About a month ago I was in the local op shop rummaging through the collection of art books in search for some impressionist titles for my daughter who is studying year 12 art. I was hoping the old French and European masters would inspire her year 12 project with their beautiful gift of working light and colour into magic to portray the very best of the natural world. But another book suddenly caught my eye with the title The Artists Way and sparked a recall of hearing good things about it some time in the distant past; with a price tag of $2 I purchased it.
After a bit of a Google search I discovered that The Artists Way by Julia Cameron is a classic, a much loved book for artists of all kinds looking to rediscover or recover their creative selves. It might not be for everyone but many artists I have known over the years have spoken about it. In fact when I text a dear friend about looking for a writing course the other day, she responded with The Artists Way by Julia Cameron as a recommendation. I was then reminded of the feeling you get when you're exactly where you're supposed to be. The actual book is currently having its 30th anniversary edition while the original book was first published in the UK in 1994. The version I bought was published one year later.
It's not the first time I had heard of Julia Cameron or The Artists Way, in fact I was quite familiar with one of the two processes I will share with you today called morning pages. But having started reading the book and for a month now taking time to do both the art date and morning pages I am starting to see why so many people have loved this approach to discovering and recovering the creative if not spiritual self. The book is almost like an art therapy course and Julia Cameron herself is an active artist, poet, play right, fiction writer and essayist. She has extensive credits in film, television and theatre and an award winning journalist. She's been refining her creative method for well over two decades. I'm currently only up to chapter two but after only one month into the program I really keen to share with others how it's helping and encourage anyone who wants to get back in touch with their creative self to explore the following two tools I'm going to tell you about in more depth. If you're really keen read the whole book like me!
The Morning Pages
The morning pages is a daily writing practice much the same way we can approach meditation, we commit to doing it and eventually it becomes a daily habit. Some artists swear by morning pages and have been doing it for decades. The morning pages are three pages of writing with the intention to just stream your consciousness on the page. If you've ever explored journalling it is the same thing. I have to admit my morning pages writing practice is only two pages and some days I am really tired of it and think what is the point but I sill do it.
Basically Julia Cameron says there is no wrong way to do morning pages so if you don't feel inspired one morning that is ok and writing your to do list or reflecting on all the things that annoy you is ok too. In fact a lot of morning pages might seem quite negative but that is the whole point. In coaching and counselling it is really important we come to know and accept the shadow side of our personality because that is where the growth happens and where are fullest potential exists.
Morning pages are not designed to be read by anyone else and don't have to be smart or creative in and of themselves. The morning pages are often uninspiring and jump about from one topic to another. My morning pages cover reflections on my work, personal life, complaints about things, imaginations or fantasy and sometimes even shadow content I didn't even know was there until it decides to make itself known in my morning pages. The idea is all the stuff that gets between you and being creative ends up in your morning pages and I the more I do, I think of morning pages as somewhat therapeutic.
Morning pages helps me get clear on the content of my own thoughts, I can get space from the content and look at it in different ways and recover myself from the negative scripts that sometime play out in the background of my subconscious mind. Julia calls this part the censor and says morning pages is a great way to let your censor rattle on but always remember what it is saying is not absolute truth. The cognitive brain is somewhat of a radio transmitter so tune in and see what is going on in there. The censor in my opinion is a protective mechanism that is immature and if you don't recognise it, it can run havoc in your life being over protective and blocking you from your fullest potential.
In the past month through my morning pages I have felt more confident to express my creativity on the website and started a new page dedicated to my painting, writing and creative coaching. I have remembered a manuscript I wrote fifteen years ago and search far and wide and found the twelve chapters on a CD in the attic. I have manage to covert it into a readable file and it now sits in my Google drive waiting to be reflected on fifteen years on. I wrote this manuscript over the nine months I was pregnant with my last baby, Naomi. The final chapter outlines my fourth natural birthing passage and the end of the book I named Creating Life. That writing journey. although I didn't know it at the time was a real turning point in my whole life and now that I am reconnected to it I am going to revisit it when the time is right.
Here some of the main points to remember about doing your morning pages:
Do two to three pages of journalling every day. I do mine straight after meditation while Im drinking my morning coffee.
It's non negotiable so remember if you don't feel like it, you still do it because like brushing your teeth it's an essential habit for developing your creativity.
It's a tool for recovery or discovering creativity. It can help heal and unblock your mind.
You can't do anything wrong in your morning pages and is best when approach like a tool for streaming consciousness.
The Artists Date
Julia Cameron described the artists date as a tool that should be used alongside the morning pages. She sees the morning pages as a sending out your dreams, dissatisfactions, longings to help you see them clearly and the artist date is about receiving and opening up to inspiration, insight and guidance. The artists date involves blocking out about two hours per week to nurture your creativity and inner artist. The idea is to prepare for your artists play date, be 100% committed to it like you do for other less important things in life and ward off any attempts at sacrificing or rescheduling because of competing commitments.
I have been through era's in my life where I have not doing anything creative and it's not healthy for me to suppress my most essential nature. Although two hours is not a lot of time for creativity per week it is better than nothing and it's accumulative. Last week I ended up spending half a day painting because I have so much fun during my artists date. I also walked for two half hours at Sherbrooke forrest the week before that and went swimming at Bells Beach on a cold day the week before. During this time I made lots of wonderful connections with birds, through the birdsong and observing them fluttering about the branches overhead and in the long grasses or riding the winds off the cliffs of the surf coast. I got inspired and decided a series based on Australian birds in my favourite habitats might be a theme I cover in my next art series.
Julia says our artist is our inner child and we need to parent it lovingly. The artist date might be a nurturing excursion to a gallery, library or outdoors to a park, beach or bush walk. She also suggest going to an op shop, garage sale, watch a sunset or sunrise or seek out some live music. Once you commit to your artist date, make sure you do it and observe how everything else will get in the way and you might try to talk yourself out of it. Listen to your thoughts and feelings when out on your artists date to get a sense of what your inner artist actually enjoys. Maybe you're being too serious and need to reconnect with the playful sense of being in flow with the natural world by climbing a tree for a wider view.
The idea is by going on artists date we are filling up our well of inspiration with beautiful images we gather from our lives. Like an ecosystem we need to keep our artists dates diverse and interesting to keep nourishing our creativity and inspiration. Art comes from what we pay attention to and for this reason meditation can help us be attentive and the artist date gives us plenty of beautiful imagery to pay attention to. The details of this imagery are what helps us express and create the art though symbology, imagery, sensual feeling and embodied felt experience.
When we start to pay attention this way we can also open ourselves up to magic and mystery and the artist date is a good opportunity to follow the signs and let them lure us and draw us into their web. A good way to do this is to open up to your senses like touch, taste, sound, smell and sight. Follow them and see what you notice and observe. It might be good to carry a little notebook with you at all times so when you become inspired you can write it down. For example at work the other day I decided to ask my deck of indigenous cards by Mel Brown for a symbol to represent the inspiration for my next painting. I pulled the pelican card and the teachings were very relevant. I also realised I had not seen a pelican for a very long time and Googled where I could find one in Victoria. My next artist date will be to Hastings were I can go find Pelican and do some sketches and take some photographs.
Now you have the two greatest tools to ignite your creativity and help you inspire your inner artist. Take a curious and open minded approach and if you'd like more support with your creativity or being more committed to the artists path please get in touch for some one on one creative coaching. This week I am working with an artist in the newest outdoor space I have discovered for ecotherapy. Even this spot was something I recently noticed one day when I saw a man sitting on the table with his lap top during the middle of the day and thought this is somewhere I would like to work too. Within weeks I have made it happen and you can too! Follow that feeling.