Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Artist's Way

I am in the third week of THE ARTIST’S WAY. This 12-week study, developed a decade ago by author, playwright, actress, and screenwriter Julia Cameron, offers a renewed sense of creativity to “blocked artists.” It is, in a word, THERAPY. Intense, a little strange, as self-indulgent as chocolate (actually, the facilitator brought some), maddening (an assignment to give up reading for a week?! Are you serious?! ), scary, and inspiring all at the same time. The goal: to nurture your Artist Child, fill the creative well, and squelch your Internal Censor.

To do all of this, the Artist’s Way uses two basic tools: Morning Pages and Artist's Dates.

Morning pages are 3-handwritten pages that must be done first thing in the morning, free-flow, unedited, just spewing out random thoughts. You never re-read them; you never let anyone else read them. The purpose of the pages is to clear clutter, get rid of the whiny, petty, angry junk that stands between you and your creativity. This is done every single day, no excuses.

Artist's Dates, on the other hand, are treats you give yourself. A block of time once a week that is set aside basically for play. Just you, alone, doing something you wouldn’t ordinarily do, the sillier the better. Like: make a sandcastle, pet a lizard, buy balloons, go ice-skating, take a belly dancing lesson, go to a toy store, go skydiving, visit an aquarium--you get the picture.

The idea is that the Morning Pages get the inhibiting stuff OUT, and the Artists Dates bring creativity IN. It sounds simple, but I’m finding that it isn’t--especially the Artists Dates.
Being an adult pre-disposes us to taking care of the “should” list at the expense of nurturing our creative selves. Juggling writing deadlines, the day-job, and family commitments drains that creative well right down to bottom. We could be spittin’ sand at any given moment.

I’ve taken myself on two dates so far, simple stuff: I played visitor in my little artsy Texas town; popped into a nature store that I was always too rushed to explore, and bought myself a peacock feather. I’d forgotten how amazing those are. Then I stopped into a bakery and treated myself to a thickly frosted Mardi Gras sugar cookie--which I ate while sitting on a swing in a sunny park. Just me, the cookie, the feather, the swing and the sun. No "shoulds" alllowed.

Yesterday’s date took me to a nursery with 11 greenhouses, including: masses of herbs, lemon trees pungent with blossoms, an miniature African Violet hothouse, a cactus Quonset hut, and an orchid room that was staggering in its beauty. When I left, my hands smelled like rosemary and sage, and my senses were on overload.

Next week I’m taking myself to the rodeo. Maybe I’ll dust off those old red boots.

How about you--when was the last time you took yourself on a date?


Mark Terry said...

Been a while, but I guess I do the morning thing--it's called blogging.

Felicia Donovan said...

Candy, I've had artist and writer friends who swear by that program for unbottling creativity.

My play dates are usually outside, alone (though dogs are allowed), where I ponder the beauty of nature and rediscover that everything new gets old and everything old gets renewed.

That's usually enough to recharge my creative batteries for a while.

G.M. Malliet said...

Candy - you really got me thinking.

I am lucky in that I am surrounded by art galleries and museums in DC. Still, I have to make a point of dragging myself away from the manuscript to go out and look at something new and inspirational. Your blog reminded me I am overdue for a recharge.

Mark Combes said...

From the moment I read it, I've adopted the philosophy. Travis McGee took his retirement a little bit at a time. I'm doing the same.

As the great one sings, "24 hours, maybe 60 good years, it's not that long a stay."

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I read The Artists Way years ago. And I do follow the "date" theory and try to do it every week, even when under a stiff deadline.

Some of my favorites is brunch alone with a good book at a favorite restaurant. Others: window shopping at a nearby upscale outdoor mall and treating myself to an expensive cup of coffee along the way; getting a pedicure and/or massage; driving to the beach and people watching at the pier. Sometimes I even take myself on an overnighter.

It's important to recharge and leave the writing behind for a bit. I also take writing "vacations" right after eveyr finished project. During those times, I don't write for several days or even a week. I watch TV, catch up with my life and my reading. Anything that I find enjoyable, except writing. I find it cleans out the cobwebs and prepares me mentally for the next project.

Candy Calvert said...

Interestingly, Julia Cameron says that impending deadline crunches (and less free time) mean that you need MORE Artist Dates!

In my group, there is a painter and a fiber artist (weaver). It's cool to see that regardless of our medium, "creatives" have similar needs. I took this class at the urging of a friend (I've felt anything but "blocked" lately), and am really enjoying it. I'm one of those folks who seem to need "permission" to self-indulge.
So, boy, howdy--I'm having me a grand old time! :-)

Cricket McRae said...

Candy, it sounds like you're doing a great job of indulging in real artists dates and "filling the well!" It's tricky to make time -- and effort -- for that as an adult.

I read The Artist's Way years ago, and for years found the morning pages very useful. Now I only use them when there's too much garbage in my head.

The artist's dates were hard, though. I was always tempted to say something like, hey, I actually kind of like going to the grocery store, so does that count?

Candy Calvert said...

Cricket, I know exactly what you mean--I have a low threshold for delight, and find grocery shopping very enjoyable. Fondling vegetables (guys--don't you dare go there!) is one of my favorite things. But the Artist Dates force me to think more like a child (so hard for this chronically too-responsible adult)and challenge me to treat myself to selfish and indulgent things that have no real purpose.
But it's the sensory input that counts. And, hey, that is all "bookable" somewhere, right?