As part of my journey of rediscovery, I have decided to attempt The Artist’s Way 12 week program – again. I’ve had the book for over ten years, but I don’t think I’ve ever made it past the first few weeks. This time, it’s different.
For a start, I have the time, the inclination, and for the first time in years, the energy. For another thing, as I’ve got older, and sicker, then healthier, I’ve had to learn to take myself less seriously. This time I’ve decided to hold the process a little more lightly, and not berate myself or give up if I don’t feel like I’m doing everything perfectly. I’ve also decided that as well as my private weekly check-in, I’ll be doing a weekly check-in here, partly to hold myself accountable by writing about it publicly, and partly so that later I can look back on it in an easy to read format (I’ll be honest – my handwriting can be borderline illegible).
For those unfamiliar with The Artist’s Way, I highly recommend checking out the original book The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering your Creative Self, by Julia Cameron. A brief, simplified overview of the central tenets of the program is as follows:
- The Morning Pages: three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning.
- The Artist Date: setting aside time each week to nurture your inner artist. Activities could include going to an art gallery, visiting a two-dollar store, a trip to the beach…whatever play date your inner artist longs for.
- Weekly tasks from the end of each chapter. You can do all of them, or some of them, it’s up to you.
In the past, I’ve been religious about the morning pages, writing them very first thing in the morning for months or years at a stretch. I stopped writing them regularly eight years ago when I moved to my current home city, and in those eight years have only occasionally dipped in and out of doing them. This time, my approach is more relaxed. My daily priorities at the moment are meditation, yoga, and writing, in that order. I meditate first thing in the morning when I get up, do yoga after I’ve taken B to the train, and then morning pages fit in after that. Of course, sometimes life happens in between – there are appointments to get to, housework to do, life to live, and it can end up being afternoon or even evening by the time I get to the ‘morning’ pages. Although I’d like to get them done early each day, this more relaxed approach seems to be working for me so far, and in the first week there was only one day when I didn’t write them at all. Something else I’ve noticed is that by writing slightly later in the day, I have a lot more to say. In the past when I wrote as soon as I woke up my morning pages were often very repetitive, along the lines of ‘it’s early, I’m tired, what day is it? My brain really isn’t working yet. Something something something writing, have I finished three pages yet this is taking forever, yawn…’. This time I’m finding that by the time I put pen to paper I usually do have things on my mind, and writing about them helps me let go and move on, rather than obsessing about the same things all day.
My artist’s date for week 1 was not entirely a success. My planned artist date involved being outside, but as the week progressed it became clear that wouldn’t be possible, as we were in the middle of a heatwave (temperatures over 40°C/104°F – in the shade). Instead, I tacked mini artist dates on to other activities. I wandered into a bargain store while I was out shopping for B’s birthday, and got myself a new set of paintbrushes. I haven’t painted in years, but I’m intending to start again once we’ve moved house. B and I also went to some markets that I haven’t been to before, and while artist’s dates are meant to be done alone, I felt like that was a decent excursion for my inner artist. I didn’t get anything, but I did enjoy looking at all the random things people were trying to sell! In general, I am also trying to hold a greater sense of lightness and adventure whenever I leave the house – pretending everything has the potential to be an artist’s date excursion helps me to feel braver and more aware of and interested in my surroundings. Years of illness made doing anything outside the house terrifying for quite awhile. I’m getting better, and starting to enjoy being out in the world more, but giving myself permission to treat all of life as an artist’s adventure is helping me be brave when sometimes I would rather stay with the familiar or at home out of fear.
Finally, the weekly tasks. In week 1, I only did 3 out of 10 of the suggested tasks – and two of those were the morning pages and artist’s date. However, I am happy with how my week went. I managed 6 out of 7 days of meditation, yoga, and morning pages, and the ‘day off’ was a different one for each of them. Holistically, I feel like I’m taking care of myself and I feel like my health is finally really improving, which is amazing.
In terms of general creative living, in week 1 I also worked on the crochet baby blanket I’m making for my sister’s new baby, cooked several new recipes I’ve never tried before, wrote a poem (which no-one but me is ever going to read, but I still followed the instinct to write it down when it randomly popped into my head, instead of ignoring it), and, quite excitingly, had a short time lapse video I made posted on a business instagram page (amazing, as I’m very much a beginner photographer – in fact, photography is something I’ve only really started getting into this year. The video was the first time lapse I’ve ever done!).
Overall, I feel like I can call week 1 a success, despite not fully engaging with some of the tasks. I feel good about where I’m at and where I’m going, and am looking forward to seeing where the coming weeks take me.