My Iona sister, Tori, and I started working through Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way book again this week. This is something that we have done before. In fact, I had attempted working through The Artist's Way a number of times in the past and never succeeded until Tori and another Iona sister of ours and I worked through it in 2008. Ms. Cameron has structured it in 12 chapters, making it perfect to work with one a week, yet also making it flexible enough that if we need two weeks for anything, it's easily accomplished.
That's what we are doing again this time - a chapter a week. Yesterday I read the beginning, introductory pages and found things that I think I missed the first time. Either I missed them, or I am seeing them through different eyes this time. It could be that I am just seeing them through different eyes - eyes that are two years down the path from the last time I approached this work.
And it is work - but it is such awesome work for the spirit that I really cannot recommend it highly enough. What came to me this time as I was reading these beginning pages was what I'm ready. And what would it be like if I was actually following Julia's two guidelines. Morning Pages and Artist's Dates (more about them in another post).
She advocates a tool called Morning Pages. These are pages that you write out in longhand every morning - first thing. Three pages. A "brain drain" if you will - wiping the slate clean every morning - getting all the crap off the path and out of the way so you can safely walk.
It's not that I didn't do the work last time. I did. When I did this the last time - I was religious about writing my morning pages, caught up in the "rules" about writing them. But there are no rules - only the rules of perfection that I made for myself . . . Morning Pages rules don't exist. They were my own choice . . . my own everyday force of trying to be perfect. Still, I did the work. And I profited from it.
The big difference this time - already - is letting go of the need to be perfect, and actually doing the work with a sense of wonder. It makes a lot of sense to me that you have to DO the work, not just read about it. You have to get out of your head and onto the path. Morning Pages help do that. But this time, there is something else in these morning pages that is calling me (I've made the commitment to do them throughout this 12-week journey). I'm not quite sure how to articulate it, but I feel that they are now a different tool - that I am on the next layer of this soul and artist's work.
It's been awhile since I have talked about art and soul work - the path to one's self is not always straight and rubble-free. My own path seems to take quite the winding way around in pretty much every area of my life - but what a journey it is :-)
I am an artist. We are all artists - each in our own way. And art is different for every person - we find it in so many different ways and places. Art is not just paintings or symphonies or sculpture or great literature. Sometimes it's a house well-cleaned - or a meal exquisitely prepared and served. Sometimes it's loving a child - or listening to someone who needs to be heard. Sometimes it's an aria at the Lyric - and sometimes, a song in the shower.
Whatever your art is, I hope you nurture it - take the time to hear what you need to hear and know what you need to know. Life can be so overwhelming that we lose sight of ourselves and what is really important. This past year has been filled with so many wonderful things for me - but also a lot of stress. My focus is blurry and my creativity is at a low ebb. Part of me knows what's in store for me in the coming weeks from having done The Artist's Way before - but the beauty of a course like this is that it is different every time you do it, because you are different.
I am looking forward to working with Tori on this again. We have blocked out the time on our calendars for a weekly conference call because we live in different states - usually it's Saturday mornings. It's sacred time. You can do The Artist's Way on your own (although I was not successful with it by myself), but I have found that it's much better to work with another person or a small group of like-minded people. You receive so much when you work with others on work like this. Gaining insights you might not have thought of on your own. Making the commitment to meet and discuss.
It's critical to have that framework structure in place. Sort of the old "fake it 'til you make it" attitude. You just keep moving forward within the structure you have set for yourself, and eventually, it becomes ingrained - you've worn new passages in your brain, new ways to think and do. And although it might seem counter intuitive, that framework is liberating. It lights the path to your spirit. Without it, it's too easy to sleep late, or get sidetracked and think "Oh, I'll do it tomorrow . . ." and then tomorrow never comes.
I tried to embed a video of Julia Cameron talking about Morning Pages and it didn't work. So, here is the link to view it. It's very interesting.