Welcome to Tuesdays with Chel.
“The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention. The reward for attention is always healing.” – Julia Cameron
Welcome to the Bliss Habits Book Club! For the next several weeks, we’ll be discussing and working our way through The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron.
The discussion is continued on Facebook, as well. Please join us.
I’ve decided, for various reasons, to designate this week as a catch-up/review sort of week for our Bliss Habits Book Club.
First and foremost, as I write this, there’s a hurricane about to hit the East Coast of the USA, and I know we have a few readers there. Since I live in Florida, I know all too well that preparing for a hurricane is something that requires a lot of energy – both physical AND emotional- so Morning Pages and Artist Walks are probably *not* high on the list for a lot of people right now.
Also, a few people have emailed me to tell me they are still in the processing of getting the book and starting up, so this will give everyone a chance to catch up.
Plus, anything like “The Artist’s Way” can usually begin to pile up after a while unless it’s *all* you are doing. Hopefully this week will give you a chance to either catch up or strengthen some of the practices.
I also thought I might do a quick review on some of what seem to be the core messages of chapters one and two.
“Doing your morning pages, you are sending— notifying yourself and the universe of your dreams, dissatisfactions, hopes. Doing your artist date, you are receiving— opening yourself to insight, inspiration, guidance.” – Julia Cameron
I know I keep saying this, but I really feel as if the Morning Pages practice is more about a regular, daily commitment to opening yourself to the flow of creativity than it is about the nature of *how* you are doing it or when. In my opinion, “Morning Pages” can be done at any time of the day, in any way you like. As long as you are taking some time to reflect on what’s churning through your head and heart, work through it a bit, and sort of clear that space for creativity to flow through, it’s beneficial.
Whether it’s writing three pages longhand every morning like Julia Cameron suggests, or doing a daily doodle every afternoon, or jotting down some ideas after the dinner plates are clear, or just stealing some time for yourself in between classes or while the baby naps- as long as you are committing to doing it daily, and STICKING to that, you are on the right path.
The Artist Date can also be flexible. For me, Artist Dates are about allowing myself to *absorb* creativity from external sources. I may not always go out on an excursion to do them- sometimes I’ll just grab a stack of art books or magazines off my shelf and go find a quiet, shady spot outside and just flip through the pages for a while. That works for me. I think it’s similar to Morning Pages in that it’s about the commitment, the taking time for these things. Both of these practices sort of open us up, in a way, for the messy stuff to get out and the good stuff to come in. It’s like airing out a house by opening the doors and windows.
As far as the themes that Cameron covers, here’s what really stood out to me in Chapters One and Two:
- DEFINING and DISCARDING INCORRECT CORE BELIEFS AND MISCONCEPTIONS
In this week, we will work at uncovering our negative beliefs and discarding them… Our business here is confronting them. Negative beliefs are exactly that: beliefs, not facts. The world was never flat, although everyone believed it was. You are not dumb, crazy, egomaniacal, grandiose, or silly just because you falsely believe yourself to be. What you are is scared. Core negatives keep you scared.” – Julia Cameron
Cameron urges us to spend a significant amount of time and energy thinking about the “core beliefs” we have about creativity. For those of us with some negative stuff to deal with, she recommends several exercises which force us to really EXAMINE not only where the core belief/misconception came from, but also *how* it came about. Every detail is important- who said what, when they said it, where it was said, WHY it was said, etc.
By doing this difficult work, we can set about dismantling our misconceptions about creativity, and begin reconstructing and redefining creativity on our *own* terms, not what we were told as children or by a mean art teacher or writing professor or mentor or co-worker or well-meaning-but-clueless parent who was having a super crappy day.
“Stripped to their essence, our multiple negative beliefs reveal a central negative belief: we must trade one good, beloved dream for another. To become unblocked we must recognize our either/or thinking. ‘I can either be financially successful or an artist.’”- Julia Cameron
By breaking own all the bad stuff, and truly confronting all the junk that goes along with it, we can begin deciding for ourselves what our creativity ultimately is and what possibilities it holds for each of us.
- TENDING TO and SAFEGUARDING OUR INNER ARTIST
“In order to have a real relationship with our creativity, we must take the time and care to cultivate it.” – Julia Cameron
Think of your creativity as a precious, fragile object that must be handled with care- maybe a delicate glass ball or a newly sprouted seedling, bending in the slightest breeze. Or think of it as a small child (perhaps yourself as a child) that needs extra special love and care. Whatever rings your “TLC” bell, that’s how you need to look at your own creativity.
I know for some of us it seems weird to imagine our creativity as a *thing* when it seems more like a tendency. But by changing our approach to creativity, we ultimately begin to change our creative HABITS.
This is where self-care comes in. I know I say this over and over, but self-care is CRUCIAL to any sort of positive change. It’s not just some woo-woo new age philosophy, it’s pure science. When we aren’t taking care of ourselves, we feel down. And when we feel down, our brains literally change to reflect that.
Some people have what is called the “happiness gene” (yup, another real scientific thing!). But for many of us, well-being on a consistent basis is a daily struggle. But it’s worth doing. And ultimately, our own well-being will be reflected in the world around us. We see, process, and ultimately perceive things differently when we feel decently. It’s just the way our brains work- we’re still wired for caveman times. When things feel off, we feel jumpy and anxious and low. When we feel safe, we’re able to settle in a little bit, kick our shoes off, and relax.
“Creativity flourishes when we have a sense of safety and self-acceptance. The essential element in nurturing our creativity lies in nurturing ourselves. Through self-nurturance … our creativity will unfold. Paths will appear for us.” – Julia Cameron
- IDENTIFYING AND ESCAPING “CRAZYMAKING”
“Often, 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 instead. As blocked creatives, we focus not on our responsibilities to ourselves, but on our responsibilities to others. We tend to think such behavior makes us good people. It doesn’t. It makes us frustrated people.” – Julia Cameron
“Crazymaking” is anyone (or anything) that creates an emotional storm in your life. It could be your sister, or it could be the telemarketers that call EVERY SINGLE TUESDAY just as you sit down to dinner, or it could be your own reservations about taking time to do something creative when your seven year old is looking at your with doe eyes and begging you to play yet another round of Uno. Whatever it is, Cameron basically says if you want a good, creatively fulfilled life you gotta shake the crazymaking off, wherever it’s coming from.
And this is much harder than it seems. Not all of us can just say “no”, unplug the phone for perpetuity, or shun the people who drive us a little batty. Finding the balance between honoring our “recovering inner artist” and what she/he needs and still being a productive member of our own communities can be a huge challenge. But I think Cameron really just wants us to start being AWARE of the crazymaking, so we can work on nipping it in the bud.
“I learned to get out of the way and let that creative force work through me. I learned to just show up … [creativity] became more like eavesdropping and less like inventing a nuclear bomb. It wasn’t so tricky, and it didn’t blow up on me anymore. I didn’t have to be in the mood. I didn’t have to take my emotional temperature to see if inspiration was pending. … In retrospect, I am astounded I could let go of the drama of being a suffering artist.” – Julia Cameron
- BUILDING CREATIVE CONFIDENCE.
“Trusting our creativity is new behavior for many of us. … As we gain strength, so will some of the attacks of self-doubt. As long as we were blocked, we often felt that it was arrogance and self-will to speak of ourselves as creative artists. The truth is that it was self-will to refuse to acknowledge our creativity … we could proceed to righteously ignore our creativity and never have to take the risks of fulfilling it.“ – Julia Cameron
This is SO difficult, isn’t it? At least for me, this is the biggest challenge of them all. I don’t feel ready to truly honor myself and what I do as “art”. Seriously. I have a big resistance to that.
But, again, it’s an essential decision to OWN not only our creativity but own our identity as creative people. Declare it. Do whatever it takes to inhabit it.
Personally, I feel like a fraud whenever I tell my family “I’m going to do some work” and then I go into my art studio and take out my watercolors and splash paint around. Maybe it’s because it’s what I did for fun as a kid. Maybe because sometimes I’ll paint for two hours and it all ends up in the trash. Maybe because people don’t really go to offices with cubicles to do watercolor. (This is all core misconception stuff….)
Bottom line is that in order for this creativity thing to become something serious in our lives, we have to not only *make* it serious, but *take* it seriously.
“In order to move from the realm of shadows into the light of creativity, shadow artists must learn to take themselves seriously. With gentle, deliberate effort, they must nurture their artist child. Creativity is play, but for shadow artists, learning to allow themselves to play is hard work.” – Julia Cameron
In conclusion, I think the first two chapters of Artist’s Way are really about excavating old beliefs, creating new beliefs, and starting the work of making those new beliefs not only part of our personal philosophies about creativity but also a regular part of our day to day lives. In other words- we need to walk the talk.
“As your recovery progresses, … you will learn to enjoy the process of being a creative channel and to surrender your need to control the result. You will discover the joy of practicing your creativity. The process, not the product, will become your focus.” – Julia Cameron
(Don’t forget- we’re continuing the discussion on Facebook, as well. Please join us!)
Chel Micheline is a mixed-media artist, curator, writer, and avid gardener/reader/swimmer who lives in Southwest Florida with her husband and daughter. When Chel’s not making art or pondering the Bliss Habits, she’s blogging at gingerblue.com (come say hi!) or posting new things in the gingerblue etsy shop.