The Artist’s Way | This book could change your life
The two things that changed my life are homeopathy and a book called The Artist’s Way.
Written by Julia Cameron, it’s subtitled ‘a course in discovering and recovering your creative self’. Maybe it’s hard to imagine what that even means.
I wouldn’t let that put you off.
My friend Sudurjaya once told me she thought I was an artist and I was quite surprised. I honestly didn’t know what she meant and I thought it simply wasn’t true.
Nowadays I do think of myself as an artist, and that is entirely down to this book.
After I finished Uni I took my first job as a teacher while my flat-mate Sarah went on to study for a PhD.
I remember Sarah telling me about this book she and her friend were reading; designed for artists, actors and writers. I was intrigued to hear all about it, especially the part that involved a daily habit of writing in the morning.
At the time I was just getting started with my teaching career and that was taking up most of my time and energy.
Discovering my inner artist wasn’t really on my agenda but I knew it was something I wanted to come back to.
Mid-life crisis time
Our neighbourhood has an amazing second-hand bookshop run by the London Buddhist Centre. Their window display is like a treasure trove of all the books you meant to read but haven’t got to yet, so I always stop to browse.
I don’t know about you but I’m a big believer in synchronicity. When I saw The Artist’s Way in the window one day I knew it had my name written on it. My oldest child was eleven and my youngest had just turned one. It was time to shake things up a bit.
Life was pretty full and I didn’t have much time for myself. I’d gone back to work after maternity leave, teaching two days a week and working as a homeopath alongside. Juggling these two jobs plus being a wife and mum took up pretty much all my time and attention.
I loved my work and I loved my family (I still do!) but I was scared that I’d lost a part of myself, or maybe I just needed to find myself. Call it a mid-life crisis but I knew that there was more to my life than being a mum, a teacher and a homeopath.
Could I really have an artist inside of me waiting to get out?
A contract with myself
Cameron writes in a conversational style which is easy to read and I love that the margins of the book are filled with inspiring quotes.
At the beginning is a contract to write out and sign. I hadn’t done that before. A contract with myself and to myself, a commitment to nurturing my inner artist. (I still wasn’t sure I had one.)
It sounded crazy but I did it anyway.
Dates with myself
- The core of the book is something called ‘the morning pages’. You just empty your thoughts onto paper. You’re not trying to make sense or create anything. It’s a tool to clear your mind.
- The second element is something called the Artist’s Date. Each week you spend time alone when you nurture your inner artist, like a child. Cameron says we should expect to find some resistance to it but to do it anyway.
- Weekly tasks help you gently explore experiences and beliefs that limit you. Often they are lists or ‘fill in the blank’ style sentences. I remember that I would sit down to do these at the kitchen table on Sunday evenings as a weekly ritual.
4 things that have changed my life
I came up with a list of four things I wanted to do. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to develop them, but at least I knew that I wanted to do them.
For a couple of years, I’d say that dancing was my main hobby. I don’t take classes so often now, but it’s a part of my life that brings me great joy and I can’t imagine life without it.
I’ve made dozens of quilts using the hand-operated Singer machine that I was given by my Nan and I always have a project on the go.
I take pictures on my iPhone whenever I see something beautiful that I want to capture. I’ve worked hard to frame my pictures better and I love to try different filters.
I’ve slowly evolved my own writing habit here, and I also have a blog about blues music and another where I write for my homeopath community.
All of these things are central to my life now, they’re part of who I am and how I express myself. Daily journal-writing helps clear my mind so I can allow creative thoughts to emerge.
the book that changes lives
‘The Artist’s Way’ changed my life and that’s why I recommend it to people all the time! I’ve bought it as a gift for friends and given away my own copy several times.
I talk about it so much, I forget who I’ve mentioned it to, but they remember. When I see them again it’s the first thing they say. They are excited to tell me how their life has changed since they did it.
Thank you for reading. Here’s to the artist inside all of us.