Julia Cameron's, known as the Godmother of Creativity, wrote this book which is a kind of a bible in the artists' journey. She has written 40 books - fiction, non-fiction, poetry, is a songwriter, filmmaker and playwright. Her books have sold 5 million copies and have been translated into 48 languages. Enough credentials on creativity.
Creativity is the natural order of life she says. When we open ourselves to creativity we open ourselves to the creator. Our refusal to be creative is counter to our nature. When we are creative, gentle, powerful change is to be expected. It's never too late to be creative so stop fearing and start.
Julia gives two powerful tools which are the most important part of the book. They are:
Morning Pages -
The first tool is Morning Pages (I have been doing for more than a month now and vouch for) is writing 3 pages of long hand, strictly stream of consciousness stuff, whatever comes to mind. (Nobody reads your morning pages.) If you can't think of anything write 'I cannot think of anything...I am blank..' like that. You have to write morning pages every day forever, as early in the morning as you can. Don't look for perfectionism, don't censor, let it flow. Morning pages is a tool of creative recovery. (She says its a way of sending messages to the universe, notifying the universe of your dreams and hopes)
This is a tool for receiving. Take two hours off with your artist self (and no one else) - just you and your artist self. A play date. Go walk, go to a museum, mall, gallery, nature - just you and you. I found this tougher to do and I am still struggling with it. If the morning pages are about sending messages, the artist date is about receiving from the universe. Don't miss this.
Fill the well
She also talks of filling the well with images. Art is born in attention she says. Any regular, repetitive action primes the well. Our focused attention is critical to filling the well - we can do it while driving, walking, bathing. Art is imagination at play.
I like that part about attention - what you pay attention to grows.
The book in itself is a work book with thoughts and exercises to do over 12 weeks. Each week has a theme that gently takes you from coming out of a space where your creativity is blocked to finally being in flow. The weekly themes are about recovering a sense of safety, identity, purpose, integrity, possibility, abundance, connection, strength, compassion, self-protection, autonomy and faith.
Week 1 - Recovering a sense of safety.
There's nothing wrong with you.
We hide our creative selves in shadows thanks to our negative beliefs. We must begin by protecting the artist child within, identify core negative beliefs like 'cannot be successful, artists are poor' etc - which are not true. Then work on changing our beliefs by using affirmations and other processes.
Exercises for the first week include morning pages, artist dates, naming 3 attackers of our self worth, writing a letter to one of them, identifying 3 champions of our self-worth, writing a thank you letter, listing our imaginary lives, going on a walk with yourself.
Week 2 - Recovering a sense of identity
Stop self-attack and stop being manipulated by guilt. As 'blocked creatives' we are normally good game for attacked by crazy makers - people who break deals, expect special treatment, spend your time and money, blame etc - basically those who make us feel lousy. Avoid these people. Stop feeling guilty, like you did something wrong, like you're a fraud. Instead reclaim your space, pay attention to what's around you, talk about it. Take pride in yourself, your dreams, your life.
Tasks for this week include doing time audit to check if you have been out helping others or yourself, listing 20 things you enjoy doing every day, doing two favorite things this week. Affirmations, and listing our imaginary lives.
Week 3 - Recovering a Sense of Purpose
Work and doors open.
As we do work towards recovering our blocked creative we experience synchronicity - it shows up as answered prayers (don't sabotage it). Take small steps in the direction of the dream and watch the synchronous doors open. Leap and the net appears, walk and the way appears.
Take risks, meet opportunity half way. 'Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it', Action has magic, grace and power in it. She warns that we are all shamed as creatives - so be careful. Deal with criticism (creativity is the only cure for criticism) Growth comes in solitude, in quiet time.
Exercises for week three include imagining the childhood room, recalling 5 traits of yours as a child, 5 childhood accomplishments, habits, nurturing friends, 5 people you admire.
Week 4 - Recovering a Sense of Integrity
Stop pretending, get real. Open yourself up.
This is time for honest changes, for spiritual surrender. Let go of the past, of pretences. Creativity is grounded in reality. Art lies in the moment of encounter. Reopen buried dreams. Practice reading deprivation - inner silence. for one week.
Tasks -write a letter to you at 8, do an extended artists date, throw out the no good outfits
Week 5 - Recovering a sense of possibility
Don't get caught in the virtue trap. Listen to the inner guide. List a wish list.
Week 6 - Recovering a sense of abundance
Your are born to be abundant. Write about god, about what is luxury to you. See how you spend your money. Serious art is born from serious play. Tasks for the week - send postcards to 5 fiends
Week 7 - Recovering a sense of connection
Try, try, do, do.
Listen more, pay attention. Don't get stuck in perfectionism. Perfectionism is refusal to move ahead . I loved the quote "Don't fear mistakes, there are none" - Miles Davis. If you didn't fear doing it perfectly you would have tried. Tasks for the week - Treating myself like a precious object will make me strong
Week 8 - Recovering a sense of strength
Dealing with failure -don't give up
Art is the act of structuring time. Look at every loss, as gain disguised as a loss. think how can this loss serve me? Take the next small step instead of waiting for the next large one. Write one page at a time. Creativity requires activity. Tasks - goal search.
Week 9 - Recovering a sense of compassion
Be gentle with yourself, never be harsh to yourself
Remember it's not laziness but fear that blocks you. Use love to cure fear. Enthusiasm is grounded in play, not work. Watch out for creative U turns (don't let go) Don't commit hara kiri on the eve or in the wake of your first creative victory. Its scary but blast through the block. Remove resentment. Get fear out, love in. Forgive yourself, others
Week 10 - Recovering a sense of self protection
Don't sabotage your success
Watch out for workaholism. Fame. Competition. They are all potholes.
Week 11 -Recovering a sense of autonomy
Accepting cash flow, self respect. Success. The sex of sports. run, play, exercise. Keep the flow going physically, have fun.
Week 12 - Recovering a sense of faith
Stay with the process
Trust the process. Be in a space of I-don't-know. Mystery imagination at play. Escape velocity. Watch out for wet blankets, set goals, set boundaries.
Some spaces need to be filled in. I gave a gist but you can read the book and do all the exercises which I haven't done yet but propose to. I started on the basic tools - Morning Pages and the Artist Date and loved them both. I'll revisit this page. But if there's two things to take away take those two practices. And buy the book. It's something people apparently keep revisiting every now and then to write blockbuster stuff. And yes, i do feel I am getting more ideas now than before.