Creativity unleashed by Sandra Yuen MacKay

Life and art from a unique perspective


The Artist's Way Part 1

Posted by symackay on April 8, 2010 at 10:45 PM

I'm working through The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. When I opened this book, I quickly realized it would be a 12-week commitment to do it right. Someone suggested to me to get together with some creative-minded people to go through the exercises. In my usual efficient manner, I thought maybe I could just take out the gems that apply to me specifically and scan the rest. So here's the first bits I got out of the first chapters:

The author first discusses the concept of The Great Creator or God or whatever label one wants to use. In my mind, God comes with so much excess baggage and connotations. For me, the term makes me angry, disappointed and shameful all at once. So I will choose a different term like Muse or spiritual, creative energy instead. A common problem is having blocks that not only prevent us from creating, but from pursuing a particular job, or taking a risk to try something new. Often we choose comfortable routines over exploration or don't live out the dreams we talk or think about.

Spiritual Electricity: The Basic Principles state that creativity is God's gift to us. A creative force infuses all things including ourselves. When we open the channel of creativity, we open ourselves to a higher power and may expect gentle but powerful changes. Creative dreams and desires come from a divine source. As we move closer to our creative dreams, we move closer to our divinity.

Sorry, to me this isn't how I view my creativity. For me, the creative process is heightened awareness that motivates me to act, to build, to form something tangible. If an observer sees joy or spiritual energy in me or work that I do, I don't feel it has anything to do with God (there's that word again) but rather harmony and being in sync, in the moment I laid down my brush.

This chapter goes on to discuss negative self-talk that prevents one from creative flow. How many excuses does one make that block the flow? One needs to recognize the artist child within, nurture, and protect that inner being by providing a safe environment for him to explore and grow.

The Basic Tools consists of 1) the morning pages consisting of writing three pages of automatic writing every morning to get the juices flowing, 2) the artist date meaning planning activities that will fuel your well of creativity; and 3) writing a contract of creativity commitment. 

My version of morning pages may be to do mind maps, or jot down ideas or blog. In terms of painting, preparation may mean loose brushstrokes and colour mixing on scraps of paper. If I want to draw, contours or scribbling are good warm-up exercises. I personally do not presently make time to make formal artist dates to fuel my creativity. Instead, I draw from memory, emotion, obsessions, dreams, fantasy, and physical or psychological energy that build inside of me. When I'm blocked, unable to write or paint, I take time away, watch movies, have stimulating conversations, and reflect on where I've been, where I am, and where I'm going. Travel and photography also fuel my well.

Creativity can't be forced. If I'm working in a non-creative job, I'm less likely to be thinking about the next painting. The important thing is to keep the channels open, keep fluent in one's creative style of living, keep growing, keep learning, and lower anxiety. Take feng shui for example. The position of objects in spaces where we live can have an effect on harmony in our environment. If I don't have harmony, how can I free myself and create something aesthetic?

Week 1: Recovering a Sense of Safety gives examples of people who shadow artists. They live their own creative goals through others without opening themselves up to doing it themselves. Fear, jealousy, discontentment, perfectionism, financial concerns, and blindness to one's own potential can impede the artist. As a solution, Cameron offers twenty creative affirmations again around the words God and divinity. This time I'm listening. I feel other artists that experience a heightened spiritual level via mediation, worship, prayer or other means are capable of creating something sublime and powerful. Here are my affirmations:

1. I am a writer and an artist.

2. I create because I have to.

3. If I make mistakes, that's okay. Experimentation and risk-taking are part of the artistic journey.

4. I am willing to create despite rejections or lack of sales.

5. I am a human being. I embrace my strengths and my flaws equally.

6.  I love who I am.

7. My creativity is healing.

Week 2: Recovering a Sense of Identity describes how self-doubt can lead to self-sabotage based on an underlying self-hatred in some. Poisonous playmates or peers who are blocked may hold you back. Choose your friends wisely. Our own skepticism or fear of appearing arrogant may lead us to downplay our successes or thwart our attempts to grow creatively. Pain becomes experience. Pain makes one pay attention. How we deal with what life has given us is more important than our genes. At the end of this chapter, Cameron writes 10 Rules of the Road to be an artist. Here's mine:

1. I believe I a talented artist and my work has value.

2. I need to be consistent in the quality of my work through practice.

3. I need to value my work and not sell out.

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