In creative play/ journaling/writing/ try this at home/ writer babes

julia cameron can bite me – my love/hate with the artist’s way

…and why this matters to YOU 

A while back, one of my Writer Babes made a comment about how she had a “creative secret” — she hated The Artists Way, Julia Cameron’s best-selling book about re-claiming your “inner artist.” Revealing this news made her uneasy; she thought that maybe she was missing something, or perhaps she wasn’t fully committed to her personal growth and creativity, or even worse: maybe she didn’t have what it took to be a creative person.

With that, I went all Tiger Mom on her, cause (grrr) … I have some serious opinions about this one.

First: you’re drawn to what you’re drawn to. You don’t like The Artist’s Way? Yay! No problem.

You love The Artist’s Way and it changed your life? Yay! That’s fabulous.

You get to love what you love. And just because The Artist’s Way is super-popular and a lot of people swear by it, those who don’t “get it” or resonate with the vibe should NOT whip themselves over it.

Me? I have a love/hate thing with The Artist’s Way…

What I love:

The book invigorated a conversation around what people can do to nurture their creativity, renew their passions, and make gradual and heart-felt adjustments in their lives. 

It asks questions like: Have you given up your creative passions because — if you’re never going to be a “real writer” (actor/painter/dancer/etc.) — then you think you oughta just give up the stuff that you love?  What can you do to nurture the impulses that moved you to just naturally create and tell stories and draw and dance (etc.) when you were younger? (back before someone told you that syntax and sentence structure was more important than the sentiment, story and magic that flowed from your pen…)

I also love that with “morning pages” — one of the key practices of The Artist’s Way — more people started picking up a pen and throwing words on a page. Y’know: like writing practice/journaling.

I love that inherent in the morning pages process was a permission-slip to write whatever the fuck came up without judgement. It was designed to get people –”writers” or not – to just write stuff out, and not be attached to any sort of perfection or “right-ness” or product. It was about writing for the purpose of clearing the cobwebs, anxiety, and internal chatter to make room for inspiration. 

What I don’t love:

(hate is such a harsh word, huh? it adds some oomph to the title, but let’s leave it there, shall we?)

I’ve never been particularly fond of the “recovery” conversation around The Artist’s Way; I get that we can “recover” things we left behind, but this book likens recovering our creative selves to the addiction-type of recovery. I think addiction is serious shit, and recovery from addiction is serious shit, and making the “recovery” of your creativity part of the addiction/recovery conversation feels a bit trendy, watered-down, and twee. And I think it pulled focus (or lessened? took away from?) the gravity of the addict’s process.

I believe we can honor the stuff we buried without collapsing it with the recovery movement. (this may be a bloggy rant for another day …)

The even bigger problem for me?

Much as I loved the idea of the morning pages, I also hated them. Because: MORNING pages. MORNING. There was SO much insistence that these pages HAD to happen in the morning. And there HAD to be three pages…and written in long-hand.

Aaaah! I fargin HATE that. Rules, schmools.

Toss out the rules, I say. Whatever works for you, start; do it.

Then do it again.

Find what works and get in the habit. If it happens in the morning, great. If it happens while you’re on the train, great. If it happens once a week, fine. If you can do it long-hand, great (cause i agree that there’s something special about pen and paper)…but if all you can manage is 20 minutes stolen away while you’re pretending to be typing an important email at work, then that’s great too. (not that that ever happened to me when i was still at a job. nope. not me; no sir…)

Just write. Get shit DOWN. Don’t stop for the perfect time, the perfect place, the perfect words (see above), just start writing and keep going.

The practice is the important thing. And if you ever want to write a book, a blog post, a poem, a song, a eulogy, a press release, or the body-copy for your company’s annual report, whatever time you write –morning or not; three pages or not – a writing practice will help. It will bring out the poetry, the blog posts, the songs, and the knowing.

You will surprise yourself with the schtuff that you know and the words that will flow. You’ll be amazed by all the brilliance and magic and genius you didn’t think you had inside you or knew.

And Julia Cameron can bite me if she thinks that shit only happens in the morning and on three pages. So there.

I hope you’ll remember that next time (whatever time it is) if you think there’s a right way to have a writing practice to energize your creativity.

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  • Jen Vertanen
    September 25, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    I love this so much!!!!!!! I’m similar…I don’t looooove The Artist Way and I’m a huge fan of ditching the rules in favor of using the gist of the message and applying it in a way that works for ME. Like yes…just get shit down. I don’t care if it’s the morning.

    Don’t focus on the how (process), instead focus on the why (value).

  • Luisa
    September 25, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Oh my. I’m so happy to find someone who isn’t an Artist’s Way convert.
    I agree that the underlying “recovery” discourse is off-putting and I completely agree that Morning pages should not be a rule. My brain just does not work in the morning but even more than that, I hated her week without reading. That’s where I stopped and I thought I would never finish the book. I’ve attempted to do it three times and no, at most I write for 30 days but as soon as I hit the week without reading I give up.

    It’s true that with informatino overload, a reading detox is great, it lets your mind rest and become invigorated again. I find that every time I go camping. But a week without reading feels like torture.

    I’m glad I discovered your blog!