Each time I’ve come through The Artist’s Way Chapter 8, I find myself on the verge of precisely what author Julia Cameron addresses in Chapter 9: making a dastardly Creative U-Turn. It’s likely you’ll find yourself in the same risky situation because it’s not unusual!
The Artist’s Way Process
The ninth chapter of this powerful creativity manual builds on the previous work and insights gained by following through with the process outlined in the book. Beyond reading each chapter and mulling the topic du jour, we develop the routine of using two tools: writing the daily morning pages and taking ourselves out for weekly artist dates.
Ideally, you have also worked through some of the exercises at the end of each chapter? I hope you have been doing these, because the selected tasks put the meat on the bones for getting the most out of the book — or the experience, if you are working in an Artist’s Way group.
Self Knowledge and Your Creative Process
If you’ve followed the manual this far, you learned lots about yourself and your creative process and your sources and patterns of blocking. This knowledge should help you develop ways to get yourself through creative blocks, although probably with varying degrees of success.
Read Back the Morning Pages
With awareness comes power, so if you are willing to make some honest changes based on what you have learned in the book, then you will most likely find yourself making progress. To this end, the Chapter 9 tasks include (finally!) reading your morning pages. Try to read through them with compassion and gentle kindness, and appreciate the shifts you have made so far. But this is not the only place to exercise compassion in the chapter.
Review in your mind the recent mentions of the “are you lazy or are you blocked?” conundrum, and how it is far more enjoyable to make a play date with our creativity and fool around with our stuff rather than to be a taskmaster to ourselves. We’ve ultimately recognized, too, that it takes a daily commitment to our creativity to make progress.
Showing Up Every Day
Now whether you call that daily effort by the name “work” or term it “taking the right next small step” is to some extent a matter of semantics. Regardless, this is where the buckle down and show up every day stuff hits the fan.
More Compassion Needed
Which brings us squarely to the crux of The Artist’s Way Week Nine, entitled: Recovering a Sense of Compassion. This is a deceptive chapter on first read, seemingly short and to the point; the title reassuringly encourages you to “Give yourself a break!” There’s another reason for that, beyond reading through all those morning pages you wrote and thus revisiting your thoughts over the past weeks.
The second reason for needing compassion for yourself now is that it’s time to set some priorities and goals and begin mapping out plans. When confronting this stiff shot of reality, it’s tempting to take the easy way out by making a creative U turn – backing away or swerving and avoiding the next step. According to Cameron we do this because of fear. Fear of succeeding or fear of failing, or whatever, but in any case, fear. Anxiety!
Facing Fear or Turning Away
This is a somewhat normal occurrence for most creative people and you can see it in many creative careers. Cameron points out that the artist who faces a creative u-turn requires compassion and sympathy because in her words, “creativity is scary”. She reassures us how we might need to circle back and get ready to try again, or we might need to (gently) re-examine old creative failures and learn from them so we are better prepared this time.
U Turn Alert
But most of all, recognizing that you are about to make the creative U turn alerts you to it and enables you to ease your way into the next steps by asking for help. For some of us, this is a huge revelation.
You might look for help from someone who has already taken this step or followed a similar trajectory and done it successfully, ask them for advice or tips or guidance or if nothing else, read up and see how the heck they achieved what they did. A little reverse engineering might come in handy here, too.
Make it Easy on Yourself!
Seriously, why re-invent the wheel? There is no law that says you have to do this alone (or sabotage yourself). Who could YOU ask for help? What is your next right step here, what small step could you take to move steadily forward and avoid making a creative u-turn?
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