Writing Wednesday: The Artist’s Way

The Artist’s Way is a book by Julia Cameron that outlines a 12-week program to unblock your creativity

It goes week by week with a chapter and tasks. There are 120 tasks in all, so Julia said in an interview I listened to this week. And each task can free up your blocks in different ways.

Morning Pages

Have you heard of morning pages, perhaps? I’ve heard of them in a couple arenas, but I started doing my own as a part of my acting class nearly a year ago. I was not consistent with them, ever.

Morning pages are three pages of longhand stream-of-consciousness writing

Some people in my acting program hate them. I didn’t hate them, but I did struggle to wake up early enough to finish them before I had to get on with my day.

I am trying again. It is easier this time around for two reasons, maybe three. First of all, I chose to do this, it wasn’t an assignment.

Second, I have a smaller notebook–smaller pages. So three pages is, technically, less that it was before. My plan is to move to a notebook with slightly bigger pages, then to full size pages.

Third, my time is more flexible now. I work from home quite a bit, so I have more time in the mornings. And, luckily, my sleep schedule has evened out so I am waking up earlier without effort.

Affirmations and Blurts

I resisted this at first. Julia has you write an affirmation ten times, such as

“I, Sarah, am a brilliant and prolific actress.”

an affirmation. I wrote it ten times.

(I struggled just to choose a noun to describe myself. Actress. Singer. Writer. What to say?)

She claims that as you write, your inner critic will start arguing with the affirmation. She said to write down what it says–these are blurts.

“I don’t know if you can call yourself prolific. How much work as an actress have you really done?”

A blurt

Then, you must turn each blurt into a positive affirmation.

“I, Sarah, have a long resume of acting credits and am thus prolific.”

a positive affirmation to replace the blurt

I did find this surprisingly helpful! But I don’t want to do the next part.

Investigate Your Blurts

There are several tasks which ask you to write about those in your life who are enemies to your creative self. Such as a harsh teacher, a parent who urged you into another field, etc.

I am very priviledged, fortunate, and blessed that my parents supported all my creative efforts. I had wonderful teachers. This leads me to a scary thought.

First, the biggest enemy to my creative self is my own self-doubt.

However, I have discovered that there are some enemies to my creative self. I won’t list them here. I wrote their names (or, if I couldn’t remember, just Dr. HotShot from college) on a post-it note because I didn’t want their names to be permanent in my journal.

I don’t think I hold on to much of the criticism I have felt from those few people. Most of them are far in my past and didn’t have significant influence on my life for long periods of time. I’m not sure I want to dig in to those memories that I think I have worked past well already.

Voice in My Head

One particular name never actually directly criticized me and was never in a position of significant power or mentorship in my life. But I would hear their passive-aggressive condescending comments on my work. And I would get second-hand criticisms from them.

I internalized these things even though I truly disliked this person and had no reason to care what they thought.

It got so bad that I started to hear their voice in my head any time I was feeling bad about myself.

That was when I started experimenting with replacing that voice with someone else’s. Leslie Knope, the character played by Amy Poehler in Parks and Recreation is a favorite. Because the self-righteous, passive-aggressive, condescending voice does not deserve a place in my head.

Imperfect

Julia says that working through The Artist’s Way imperfectly is still progress. So, I will give each task a fair shot, but I also give myself permission to stop or skip ahead and be imperfect about it.

Question

Do you have a voice in your head that works against you? Whose voice would you use to replace it?

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