Posts Tagged ‘Artist’s Way’

The Artist’s Way: Week 5 – Recover a Sense of Possibility

This is an ongoing series about my experiences with Julia Cameron’s program, The Artist’s Way: A spiritual path to higher creativity. It’s a 12 week program designed to help reboot your creative process and after hearing about it from several friends over the past few years, I gathered a group of like minded creatives and we are embarking on this journey together! You can find the other related entries here

A Bit of a Block

I know I haven’t updated in a while. I’m still doing the program, it’s just that week five really threw me for a loop. I found it a very hard chapter to read and work through for a number of reasons. The chapter’s main goal was to explore the payoffs we receive in order to remain stuck. The notion being that there is clearly some benefit  in not creating the things that we want to create, so what is it? And how do we move past it?

Interestingly, I realized that this was the same chapter that stumped me the last time I attempted to do this program alone. “Most of us never consider how powerful the universe really is. Instead we draw very limited amounts of the power available to us,” Cameron writes. “We unconsciously set a limit of how much the universe can give us or help us. We are stingy with ourselves, and if we receive a gift beyond our imagining, we give it back.”

Those words rang so true for me, because it hit on the notion of abundance (a recurring theme in my pages) and an unarticulated guilt that I feel in wanting more when I already have so much to be grateful for. That was a big one for me. I am a very big believer in the power of gratitude and appreciating the blessings in our lives, and so there was some friction in wanting to unleash my desire to create different types of art and the feeling that I have already had more than “my share.” Cameron argues that the universe is in fact an unlimited supply and that by tapping into it for our own purposes we are not depriving someone else of theirs.

Working with this thought through my morning pages felt like a big breakthrough for me, an unblocking of something that I hadn’t even realized was holding me back. And so, in letting it go, I found it much easier to go back to a place dreaming, of wishing.

 

The Vision Board:

This week, we were told to create an image file, or vision board. I love the idea of vision boards, and I have used them at several points in my life. The idea of manifesting is fascinating to me not just from a spiritual perspective but from a scientific one as well. In the book “The Happiness Hypothesis,” author Jonathan Haidt describes how our unconscious brain is always working at filtering information and determining what is important for our attention. By creating things like vision boards, we are providing that part of our brain (that works faster, longer, and harder than our conscious one) with visual cues of what we want to work towards. This helps  the brain to prioritize information and that’s why people often feel like magical things happen when they start using these sorts of tools. The reality is it’s not magic, but your brain making sure you see what it now considers to be a necessary piece of stimulus.

I created my own vision board on Pinterest and it’s a really fun exercise to think of what you want and how to visually represent them. I found it fun and frivolous and an enjoyable way to spend a few hours on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

 

The Block Payoff

Finally, it was realizing that the payoff to being blocked was in being able to stay in a space of familiar anxiety, instead of an unknown anxiety. “It’s the devil you know,” is an apt way to describe it. I would rather stay “blocked” in this familiar space where I can lament my lack of productivity or creativity then move forward into a new space where I actually create something and then must deal with the stress of having people react to it. It’s funny the lengths that our mind will go through to protect us from this type of stress. Realizing that I often supported this block by consuming content instead of creating it (as highlighted by my media fast last week) only served to truly drive this point home.

 

 

 

Happiness Hypothesis

The Artist’s Way: Week 4- Recovering A Sense of Integrity

This is an ongoing series about my experiences with Julia Cameron’s program, The Artist’s Way: A spiritual path to higher creativity. It’s a 12 week program designed to help reboot your creative process and after hearing about it from several friends over the past few years, I gathered a group of like minded creatives and we are embarking on this journey together! You can find the other related entries here

 

It won’t happen to me…

This week was all about facing our own changing sense of self-definition. It’s been four weeks since I’ve started this program and I’ve noticed an interesting pattern that emerges each week: I do the reading, I am skeptical the the reading applies to me, I’m convinced that it doesn’t, then the week unfolds and things happen exactly in the way that the chapter said they would. This was no different. At the end of last week, I was feeling pretty confident. I had fully embraced my love of the frivolous, and was getting into the groove of morning pages and artist’s dates. So when the chapter called for some highs and lows, I scoffed and brushed it off. Surely, not I, this anchor of self confidence and capability, I thought, could ever emotionally waver. Oh, how wrong I was.

I spent the week in a bizarre mix of highs and lows. I was elated at finishing the first rough draft at my novel, and then the following day dejected with the dread of sending it out for anyone to see. And so it went, a rollercoaster of emotions as I used the morning pages to really ask, who am I? What do I want to create?

“Remember, the more you feel yourself to be terra incognita, the more certain you can be that the recovery process is working. You are your own promised land, your own new frontier.”

 

Sometimes we accumulate self-identifiers unknowingly. We do or say something and it just sticks, dragging along behind us as we move from place to place. It felt refreshing to stop and take a look at this accumulated creative baggage and to examine it carefully and discard the pieces that aren’t serving your purpose. One of the week’s tasks was to get rid of an old piece of clothing that Cameron calls, low value. You know the one, that sweater that doesn’t fit right, those pants that you haven’t worn in two years – the stuff we all accidentally accumulate but seem unable to let go of. This exercise became a perfect metaphor for the accompanying mental exercises. I found an old sweater that I don’t ever wear, I’d brought it over from Toronto nearly five years ago. And yet, I hesitated, not sure if I wanted to throw it away. It had no sentimental value and no utility to me, and so why was I still letting it take up space in my closet? I threw it away and felt so much better! Decluttering has always been one of my favorite responses to times of stress – make things cleaner, simpler, calmer. Mentally, I guess the process went the same way: once I overcame the resistance, it was liberating to be free, to realize that I had the power to decide what I chose to keep and to discard.

Reading Deprivation

Once of the big tasks this week was a form of media deprivation. To shut out all external sources of input to give myself time to listento my own voice. This was one of the hardest things I’ve done. I’m always reading something, watching something, consuming content and to completely stop cold turkey was stressful. I definitely cheated a few times, though sometimes it happened to naturally that I would catch myself halfway into an article. I never realized how much I was using other people’s content to block the quiet space I needed to create my own work. I found this to be such a helpful experiment, and I would encourage all of you to try it, even for just a few days to become aware of how much noise you’re bringing into your life. The funny thing was, that all of a sudden my time doubled. I was no longer dealing with a scarcity of time (an ongoing theme I’ve struggled with during this program) but the opposite: I had loads of free time to think about and tackle all the projects and ideas that finally had the peace and quiet to sprout and be tended to.

Now that the week is over, and I am back reading my beloved novel. I have started to heavily limit the amount of time I spend reading random articles during the day. Instead, I use Instapaper to capture and collect those things that I want to read and keep them in a safe place until a better time. This means I can focus on being productive, on producing my own creative work, without being distracted.

 

A Letter from the Future:

Finally, my favorite task this week was to write a letter to myself from my future 80 year old self. What would I say? My 80 year old self thought that being so worried about the future was just ridiculous. And writing that letter made me realize how important it is to really just take a deep breath and be in the present moment. To focus on capturing each experience as fully as possible. And so I spent the past few days really narrowing my scope of focus so that it only encompasses the task that I am doing. In that spirit, I completed another fun task: I transformed a little corner of my apartment into private space for myself, a place where I could, as Cameron writes, “Help center on the fact that creativity is a spiritual, not an ego issue.”

This is my newly transformed bedside table, now also serving as a point of focus during meditation. Peaceful, right?

 

 

Now I’ve completed the first month, and the past four weeks have been dedicated to excavating old belief systems and thought patterns. Clearing the way for something else, something better, to take root. I’m making progress in small halting steps, unsure at some points, yet always willing to take the chance.

The Artist’s Way: Week 3 – Recovering a Sense of Power

This is an ongoing series about my experiences with Julia Cameron’s program, The Artist’s Way: A spiritual path to higher creativity. It’s a 12 week program designed to help reboot your creative process and after hearing about it from several friends over the past few years, I gathered a group of like minded creatives and we are embarking on this journey together! You can find the other related entries here

 

Week 3 of this program was an interesting one for me. I missed a few days of doing my morning pages since I was traveling and I definitely felt the impact of not doing them. My mornings felt a little off, as though something was missing. The focus of the exercises this week was on anger and shame and their roles during our creative discovery. Cameron writes:

Anger is meant to be acted upon. It is not meant to be acted out. Anger points the direction. We are meant to use anger as fuel to take the actions we need to move where our anger points us. With a little thought, we can usually translate the message that our anger is sending us.

 

It was uncomfortable at times for me to delve into this notion because it turns out that there were a lot of things that I was angry about that I’d never even realized. Instead of dealing with it, or examining it, I had simply brushed my anger aside, ignoring it and the messages that it was sending me. To see the causes of that anger expressed in my morning pages was a revelation and definitely useful in helping to acknowledge certain behaviours and beliefs that were playing a large part in keeping me from creating the type of things that speak to me. Interestingly, my anger was mostly directed at myself for procrastinating on certain projects and I recognized that the anger was simply a desire to create, specifically  the notion of treating my own ideas well by actually executing them.

I constantly jot down ideas, whether they are observations on technology trends, business ideas, book ideas, product ideas -anything and everything that crosses my mind is usually captured in a notebook somewhere. The problem is that after this is done, those ideas just sit there, languishing, sometimes for years. Then I get annoyed when I hear that someone else has been thinking about the same things as I have and are doing something about it. I’m not mad at them, mind you, just myself for not moving on it sooner. So clearly, I need to get better on actually working on some of the projects that have been floating around in my head, and I’ve identified three that I’m aiming to complete by the end of the year. (So take that, anger!)

 

Shame

“The act of making art exposes a society to itself. Art brings things to light. It illuminates us. It sheds light on our lingering darkness. It casts a beam into the heart of our own darkness and says, “See?”

Shame associated with artistic creation is a more nuanced concept because it is tied into the experiences and beliefs that we’ve carried with us from past, our baggage. For me, I’ve always felt a little torn between two separate identities: a strategist and logical minded business person who loves identifying market trends and opportunities, and a dreamer who simply wants to become lost in the worlds and characters of my own imagination. The logical side of me often as a lot of issues with the dreamer and so anything that is created from that perspective is often associated as wasting time on a frivolous pursuit instead of being dedicated to growing a business, acquiring clients etc.

Those two personalities do not peacefully co-exist and the result has been that the dreamer has often been told to sit down, shut up, and go away in favor of being a “grown up.” It’s sad for me to read that, to see it written there in black and white. It’s funny how sometimes you can’t see the very truth that is right in front of your face. This explains why so often I struggled in writing my novel, in justifying putting aside time dedicated to this “frivolity” and how I would feel guilty about it. And yet, despite all of this, my inner creative refused to be silenced, telling me over and over again through morning pages and gut feelings that it needed to be heard.

This echoed last weeks lesson in overcoming the skepticism and letting artistic impulses take the lead and re-enforced the importance of doing this program for me, and giving that part of my self the priority it needs.

 

Surrendering to the irrational

In light of this, I decided that I should nurture this sense of frivolity and see where it takes me. I was traveling in the US and stopped in Sedona, Arizona for a few days to see the red rocks and canyons of this beautiful part of the world. I learned that Sedona was also a hotspot for something else: energy vortexes known to promote healing and well being. And so, an Artist’s Date was born. Jesse and I spent the afternoon hunting for vortexes, picking out crystals and even doing a chakra energy report. Every time, the censor rolled its eyes and proclaimed it pseudoscience, I silenced it and picked out another fun crystal, like green adventurine to promote luck and prosperity and some amethyst to promote intuition and healing. The result? I had a lot of fun and came home with a few treasures to remind myself how much I enjoy things that aren’t firmly grounded in the logical.

 

The Artist’s Way: Week 2 – Recovering a sense of Identity

This is an ongoing series about my experiences with Julia Cameron’s program, The Artist’s Way: A spiritual path to higher creativity. It’s a 12 week program designed to help reboot your creative process and after hearing about it from several friends over the past few years, I gathered a group of like minded creatives and we are embarking on this journey together! You can find the other related entries here

 

The second week of the Artist’s way is all about moving forward and listening to your creative self. I did the morning pages diligently and was surprised to note that I did feel an increased clarity and peace afterwards. By carving out a time to dump out my worries on paper, my brain in turn, agreed to be quieter and calmer for the remainder of the day. I’m still fighting that pesky censor, the one who wants to rip apart any progress, but knowing that it’s a normal part of the process has been very liberating in facing these types of thoughts and actively working to dispel them. I’ve been reading a book called “Why We Write,” a compilation of 20 interviews with acclaimed writers about how and why they write, and the notion of the skeptic/censor is a very common and recurring theme. Hearing writers who have sold millions of books write about crippling insecurity makes you realize how we’re all struggling to give power to that creative voice within us.

For my Artist Date this week I spent some quality time with JJ Abrams’ new book, “S.” I got the book for Christmas from Jesse and it immediately captivated my imagination. It’s funny how my dates seem to be pulling me towards spending time with great creative producers. Last week it was in JK Rowling’s world in London and this week it’s one of my favorite writers/producers, JJ Abrams, who created so many shows that I have loved over the years (Alias, Felicity, Lost, Fringe, Person of Interest), not to mention rebooted the Star Trek franchise.

The book description reads:

One book. Two readers. A world of mystery, menace, and desire.

A young woman picks up a book left behind by a stranger. Inside it are his margin notes, which reveal a reader entranced by the story and by its mysterious author. She responds with notes of her own, leaving the book for the stranger, and so begins an unlikely conversation that plunges them both into the unknown.

 

The book: Ship of Theseus, the final novel by a prolific but enigmatic writer named V.M. Straka, in which a man with no past is shanghaied onto a strange ship with a monstrous crew and launched onto a disorienting and perilous journey.

 

The writer: Straka, the incendiary and secretive subject of one of the world’s greatest mysteries, a revolutionary about whom the world knows nothing apart from the words he wrote and the rumors that swirl around him.

 

The readers: Jennifer and Eric, a college senior and a disgraced grad student, both facing crucial decisions about who they are, who they might become, and how much they’re willing to trust another person with their passions, hurts, and fears.

 

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It’s ridiculously entertaining, and I’m going to do a separate post on this, because otherwise I will become completely sidetracked. The Artist Dates have been very refreshing to me. They allowed me to set aside time to spend with my creative self, a permission that I never knew I had needed. Don’t get me wrong, I spend a lot of time reading and writing and immersing myself in creative worlds, but never with such a focused intent on finding and experiencing sheer delight. It’s that slight nuance that has made all the difference for me. When was the last time you were delighted? When something you read or watched or did brought a smile of pure joy to your face. Chasing this feeling has become a priority in my own processes because I never realized how beneficial delight is to problem solving and innovating. Reading S., made my mind race with my own ideas for books, characters, mystery. It was an important lesson to learn, and one I won’t forget moving forward.

This week’s questions grappled with two major issues: fighting a sense of skepticism and doubt in favor of letting your artistic impulses take the lead and identifying those people Cameron identifies as Crazy Makers. Crazy Makers are people who often stand in the way of your own artistic journey either through the creation of distracting drama, negative attitudes or otherwise inappropriate behaviour that makes you feel bad. The people who ruin your mojo. Identifying these people brought many revelations and helped me reconsider certain relationships in my life.  It helped me learn another valuable lesson: I want to apply the same level of focused intent in determining who I spend time with. I want to surround myself with the people and relationships that make me feel positive, inspired, energized and happy.

 

 

The Artist’s Way: Week 1

This is an ongoing series about my experiences with Julia Cameron’s program, The Artist’s Way: A spiritual path to higher creativity. It’s a 12 week program designed to help reboot your creative process and after hearing about it from several friends over the past few years, I gathered a group of like minded creatives and we are embarking on this journey together! You can find the other related entries here

A few friends and I have started an online Facebook group dedicated to the classic book by Julia Cameron, “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.” The book covers a 12 week program that aims to help discover and recover your creative self. It’s one of those books that so many people have mentioned to me that I finally threw up my hands and said, ok! I’ll do it! The premise is quite simple: each chapter corresponds to a particular week, and includes a series of questions to answer that relates to the overarching theme of that chapter. In addition, there are two activities that are ongoing throughout the entire program: morning pages and artist dates.

Morning Pages: 

Morning pages are a journaling exercise of sorts, where you write in free-form 750 words every morning before you begin your day. “There is no wrong way to do morning pages,” writes Cameron. “They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind- and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not ever-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.”

What I like about the morning pages are that they are pressure-free, a nice, soothing change of pace from deadline oriented writing. I’ve been doing them all week and I really find that I am clear headed and less stressed out about my other creative outlets when I do them. I can get mine done in about 15-20 minutes.

Artist Dates:

Artist dates are once-weekly appointments that you make with your self, and dedicate at least two hours to doing something fun, something that sparks your whimsey, delights your inner artist. The people in my group have done everything from cooking a new recipe, taking a music lesson, visiting an old bookstore and a variety of artistic pursuits. For my Artist Date last week I went to the Harry Potter studios in London – and it’s been a while since something has so captured my wonder (but that’s a whole other post).

 

Week 1: Recovering a Sense of Safety.

The theme of the first week was creating an environment where you felt safe to express yourself creatively. I was astounded to hear that even within my group, many of whom are creatives in a professional capacity, still had some struggles in identify themselves as artists, or allowing themselves to pursue other creative ventures. For myself, this was obvious as I was writing the manuscript of my novel, an ongoing pursuit that simultaneously thrills and terrifies me.

“But you’ve written two books,” Jesse says to me. “You are a writer, and you can clearly do this too.”

“Not a novel.” I reply, uttering the word in a hushed whisper, lest the creative Gods overhear my audacity and strike me down. So, I’m clearly not the only one who struggles with this, lol.

The exercises and questions were thought provoking and difficult. Some questions were fun, like imagining five other lives you’d live, and others were much challenging like identifying people who either cheered or hindered your creativity. For me, the biggest issue that arose was my belief that I would be unable to create a life that was financially sustainable while creating the type of content my heart yearns to make. That belief had pushed me to put off my creative writing for years, in pursuit of corporate glory though that ache to put words down on paper and bring characters to life never really went away.

The interesting thing about Cameron’s book, is her link to creativity and what she calls “God,” which was a little off putting at first but I warmed up to it when she said we could replace the word with flow, universe, or whatever. I love the idea that our creativity is a spiritual gift and it acts as a compass in helping us discover our higher purpose – to do the thing that we’ve always dreamed of doing.  I’ve always wanted to be a writer, I can’t remember what it was like to have a book in my hands. And despite being an author, my morning pages revealed to me that there are stories that I still need to tell and that this was my chance to start working on them. Thanks to listening to those instincts I started work on my novel again, and can say for the first time, that I’ve never been closer to finishing a first draft. I am literally working on the last chapter.

Next week is about Recovering a Sense of Identity and I’m really looking forward to seeing how this program impacts not just my own journey, but our journey as a collective group that have banded together to help release our inner creativity.