If your 2016 resulted in a longest period of artist block good thing 2017 is here and seems to want to stay and JanYOUary is off to a brilliant start. During the latter half of 2016 I had been creatively trapped behind a seemingly insurmountable wall and now that the year is over it’s time to shake the dust off my creative engine and give it a kickstart. To do this, I am turning to my favorite inspirational book, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron.
I originally came across this book over a decade ago when I was still struggling to find some sort of outlet for my creativity but was unsure which direction I should go. The Artist’s Way taught me that the creative process is a reward in and of itself and when you divorce yourself from needing to produce something perfect and instead give yourself over to the shear joy of creating, you not only create more often and regularly, but you create better and with a greater sense of direction.
It’s one of the ironies of the creative process that the more you focus on perfection and trying to get something right, the less likely you are to create something of quality that you can be happy with. If you let go of the need for perfection and instead focus on the process, the experience is far more rewarding and the results often end up better than you expect. Quantity not quality is one of the major sayings of the book. It’s more important to create often and regularly than to get hung up on perfection.
One of the most important tools that Julia Cameron swears by are Morning Pages: three pages of handwritten stream-of-consciousness writing that you do every morning before you start your day. While I am terrible a keeping up with the consistency of my Morning Pages writing, it is something I turn to whenever I am feeling stifled and it does help to loosen the creative joints and exercise the brain. What makes Morning Pages a useful practice is that there is no judgement and no wrong way to do it. You’re not writing for anyone. You’re just writing to siphon out your thoughts in a quite, private place where you can be as honest as you need to be and no one will read it.
I cannot stress the importance of private journaling like Morning Pages enough in an age of social media where everyone and their mom is posting their private thoughts online for strangers to read. While there can be some validation in having people like or comment on your personal thoughts, the connection to the self gets lost when you lose the privacy of your own thoughts. I too have fallen into the social media trap and what I found is that it did little to help me through my emotions when I became too focused on what other people thought about what I was feeling. As part of my New Year’s resolution, I am spending less time posting private thoughts on social media and more time exploring them on my own through Morning Pages and journaling. Part of restoring my creative energies is restoring a connection to myself that I have lost through focusing too much on social media and not enough on myself.
The other creative tool Julia Cameron swears by are Artist Dates. Artist Dates are essentially a date that you take with your inner artist to someplace that inspires you. It can be to a movie, a park, a museum, or any other place or event that gets your creative juices flowing. The most important part of an Artist Date is that you must do it ALONE. No friends, no family, and I would highly suggest no posting on social media (at least not until your venture is over). The point of an Artist Date is to absorb the creative energies around you to help replenish your own and you must be fully invested in your environment and free from distractions in order to do so. Admittedly, I have not taken myself out for an Artist’s Date for quite some time as most of my ventures involve spending time with friends and I am in desperate need of some alone time in a fun place I haven’t been to in a while. Perhaps I’ll set a date to visit the Phoenix Art Museum or the Arizona Science Center, or check out an art supply store.
If you are looking for some creative inspiration to jump start your new year, I would highly suggest picking up The Artist’s Way. It does not matter what type of creative activity that you engage in, only that you do it and this book is a great help in getting yourself back on the creative track. Of course, feel free to call your local Bookmans before stopping by to see if we have this wonder in stock for you. It’s a book you’ll surely not want to miss this year.