Photo by Dolly Garland

Whether or not you have heard of the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, you’ve probably heard of one of its most famous concepts: the morning pages. I was familiar with the morning pages, and have done them several times in my journaling practice. But I’d never used the book to do the complete 12 weeks course. So in March, I decided to try it.

I’ve just started Week 6, and it’s been an interesting journey so I wanted to share my thoughts which may be helpful if you are considering doing this course, or just feeling a creative block and in need of some inspiration.

First, let’s get the problems with this book out of the way.

The problems

This book was not meant for covid lockdown times. That made some aspects of exercises challenging. Not impossible, but certainly challenging. There are only so many activities you can do indoors for your artist date, especially when you spend the entire day working from home anyway.

Julia, having gone down the route of alcohol addiction then recovery through AA’s 12-step program found and clung to God. This shows up a lot in her writing. She advises, rightly, to not get bogged down in semantics and replace the word God with whatever you like. But I’ve got to admit, it is irritating at times. I’m not an atheist but I am also not a fan of preaching and religion in my books. I suspect this annoys a lot of people. But you’ve to get past it, because it’s worth that effort.

The book is dated in some ways. One of the exercises Julia often suggests in several of her books is making a collage. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t have stacks of cool periodicals lying about the house that I can rip images from. I tried to replace it by doing it online, but when you do that, you are searching for specific things and before you know it, you are deep down in Google hole and two hours have gone by. The other sign of its age is the reading deprivation week. We live in an age that is full of way too many distractions and the reading deprivation week cannot cover that. So I modified it to the spirit of our times for it to mean media deprivation.

Obviously, none of these is a fatal flaw, and with a slight tweak either in your technic or your mindset, you can move beyond that and focus on the good things this book has to offer.

The positives

There is a reason The Artist’s Way has been popular for decades and people still keep working through it. It doesn’t have any groundbreaking insights. But we don’t need groundbreaking insights to restore or replenish our creativity. We just need to find the right information at the right time that can reconnect us to our creativity.

The Artist’s Way is organised through its 12-week structure yet is simple in design and application. That makes it very easy to follow for almost everyone. You can pick up the book and you just start working through it one exercise at a time. It doesn’t need any particular skill set or any particular resources. It doesn’t require you to be at any specific level in your creative practice.

Just the act of showing up to your weekly exercises keeps you coming back to your creative practice. It asks for self-exploration and allows for an experience that is your own. Each of us do this course for a different reason and depending on your mindset at the time, you will have a different experience of it than someone else. Even two people with a creative block might have creative blocks that stem from a different root cause. This will change your experience of the course. Some parts may feel easy, others harder, and some you might resist altogether. It’s all fine. There is no right or wrong in this. The course is designed to help you wherever you are in the journey if you will let it. That is the key here. Be open. Be willing to listen to any insights you might gain. Be ready to go with the flow wherever this journey takes you.

The takeaway

After five weeks of diligently working through the Artist’s Way, I think this is a great book to work through if you are in a place in life where you need it. If you are at your creative high and full of purpose then you probably won’t find this very useful, so save it for a rainy day. But if you’re suffering from one or more of the feelings or issues listed below, then start working through the Artist’s Way right away:

  • you feel blocked
  • you keep procrastinating on projects that are important to you
  • you are afraid of failing
  • you think you are not doing as well as you should
  • you keep beating yourself up about how you are not good enough
  • you are jealous of your peers’ successes
  • you think you’ll never achieve your creative goals
  • you worry that you are on the wrong path
  • you worry that you might not be good enough and so you should pack it in altogether
  • you are feeling down in the dumps
  • you feel torn in a million directions, confused and lost
  • you have lost or not found your sense of purpose

Often, the things we need turn up in our lives at the right time. This has happened to me time and time again. I have been journaling for nearly 21 years. I have read a tonne of journaling books. I have written articles, courses and books about journaling, and yet, it took me until now to buy one of the most famous books in journaling and work through it. Because until now, I didn’t need it.

In five weeks, I haven’t had any breakthroughs or any earth-shattering insights. But what I’ve had are lots of tiny shifts as things begin to feel more right than they were. As things start slowly falling into place. I am looking forward to continuing exploring for the remaining 7 weeks.

If that resonates with you then check out the Artist’s Way and see if it’s perhaps the right time for you. If you have worked through this book, then I would love to hear your experience.

Lover of words, coffee, and life. An eternal optimist. Founder of Kaizen Journaling.

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