Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Book Recommendation: The Artist's Way, Part I

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron is one of those books that should have a permanent home on your bookshelf. It's not a writing manual; it's a creative manual. It's a 12 week guide to living an artistic life, no matter who you are.

Now, in all honesty, I didn't follow the program. I ended up picking and choosing what worked for me and what I needed to hear and acknowledge. My copy of the book has so much underlined and starred that it's a wonder I can actually read the text. My point is, don't let the "12 week" part stop you from reading this book. I learned so much from it that I'm doing this "review" in two parts.

"One of the most important things we learn during the twelve weeks is to give up our ideas of perfection and to see a new perspective, to change our focus from product to process." The practice of the Morning Pages really drove this home for me. Basically, it's three pages, written in long hand, of blather. Of stuff you need to get out of your head. Of stuff that's bothering you, angering you, saddening you, blocking you. The Pages are not pretty; they are not art. They are freeing.

The section on Perfectionism really spoke to me - "Perfectionism has nothing to do with getting it right. It has nothing to do with fixing things. It has nothing to do with standards. Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead. It is a loop - an obsessive, debilitating closed system that causes you to get stuck in the details..."

As artists, we must learn to face loss - loss of hope, self-esteem, money. (Rejection may as well move into my house, it's here so often. And it's not a pleasant house guest.) But Cameron makes the point that while most losses are acknowledged, artistic ones often aren't and they become "scar tissue that blocks artistic growth. Deemed too painful, too silly, too humiliating to share...they become, instead, secret losses."

I'll end Part I with this thought - how often do we compare ourselves with others? We see so-and-so getting ahead and we wonder why them and not us. But Cameron says we can't afford to think like this because it takes us out of and away from ourselves, our ideas and choices. We are then defining our creativity in someone else's terms.      

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this book, if you've read it, or on what you've read here. And please come back tomorrow for Part II...


  1. "Change our focus from product to process" -- great perspective. "Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead" -- so true! Sounds like a great resource, and I like the longhand blathering idea. That's what my W1S1 first draft looks like right now!

  2. Those Morning Pages are a big help. Some days, it just gets the gunk out of my head. Other times, it provides clarity and awareness in different areas of my life, not just writing. From blather comes brilliance. Sometimes. Okay, maybe not brilliance but you get the idea.