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Book Review: The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
I'd heard a lot of good things from various successful people about Julia Cameron's book, The Artist's Way, particularly about this daily activity called 'Morning Pages' that seemed to help focus their day.

I was curious to know more so I decided to buy the book and see what it was all about.

As it happens The Artist's Way is a self help, Twelve week program to assist you in discovering or rediscovering your creativity. As such it's not a book you want to read cover to cover just to get the information. To get the full benefit it's designed so you can read a chapter each week and do the activities, until you've completed the full twelve weeks.

Which is what I chose to do, with every intention of following the course as instructed, but as I started reading, I just didn't recognize the person this book is reaching out to.

Initial impression

The book is intended to help you discover or rediscover your creativity. It does so by assuming the reader is largely creatively blocked and in a place of either low self esteem or not feeling worthy of being considered a 'creative'.

The more I read, the more I thought, who is this person the book is speaking to? I quickly got the impression that this book wasn't really for me. Two things I'm not is creatively blocked, or feeling unworthy about calling myself an 'artist'.

I have a 'to do list' of creative ideas so long I doubt I'll ever get through everything on it during my lifetime. I keep adding to it, if not daily, certainly weekly. I love thinking up new ideas and getting started on them... it's completely what I do best.

I don't have any hang ups about calling myself an artist, though these days I prefer to add other vocations like writer, animator, video producer, etc. because artist really limits the perception of what I do creatively. That aside, other people have described me as an artist since I was at least eight years old.

I'm an artist... I only went to art school because career counselors told me formal qualifications would make it easier to secure work... not because I wanted to train to be an 'artist'. Don't get me wrong, I did learn a whole lot more about art in those three years.

Anyway, I told you all that because it really affected how I received the rest of the book.

Weekly Activities

The two main activities are writing your daily morning pages, and having a weekly 'Artist's Date'.

I did commit to writing my morning pages - which are essentially a stream of conscious period of writing whatever is in your head. No filter, just write and don't stop until you've done about three pages each morning. The more you do it the more you eventually start writing thoughts that maybe wouldn't have come through the usual surface clutter of your mind.

I'm still writing my morning pages weeks after finishing the book but I'm still questioning how useful they are and whether, ultimately I'll keep going with them.

Note that I used the Pomodoro Method for writing my pages, setting a 40 minute timer. Any time I had left over I added random sketching in my sketchbook (stream of conscious sketching if you will). I did this because I really don't draw on paper enough anymore.

Some of my morning sketches. This page
was drawn in twelve minutes.
If you're a visual artist I'd highly recommend adding sketching to your morning pages. Just draw lines and shapes until they turn into something. Don't think about it. It would take me just over 30 minutes to write my morning pages, giving me roughly 10 minutes to sketch each day. I really love looking back over some of those sketches (because I'm more cartoonist than straight up artist I drew a bunch of characters in all different styles, any one that could be the start of something in the future).

Artist Dates, I really tried, but found, I'd really just rather use the time to create stuff. The point is to go out, treat yourself, be inspired, energized, enjoy life etc. etc. but I'd just rather work on my art, projects, and be creative.

When I need a break I go out on my skateboard, plus I take my dog for a walk for over an hour every day too. At the same time I started reading The Artist's Way I decided I was going to learn the Ukulele (having recently bought one) so I really felt I was set for having other distractions not related to being an artist.

Granted, I believe I probably would have benefited from Artist Dates. I think they're a good idea. I may try to adopt this more in the future.

The book has many other 'one off' activities to complete as you go. Typical things like creating vision boards, identifying people who help or hinder you, and so on. Like with the artist dates I felt all the activities were just too much effort. If I tried to do all of them there would be no time left in the week to do my own art/projects... so I didn't do any of them... not even the weekly reviews after the first chapter.

Summing Up

Honestly, I'm sure this book helped on some level. It inspired me to do daily sketching which I'm definitely going to keep up regardless of whether I keep going with morning page or not. I just really enjoy looking at the sketches, and I do find they inspire ideas.

Speaking of morning pages. I'm not really sure I got the concept of these. At some point you're meant to get deep and meaningful with your thoughts but much of the time I'm using them to write a diary of the previous day, what I did and how I felt about it. Since there's no 'wrong' way to write morning pages, maybe that's enough for me? Occasionally I'll go deeper but not often. That's my dilemma. How useful is a diary? Would I rather use that 30 minutes more productively if I don't feel the pages are all that productive?

 I can see if you're really stuck with artist's block or not really sure about whether you're really ready to release the artist within, The Artist's Way could very well be the book for you. A lot of the tasks will help you organize your thoughts and give you confidence to stop being judgemental about whether you really have a creative bone in your body.

For me, though... it's not really what I was expecting. It wasn't speaking to me in a way I felt I could identify with. I did get some tips and useful ideas but I'm not creatively blocked or lacking any confidence about my art.

Most definitely a self help book for anyone needing a boost in confidence about their creative potential. If that's not you then maybe you'll get some tips but otherwise, reading isn't going to be quite as inspirational.

The Artist's Way is available from Amazon.



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