Behold the “Unblocked” Spirit of Writing

“Your morning pages are your boat. They will both lead you forward and give you a place to recuperate from your forward motion.”– Julia Cameron*

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The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by national bestselling author Julia Cameron could change your life! It certainly changed mine!

It taps you on the shoulder when you least expect it! That effervescence of literary ‘magic’ that tingles down your back, spreads throughout your body, and squirts out your pen or onto the keyboard. Some call it the muse. Some call it “God” with a capital “G”. Some call it the “spirit” of nature with a more subtle lower case “s”.

If you’re a writer, or a creator from any of the artistic or creative disciplines, you’ve probably felt it. I know I have, and I’ve seen it in the eyes of other writers creating at their peak performance. It’s the force that keeps the creativity flowing and it’s as real and nourishing as an Empire apple picked straight from a tree.

But what happens when the rivers of creativity dry up? Has it happened to you like it happened to me? You wake up in a sweat and overnight the words are blurred or even worse, they’ve disappeared, and your rowboat is gone? You try crawling (without your oars) down a different path but flounder some more.

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Oh, the creative ice block! What to do when your brain is still frozen? Photo: okunhill

So, you pause, take a break, and one day it rains and a raft carrying a bucket of creativity returns but in an unusual way. I call it “serendipity”. National bestselling author Julia Cameron calls it “synchronicity” which is how I first heard about Cameron and her book The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. (A special shout-out to Canadian poet Donna Allard for suggesting this book and author.)

 Be a skeptic if you like but what’s the harm of embracing what could be a magical moment?

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Can a chart and stickers really motivate adults to write three pages a day?

On December 9, 2019, after reading The Artist’s Way, I posted this five-star review on Goodreads:

Whether you call it serendipity or synchronicity, this book fell into my lap at a time I needed to open my eyes to re-evaluate my own creativity and future. Call it an excellent book for the artist in the midst of a mid-life crisis. In fact, any artist at any stage of his/her/their life would benefit from the exercises within. However, to rate this book now, would be pre-mature. It is intended to be a twelve-week spiritual journey of recovery where the reader must promise to write daily morning pages and to fill up the creative stores with an artist’s date each week. In doing so, the reader will find clarity of direction and the support to pursue one’s dreams. To date, I’ve completed almost two weeks of the journey and have read the book cover to cover. I hope I have the discipline to continue with the exercises because for me, this renewed way of thinking worked. In just 12 days, it has changed my outlook. However, I suspect some people will be skeptical and that is part of the process. As the author states, “We insist on a straight and narrow when the Artist’s Way is a spiral path.” (p. 183). So, for now, I’ll give this book top marks but will be back in ten more weeks to provide an update once all the exercises are completed. 

Earlier this month (January 8, 2020), I finished my sixth week of morning pages and was officially half-way through the program. I took an extended break from blogging, disappeared from social media (well-almost), and attempted to return to my childhood and just play!

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Daily morning pages means journaling your thoughts in long hand. No reviewing, no editing, no sharing with anyone, not even yourself.

This quote by Cameron especially hit home, “Play can make a workaholic very nervous. Fun is scary!” (p. 166)

Am I having fun yet?  You bet! Is it scary? You better believe it! Was I a skeptic? Of course. This is starting to sound like a commercial but please don’t take it that way.

I was impressed by how the silliest of tasks opened my eyes. For example, the author suggested going to the dollar store to purchase a package of stickers. I was de-cluttering and found some stickers in a drawer (serendipity), so I crossed that off my list fairly easily. I used the stickers to keep track of my writing progress.

Another week she suggested buying a new pair of socks. (Serendipity again – I found a stash of never-worn socks, an intended holiday gift from a few years ago, hidden in my closet.) A few days earlier, she recommended throwing out one item from my closet and a few weeks later, she urged me to give-away even more items. (That lead to a massive de-cluttering activity that had nothing to do with her assignments, but it certainly cleared my head.)

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Being creative often means making messy mistakes. Here’s an experiment with a new photo editing program using an image that was proposed and rejected for a chapbook cover. Why not revise and recycle? Photo: okunhill

Another time she urged the reader to find a quiet spot to listen to one side of a record. (Yes, this book is still pertinent today, but it took me back to my childhood in many ways, and I actually found my old Elton John and Lionel Ritchie records and dusted them off. Now I just have to find the record player which is buried somewhere in my house.)

Like a grade school child, I cut, coloured, and pasted and am still waiting to collect five rocks and five flowers. (It’ll be easier once the snow melts first.)

The book encouraged me to reflect and think about the past (what did my parents think about my art and/or writing?), the present (describe an ideal day), and the future (what is on my bucket list?) This certainly felt like a counselling session, but it clarified my goals.

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Week Seven Task One – Bring out the crayons and markers and make this phrase a mantra “Treating myself like a precious object will make me strong.” Something to tack onto the bulletin board in the new office. 

Yesterday, I finished Week Eight. With another four weeks of assignments and tasks to complete, I’m ready for a vacation!

Even this comment made me laugh after I read Cameron’s side column introducing Week Nine. She stated, “It may be tempting to abandon ship at this point. Don’t”. (p. 151)

Hey, how did she do that? It’s like she read my mind.

One of the most difficult but my favourite weekly assignments was/is to go on an artist’s date by myself to foster creativity in a new discipline. The first week, I sketched our backyard. Last week, I created a photo collage for the newly painted TV room. Today I’m still transitioning to a new computer. Oh Windows 7, how I loved you so much. It’s been a steep learning curve to work with a new operating system.

Then the ultimate challenge… Cameron banned all reading (except for the required assignments) for one whole week. Talk about denial!

I avoided that task for several weeks but once I stopped reading, I realized she had made her point. Some habits are difficult to break, but in the end, these eliminated habits made room for new habits or tasks. That was the week, I shredded a whole box of obsolete files, a task I would have never done otherwise.

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This cutting and pasting college exercise reminded me of found poetry with added images. Special thanks to the all the old magazines stored in my office. I knew there was a reason why I’ve kept them so long. If I’ve used your image or words, please let me know so I can acknowledge and thank you.

So, is this “the” book that will unblock your own creativity? If you check out the reviews of this book on Goodreads, you will notice a range of responses. Ignore all these comments including my own and make up your own mind. As Julia Cameron stated in one of the Appendixes: “Therefore, to predict what someone will learn from this course would undermine the very principle on which it was built. It is experiential, and the results are something to be discovered, not explained.” (p. 208)

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Week Nine and the stickers are still motivating me.

What a discovery! What a huge gift this small serendipitous suggestion turned out to be!

Now, I am paying forward this suggestion to you. Check out Julia Cameron and her books, then enjoy your crazy creative journey! Happy sailing!

Additional information about author Julia Cameron and her inspirational and thought-provoking books, can be found on her website. 

*From “Week Three – Recovering a Sense of Integrity” from the book The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam 2002) by Julia Cameron (p. 85) Used with permission from the author Copyright © 1992, 2002 Julia Cameron. Additional quotes by Cameron are also from this same book borrowed and renewed so many times from the local library. I hope to order my own personal copy soon.

 POSTSCRIPT

 This article represents Blog Post #167.  

To all my followers who have faithfully read all my blog posts over the last six years, thank you so much. My plans are to slow down with social media and blogging so that I may have extra time to work on some new creative projects.

Thank you, Julia Cameron! You have been such an inspiration!

This summer, I look forward to passing the torch allowing new bloggers to ignite their own creativity onto the blogging platform. In the meantime, continue to check the 2020 event page for literary events happening in the Ontario, Canada Area.

Also, coming soon, a review of two books by Hamilton poet Roy J. Adams plus a glimpse of several new books by London and area writers.

3 thoughts on “Behold the “Unblocked” Spirit of Writing

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