something that's just beyond our grasp. If we get something down, there is no strain.

Perfectionism has nothing to do with standard. Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead. It is a loop - an obsessive, debilitating closed system that causes you to get stuck in the details of what you are writing or painting or making and to lose sight of the whole.

Instead of enjoying the process, the perfectionist is constantly grading the results. The perfectionist has married the logic side of the brain. To a perfectionist, there is always room for improvement. They call it humility but it is egotism.

The success of a creative recovery hinges on our ability to move out of the head and into action. This brings us squarely to risk. We are skilled speculators on the probable pain of self-exporsure.

We deny that in order to do something well we must first be willing to do it badly. Instead, we opt for setting our limits at the point where we feel ashamed of success. Living within these bounds, we feel safe. And safety is a very expensive illusion.

To put it differently, very often risk is worth taking simply for the sake of taking it. There is something enlivening about expanding our self-definition, and a risk does exactly that. Complete the following sentence: "If I didn't have to do it perfectly, I would try...".

Jealousy

Jealousy is a mask for fear: fear that we aren't able to get what we want; frustration that somebody else seems to getting what is rightfully ours even if we are too frightened to reach for it. Jealousy tells us there is room for only one - one poet, one painter, etc.

The truth is that there is room for all of us. Jealousy produces tunnel vision. It narrows our ability to see things in perspective.

Jealousy map exercise:

Write 3 columns in a paper: first is who you jealous with, second column is why and third column is action antidote.

Chapter 8: recovering a sense of Strength

All artists must learn the art of surviving loss: loss of hope, loss of face, loss money, loss of self-belief. In order to move through loss and beyond it, we must acknowledge it and share it. Because losses are seldom openly acknowledged, they become a scar for artists.

It took more years and more teaching for me (author) to realize that academia harbors a far more subtle and deadly foe to the creative spirit. Creativity cannot be comfortably quantified in intellectual terms. By its very nature, creativity eschews such containment.

Most academics know how to take something apart, but not how to assemble it. Student work, when scrutinized was seldom appreciated.

Like the career of any athlete, an artist's life will have its injuries. Give yourself the dignity of admitting your artistic wounds.

Gain disguised as loss

This is a potent artist's tool. The trick is to metabolize pain as energy. The key to doing that is to know, to trust, and to act as if a silver lining exists if you are only willing to look at the work differently or to walk through a different door, one that you may have balked at.

I listened to this conventional wisdom for a long time, racking up loss after loss, writing script after script. Finally after one loss too many, I began to look for the other door, the one I had refused to walk through. I decided to catch the ball; I became an independent filmmaker.

I have written hundred-plus film essays, film interviews, think pieces, trend pieces and more. Why all this diverse, hydra-headed productivity? Because I love movies, love making them and did not want my losses to take me down. I learned, when hit by loss, to ask the right question: "What next?" instead of "Why me?".

Whenever I am willing to ask "What is necessary next?" I have move ahead. Whenever I have taken no for a final answer I have stalled and gotten stuck. I have learned that the key to career resiliency is self-empowerment and choice.

Billy's note: we label ourselves by a job title and forget that there could be other open door for us. We can be something else disguised as by current work we are doing.

Artists who take this to heart survive and often prevail. The key here is action. Pain that is not used profitably quickly solidifies into a leaden heart, which makes any action difficult.

Age and time: product and process

"I am too old for that" ranks with "I don't have money for it". It is something we tell ourselves to save ourselves from the emotional cost of the ego delation involved in being a beginner.

"I am too old to go to film school", I told myself at 35. And when I got to film school I discovered that I was indeed fifteen years older than my classmates. I also discovered I had greater creative hunger, more life experience and much stronger learning curve. Now that I've taught in a film school myself, I find that very often my best students are those who came to their work late.

Creativity occurs in the moment, and in the moment we are timeless. We discover, that as we engage in a creative recovery. Kids are not self-conscious, and once we are actually in the flow of our creativity, neither are we.

Instead of allowing ourselves a creative journey, we focus on the length of the trip. "It's such a long way", we tell ourselves. It may be, but each day is just one more day with some motion in it, and that motion toward a goal is very enjoyable.

At the heart of the anorexia of artistic avoidance is the denial of process. We like to focus on having learned a skill or on having made an artwork. This attention to final form ignores the fact that creativity lies not in the done but in doing.

Focused on the process, our creative life retains a sense of adventure. Focused on the product, the same creative life can feel foolish and barren. We inherit the obsession with product and the idea that art produces finished product from our consumer-oriented society. Fixated on the need to have something to show for our labors, we often deny our curiosities. Every time we do this, we are blocked.

Our use of age as a block to creative work interlocks with our toxic finished-product thinking. We have set an appropriate age on certain activities: college graduation, going to med school, writing a first book. This artificial ego requirement asks us to be done when what we truly yearn for is to start something.

The race to beginner is always the best prayer for an artist. The beginner's humility and openness lead to exploration. Exploration leads to accomplishment. All of it begin at the beginning, with the first small and scary step.

Filling the form

Take small step instead of skipping ahead for large one.

When people look to having a more creative life, they think that they have to abandon their current life.

"I can't be a writer and stay in this marriage" or "I can't pursue my painting and stay at this dull job."

This is because blocked creatives think that they have to change their whole life in one fell swoop. By setting the jumps too high and making the price tag too great, the recovering artist sets defeat in motion. Fantasizing about pursuing our art full-time, we fail to pursue it part-time – or at all.

Creative life is grounded on many, many small steps and very, very few large leaps. Creativity requires activity but most of us hate to do something when we can obsess about something else instead.

In a creative career, thinking about the odds is a drink of emotional poison. It robs us of the dignity of art-as-process and puts us at the mercy of imagined powers out there.

As a rule of thumb, the odds are what we use to procrastinate about doing what comes next. This is our addiction to anxiety in lieu of action.

Filling the form means that we must work with what we have rather than languish in complaints over what we have not. As a director, I have noticed that the actors who get work are the actors who work – whether they are working or not.

Chapter 9: Recovering a sense of Compassion

Blocked artists are not lazy. They are blocked. Do not call the inability to start laziness. Call it fear.

Being blocked and being lazy are two different things. Blocked artist spends energy on self-hatred, on regret, on grief, and on jealousy. They do not know how to begin with baby steps.

Most blocked artists tried to become artists against their parents' judgement. The view of an artist's life as an adolescent rebellion often lingers, making any act of art entail the risk of separation and the loss of loved ones. Because artists still yearn for their creative goals, they then feel guilty.

The need to be a great artist makes it hard to be an artist. The need to produce a great work of art makes it hard to produce any art at all.

Enthusiasm

As artists, grounding our self-image in military discipline is dangerous. In the short run, discipline may work, but it will work only for a while. By its very nature, discipline is rooted in self-admiration (Think of discipline as a battery, useful but short-lived). We admire ourselves for being so wonderful. The discipline itself, not the creative outflow, becomes the point.

Over any extended period of time, being an artist requires enthusiasm more than discipline. Enthusiasm is an ongoing energy supply tapped into the flow of life itself. Enthusiasm grounds in play, not work. Our artist child can be enticed to work by treating work as play.

Always remember art is a process.

Recovery tasks

  • Read your morning pages. Don't judge yourself
  • Visualize your goal. Seeing is believing. The visual cue can make your goal real.
  • List your creative goals for month/year.
  • Name your U-turn (down time in your life). Name 3 more. Name one that just kills you. Then forgive yourself.

Recovering a sense of Self-Protection

Every creative person has myriad ways to block creativity. Each of us favors one or two ways particularly toxic to us because they block us so effectively.

For some people, it's food. For some other, it's alcohol. Or it could be pornography, obsession with painful love. This obsessive thoughts drowns out the little voice that suggests rearranging the living room, taking a pottery class.

Note carefully that food, work, and sex are all good in themselves. It's the abuse of them that makes them creativity issues. Know yourself as an artist means acknowledging which of these you abuse when you want to block yourself.

Workaholism

Workaholism is an addiction, and like all addictions, it blocks creative energy. The truth is, we are very often working to avoid ourselves, our spouses, our real feelings.

We must learn to see workaholism as a block instead of a building block. Work abuse creates in our artist a Cinderella Complex. We are always dreaming of the ball and always experiencing the ball and chain.

There is a difference between zestful work toward a cherished goal and workaholism. That difference lies less in the hours than it does in the emotional quality of the hours spent.

Drought

In any creative life there are dry seasons. These droughts appear from nowhere and stretch to the horizon like a Death Valley.

Droughts are a necessity. The time in the desert brings us clarity and charity. When you are in a drought, know that it is to a purpose. And keep writing morning pages.

To write is to right things. Sooner or later our pages will bring things right.

Competition

You pick a magazine and somebody, somebody you know, has gone further faster, toward your dream. Instead of saying "That proves it can be done", your fear will say "He or she will succeed instead of me".

Competition is another spiritual drug.When we are ogling the accomplishments of others, we take our eye away from our own through line. We ask ourselves the wrong questions, and those wrong questions give us the wrong answers.

It is the accurate mapping out of our own creative interests that invites the term original. We are the origin of our art, its homeland. Viewed this way, originality is the process of remaining true to ourselves.

Chapter 11: Recovering A Sense of Autonomy

As a successful artist, the trick is to not mortgage the future too heavily. If the house in the Hamptons costs two years of creative misery cranking out a promised project just for cash, the house is an expensive luxury.

It is necessary to overturn each day's schedule slightly to allow for those small adjustments in daily trajectory that, over the long haul, alter the course and the satisfactions of our careers.

In the pursuit of higher consciousness, we render ourselves unconscious in a new way. Exercise combats this spiritually induced dysfunction.

What we are after here is a moving meditation. This means one where the act of motion puts us into the now and helps us stop spinning. Twenty minutes a day is sufficient. The object is to stretch your mind more than your body, so there doesn't need to be an emphasis on fitness, although eventual fitness is a likely result.

Recovering a Sense of Faith

The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.

Mystery is at the heart of creativity. To be creative is to be productive - but by cooperating with the creative process, not forcing it.

Hatching an idea is a lot like baking bread. An idea needs to rise. If you poke at it too much at the beginning, if you keep checking on it, it will never rise.

The truth is that this is how to raise the best ideas. Let them grow in dark and mystery. Let them form on the roof of our consciousness. Let them hit the page in droplets. Trusting this slow and seemingly random trip, we will be startled one day by the flash of "Oh! That's it!".

Imagination

We are an ambitious society, and it is often difficult for us to cultivate forms of creativity that do not directly serve us and our career goals. Recovery urges our reexamining definitions of creativity and expanding them to include what in the past we called hobbies. The experience of creative living argues that hobbies are in fact essential to the joyful life.

As we serve our hobby, we are freed from our ego's demands and allowed the experience of merging with a greater source.

Questions and Answers

Q: What factors keep people from being creative?

A: Conditioning. Family, friends, and educators may discourage us from pursuing an artist's career. There is mythology that artists are somehow "different", and this mythology of difference inspires fear.

Q: How creativity and spirituality are connected?

A: Creativity is a spiritual force. The force that drives the green fuse through the flower, the same urge that drives us toward creation. This is a central will to create that is part of our human heritage and potential. Creation is always an act of faith, and faith is spiritual issue, so is creativity.

Q: Tell me about the morning exercise and artist dates.

A: The morning pages are three pages of stream-of-consciouness longhand morning writing. You should think of them not as "art" but as an active form of meditation for Westerners. In the morning pages we declare to the world - and ourselves - what we like, what we dislike, what we wish, what we hope, what we regret, and what we plan.

By contrast, the artist dates are times for receptivity, preplanned solitary hours of pleasurable activity aimed at nurturing the creative consciousness. The morning pages notify and clarify; and the solitude of the artist dates allows for the answer to be received.

Q: What can I do to overcome my self-doubts about being a good artist?

A: The point is not to overcome your self-doubts about being an artist. The point is to move through your self-doubts. In fact, artists are people who have learned to live with doubt and do the work anyway. The Artist's Way focuses on the process rather than product, you will learn to value your mistakes as part of your learning.

Q: Why do artists procrastinate, and what is procrastination really about?

A: Artists procrastinate out of fear, or because they try to wait for the "right mood" in order to work. The Artist's Way will reach you how to separate mood from productivity. It also teaches you to value self-loving enthusiasm over mechanistic discipline.

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