Week 12: Finishing the Artist's Way

TL;DR: You are allowed to play and growth is a spiral.

Hi folks! Through this newsletter I have been sharing my progress with The Artist’s Way, a self-help book for creative recovery by Julia Cameron. THIS IS THE LAST ONE, HURRAH. You can read recaps of past weeks here.

I did it! After twelve weeks of daily morning pages, weekly artist dates, and a whole lot of reflecting, I have finished the Artist’s Way.

The twelve-week mark was sometime in the last week of 2019 while I was in LA. I didn’t celebrate the accomplishment or feel any sort of finality; instead I kept the practice going. I continued to write morning pages every day, and though I wouldn’t be as strict about weekly artist dates, I would try to continue to do those too. I finished reading the book thinking the final week’s chapter was the same message that I didn’t need to hear over and over.

Today, I decided to reread the final chapter to have something to write in this post and publicly finish this experiment. You know how sometimes you’ll hear advice that you scoff at or think you already know, and other times you’ll hear that same advice and think, “this could not have come at a better time in my life?” I had one of those moments, feeling a swell of gratitude for the words I was rereading at exactly the right time.

Trusting Myself

Week 12 is about how creativity requires profound trust. My short-term memory does not recall if I read this chapter before or after choosing “trust” as my main intention going into 2020, but trust has been a theme that presents itself again & again. All the stressors, decisions, or conflicts that have been arising boil down to opportunities to trust myself. Do I trust in my past self and the path she wanted to go down? Do I trust that I work hard already, that I do not need to keep taking on more? Do I trust my vision and creative eye for the project I am creating?

Trusting myself is hard, and it often conflicts with ego-driven fears. I spent a good part of this weekend debating on whether to pause on job interviews because it was leading to stress/overwhelm and I felt very distanced from Modern Doing, the creative project I aim to launch this year (more on that in future posts!) Whenever I start asking the question of whether I should continue doing something I already know the answer (almost always “no”, and if it’s not “no” at the moment it will be in a few months).

Yet I still felt a compulsion to ask others for input instead of trusting what I wanted to do because of what it could say about me to pause or quit. Perhaps it would mean I wasn’t hard-working or responsible or competent, and did I really want to give up when I could just push myself more?

These passages of Cameron’s reminded me of what I thought I already knew, but deeply needed to hear again:

  • While we are ambivalent, the universe will seem to us also to be ambivalent and erratic. The flow through our lives will be characterized by spurts of abundance and long spells of drought, when our supply dwindles to a mere trickle.”

  • “We are an ambitious society, and it is often difficult for us to cultivate forms of creativity that do not directly serve us and our career goals. Recovery urges our reexamining definitions of creativity and expanding them.”

Here is my TL;DR of the Artist’s Way (slightly modified because though I love and appreciate this book, Cameron seems blind to the realities of many people’s situations). Are you meeting your basic needs (food, shelter, health, etc?) Then yes, you are encouraged to play. You are allowed to say no to the grind. You can choose creativity and the unknown over things that are inarguable productive accomplishments.

Play is the exultation of the possible. —Martin Buber

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Growth is a Spiral

In the introduction and epilogue, Cameron reminds us that the Artist’s Way is a spiral path.

You will circle through some of the issues over and over, each time at a different level. There is no such thing as being done with an artistic life. Frustrations and rewards exist at all levels on the path. Our aim here is to find the trail, establish our footing, and begin the climb.

Already I am being shown how much this holds true. I wrote in Week 10 about letting go so I can be less busy; less than a month later I grapple with letting go again (you would think I would have learned my lesson!! But the attachment to busyness and ego is strong).

Although there aren’t any radical changes from completing the Artist’s Way, I have seen numerous instances of change in my thinking & behavior. I take pride in having committed to this long process, though I had my doubts at the start. I believe, just a little bit more, that I am an artist devoted to my creative practice. I have made the decision multiple times to quietly work on my creative vision rather than seek instantly gratifying accomplishments.

Perhaps most importantly, I have been embracing joy. For most of these weeks I recall feeling happy and not stressed even with a steady stream of things to do. I still revel in my daily morning routine—it feels amazing to know that every day I have carved out this uninterrupted hour for myself. Through the Artist’s Way I ushered in the practices of affirmations and manifestation, which previously I judged as very “woo woo” but now I think: if it helps me be more positive and grateful and kind, then who cares?

Though I have technically finished, I am continuing to uphold the practices of the Artist’s Way, and I would like to revisit the chapters every so often to see what might resonate. Several of you readers have also started doing the Artist’s Way, which I think is so awesome! I really hope you share with me what your journey has been like so far, and please don’t be discouraged if you find yourself pausing and having to restart at another time. Remember that growth is a spiral—what we don’t fully learn now will come back to us again when we are more receptive and the time is right.

Thank you so, so much for following this journey with me and letting me know each week what feelings or concepts resonated with you. Though the Artist’s Way recaps have ended, the newsletter lives on—I’m excited to welcome more unpredictability and variation in the posts I write, like the one-off posts I have been writing in between these weekly recaps (which have been so very fun to write)!