(Use books like “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin, books by Wayne Dyer, etc.)
January 2014, time to make resolutions! I usually keep a few, but somehow fall behind on most of them. Every year I look at the previous year’s list in my journal and write if I kept them, then make a new list of at least 10 things. Some are stated tasks (get passport), some are ongoing projects (eat healthier). So once again, I have “post on Whistling by Candlelight” on my list. Let’s see how consistent I am in 2014!
Since the first month of the year is a good time to try new things, and I have been feeling stuck in a rut creatively, I decided to try one of Julia Cameron’s self-help books on building and strengthening creativity. Her work is aimed at artists, but anyone who wants to build up their creativity could use this course. Instead of the more well-known The Artist’s Way, I decided to try Walking in This World – the Practical Art of Creativity. It’s a 12 week course, so I figured this is a good place to keep myself accountable and share the process with the rest of you. 12 weeks, anyone can stick with something for 3 months, right? There are quite a few writing and creative exercises involved, so I will just give you the highlights and if you are inspired, you can to get the book yourself for the full deal.
To start, there is a set of exercises that Julia asks people to do throughout the 12 week process:
1) Daily – Morning Pages. Do three pages of longhand stream of consciousness writing first thing in the morning when you wake up. Write about anything and everything that comes to mind whether it is inspired or insipid. Do not reread or allow anyone else to read them – just write and move on with your day. Bring your subconscious to the front and clear your head for the day!
2) Weekly – Artist’s Date. Take yourself on an hour long date once a week to do something fun and creative. It could be anything from going to a drawing class, wandering through an arts and crafts store and looking at everything, or walking around taking photos sunrises and sunsets. You can spend money, but the idea is more to feed your creativity, your inner curious child, your playfulness, so it doesn’t have to cost much of anything.
3) At least weekly – Weekly Walk. Go for at least one 20 minute walk a week and walk until you feel your mind and body “unkink”. Kind of a walking meditation. (I have done this before and it does help me think about difficult things without getting too emotional. This exercise and idea is actually what made me choose this book rather than The Artist’s Way.)
The first week is called “Discovering a Sense of Origin” and per Julia, the purpose is “The readings and tasks in week one all aim at pinpointing the ‘you’ you have been evading. When we avoid our creativity, we avoid ourselves. When we meet our creativity, we meet ourselves, and that encounter happens in the moment.”
The first exercise was to write a list of 20 small creative actions you could take, whether it was sharing something with someone close to you (recipes, photos, a trip to a museum) or something as simple as buying and wearing an unusual pair of socks. I thought this would be an easy task – I consider myself a fairly creative person – but it was more challenging than I thought, especially when I got down to the last five items. I found myself thinking about things that were more about organizing (go through my file cabinet) than creative (get some fun pots and re-pot my plants). This helped me realize that I have been putting a much higher priority on “shoulds” than on fun. This also made me realize how often when I am inspired that I tell myself “do the dishes first and then you can sit down and write that song”. Then I end up being grumpy while I am cleaning and by the time I am done, I forget my inspiration.
Instead, what if I sat down and wrote in my moment of inspiration? I would have new energy and be happier doing the dishes with my new creation in place! Of course some things, like having to be at work at a certain time can’t be helped, but if I make more room for what I want to do in the non-time dependent spaces, it will help my creativity not be so stifled. For example, I think about writing on this blog all the time, but come up with many excuses as to why “I can’t write/ right now” until my inspiration is gone.
So stop it, self! Embrace the little spots of creativity now, until they spread and it is more like little dots of non-creativity against a day-glow, paisley print, symphonic background!
I will keep you posted on my progress, friends!