Friday, October 29, 2010

Wrong turn down The Artist’s Way

A few weeks ago, some article mentioned Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and piqued my curiosity. It’s a classic with 200+ gushing reviews on Amazon. And, really, what creative person doesn’t want to “unblock.” Granted, I wasn’t feeling particularly blocked when I picked it up at the library, but there’s always room to be more creative, right?

For those of you not familiar with this book, it’s a “comprehensive twelve-week program to recover your creativity from a variety of blocks.” The main tools are morning pages (writing three stream-of-consciousness pages about whatever every morning) and artist's dates (taking weekly alone-time to get inspired). As general concepts, both have been recommended to me by professors and other creative folks.

Sounds perfectly helpful, right?

Well, I found myself in a creative slump as soon as I started reading it. Maybe it was getting up half an hour early to write gibberish about how irritated I was getting up early. Maybe it was all the exercises in which I searched my childhood for the moment some villain told me I wasn’t good enough and destroyed my creative mojo. Maybe it was reading her florid prose or all the talk about how it’s God’s plan for you to be creative. Maybe it was the vaguely condescending attitude about careers (like journalism and advertising) that she considers “shadow careers” (i.e. practical substitutions for real art).

Whatever it was, it was not good. But I didn’t want to let it go. After all, so many people say this book changed their lives. Maybe I was just going through the purging phase. (Anyone who’s tried Retin-A knows your face gets worse before it gets better.) So, I trudged on another week, writing in my notebook and reading my affirmations each morning.

But it didn’t get better. I felt run down and idealess. And there was creative work to be done and no time to let this slump work itself out. So, I finally listened to my gut and took Ms. Cameron back to the library.

It took another week or two to shake off the residue, but I’m finally energized and back in the game. Ad icon Rich Silverstein’s talk yesterday helped tremendously.

The moral of this story: You can’t turn all your energy inward and expect it to reflect back at you.

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