In case you missed my post last week, I am working my way through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. This book walks you through a twelve-week program to reclaim your identity as an artist and spark creativity in your life. I will be blogging about my progress here.
As you can probably tell by the title of this blog post, the program kicked off this past week with a focus on “recovering a sense of safety”. The chapter on this topic talked about how people and events in our lives can often stifle our creative energies and foster core negative beliefs about what it is like to be an artist.
And, in turn, we pivot to “more practical” pursuits, withering away into a ‘shadow artist’. As Cameron puts it: “Artists themselves but ignorant of their true identity, shadow artists are to be found shadowing declared artists… gravitating to their rightful tribe but cannot yet claim their birthright.”
She talks about how shadow artists often choose shadow careers, in some way related to their creative passion. I think back about my time working in marketing & advertising and how my favorite part was giving presentations.
And as we shadow artists reclaim our identity as declared artists ourselves, we need to be patient with ourselves. “Progress, not perfection, is what we should be asking of ourselves.”
Before this sabbatical, I shied away from things I wasn’t immediately good at … even as a young child. Being a perfectionist became so much a part of my identity that I sprinted as fast as I could away from things I couldn’t be perfect at.
But here’s my favorite quote for this Week 1 chapter: “Remember that in order to recover as an artist, you must be willing to be a bad artist.”
Exercises – Core Negative Beliefs & Affirmations
There were a few exercises peppered throughout this chapter. Cameron recommends doing the exercises right after reading the chapter.
This chapter’s first exercise had me uncovering my core negative beliefs about being an artist. And then I rebutted each negative belief with an affirmation.
It started by writing an affirmation about yourself as an artist and writing it ten times in a row. Using Cameron’s template I wrote: “I, Laura Domingo, am a brilliant and talented actress.” (hey, I used a template!)
The idea is that as you write this affirmation over and over, your little demons will pipe up (or what Cameron terms your Censor) with their protests:
“You aren’t driven enough.”
“You can’t handle the uncertainty and risk.”
“You’re too fat.”
You note all of these ‘blurts’ as Cameron calls them.
And then you turn each into an affirmation:
I am driven enough to succeed.
I am comfortable with uncertainty and risk and can overcome doubts that may set in.
I have control over my body and can find opportunities for my body type, regardless of size.
The idea is to then read your affirmations every day after doing your morning pages … but I forgot that I was supposed to read through them. So, I’ll try to do it next week!
At the end of each chapter there are a list of tasks to complete throughout the week. Week 1 had ten tasks.
Cameron admits that it’s unlikely you’ll have time to complete the entire list, so she recommends aiming for tackling at least half of them. So for Week 1, that was five tasks.
I will admit: I completely failed at making time to work on these tasks throughout the week. I didn’t end up going back to the list until the last day of the week, which meant I was cramming most of the work into one day.
Tasks #1 and #2 were to do your morning pages and go on your artist date, respectively. These are things we are supposed to do throughout the program, and I’ll talk about them in the next section.
So, then I had to choose at least three other tasks. Cameron recommends a mix of the task(s) you are really drawn to and those that repel you.
For me, there were a few tasks related to identifying old enemies of your creative self — people and experiences that seeded some of your core negative beliefs about your potential as an artist.
I was not looking forward to doing those. I knew it would drum of painful memories and possibly reignite insecurities. But that’s exactly why I chose to take on those tasks. We have to be willing to tackle fear and discomfort to reclaim our creative selves.
The task I was really looking forward to was one about imagining what I’d do if I had five other lives to lead. I’m so bummed I didn’t make time to work on this task earlier because the second part of the task was to choose one of these imaginary lives and try to live it for the week.
I want to try to find time to still do this task at some point.
For Week 2, I am determined to carve out time each day to work on the tasks. I may need to actually schedule it in my calendar.
As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, there are two activities — or Basic Tools, as Cameron calls them — that you do throughout the entire 12-week program (and beyond!).
This daily task has you hand-write three full pages — ideally right after getting out of bed — of whatever comes to mind. It’s a way of dumping the thoughts that are plaguing you so that you can start the day with a clearer head.
And … I was successful in doing them every day! I did beat myself up when I forgot to do them right away on the second day … and the last day. But then I remembered that it’s an accomplishment that I still managed to eventually do them.
I did find it helpful to clear the thought clutter. It allowed me to get onto the pages a lot of thoughts that, otherwise, would have been festering in my mind. And I also felt a lot more alert after doing the morning pages.
And though the point is to just get your thoughts on the page for the day and then stash those pages away, it was easy to notice some recurring thoughts throughout the week.
I’m definitely being plagued with feelings of resentment at the moment. Especially related to loss of self and personal time. I wonder if going through this program will help dissipate those feelings of resentment.
Well, one success and one … utter failure.
The artist date is something you should do once every week — an outing (or date) … with yourself! But all by yourself.
And, I just could find the time to do it. Though, if I shouldn’t let myself off the hook with excuses — I didn’t work hard enough to prioritize a time to do it.
To be fair, it’s hard to do this with a child. Not that Ryan isn’t willing to take Artie-duty for a couple of hours. But I already had a lot of pre-scheduled commitments that required Ryan to watch Artie by himself: rehearsals, my workouts, shooting and editing my YouTube video, a hike I had already planned with a friend.
I realize that this is one thing I will really need to work with Ryan on to figure out a time when I can fairly go out and do something by myself. And once again — I just need to put it in my calendar.
Doing the work on this chapter really helped me realize just how many doubts and negative beliefs still plague me when it comes to my potential as an artist. And some of these negative beliefs are so ingrained in me, that I can’t even remember where they came from.
I felt like a failure this week in so many ways. Didn’t get to this task. Didn’t dedicate enough time to that one.
But I guess I just need to remember my favorite quote from the chapter and accept that sometimes I’ll be a bad artist.