The Artists Way - A Year Down the Road
It’s ironic, I think, the third time I get up to distract myself when I’m supposed to be writing, that I set out to write a blog about the impact the Artist’s Way Workshop had on my creativity and about how creating has been easier since I took the workshop that, as I sit down to write, I find myself beset by the same type of creative block that had steered me towards the workshop in the first place. I stare at the empty screen and write a few words, delete them, then get up to look for a snack in the fridge. I return to the task at hand, and a few minutes later promptly go over to do the dishes (the dishes! my least favorite chore in the world) instead of writing. Only on what must be the fifth try do I finally start getting down to creating this blog post I thought was going to be about how the Artist’s Way “cured” my creative block.
And now that we are on this fifth try, let’s start at the beginning. For me, that was in a Tel Aviv yoga studio nearly a year ago when I walked in to the first session of a twelve-week workshop on The Artist’s Way, based on the widely read book of the same name by Julia Cameron, hosted by The Stage, and led by Udi Razzin. I had signed up for the workshop as soon as I saw it offered online. I’d never heard of it before, but it sounded like fun, and I’d also been trying to write more (personally and professionally). Although the Artist’s Way is not just for writers or officially-sanctioned artist types, as Udi many times reminded us throughout the workshop, the idea of devoting some dedicated time to exploring my creativity, with fingers crossed it would “unblock” my writing, sounded perfect.
The Artist’s Way is supposed to be a self-help book, but really to me it read more like a guide on how to allow creative work to come more easily—whether that’s writing, painting, cooking, approaching a problem from a different point of view, or any other expression of creativity. On the flip side, the book teaches how to tackle the self-doubt that Cameron posits is at the root of so much creative block.
During the workshop we explored the exercises and techniques the book sets out for “artistic creative discovery.” The two main creative practices are the morning pages—three pages of free-flowing writing about whatever, however, written every morning before doing absolutely anything else (even before coffee!), and the artist’s date—a weekly date you take yourself on to do something fun, to explore and to play without expectation and without “work.”
The Artist’s Way workshop was different from other classes I’ve taken in that it approached creativity—this abstract concept so many people seek and that seems to be trending via “creative minds” and “creative mornings” and “hey you creatives—” from the inside out, while at the same time offering pragmatic behavioral solutions. Each week we delved into a possible reason behind our creative blocks, and also take imaginative leaps with fellow participants. Many weeks during the workshop we did the exercises in the book, but other weeks we indulged in playful activities. Like kids at kindergarten, we sat on the floor and drew with crayons and stickers. I thought, why did I wait since kindergarten to do this again? Another time a fellow workshopee led us in a self-loving meditation and I thought, “I love me, don’t love anybody else, I love me” and quickly realized those are just lyrics to a pop song from a few years back, but that I still felt very good. Then there were times the process of delving into what was behind creative blocks brought out sadness, stories people shared about their lives. In the weeks that the book explored difficult issues behind creative blocks, the process brought out a vulnerability and openness in people that was brave the way creative expression can be brave.
During the workshop, I took myself out on a few artist’s dates and, not to humblebrag, but I had a lot of fun dating myself. I discovered I can spend more time than I thought possible enjoying shopping for twenty-shekel knickknacks at Max 20, and that this activity could get the creative juices flowing. (This is not a sponsored post for Max 20). I attended a Día de los Muertos party hosted by the Mexican Embassy in Tel Aviv. I took many rambling walks where I did nothing but let my mind wander. More than anything what I took out of the workshop, though, what really made an impact for me, besides the commonsense lessons about creativity in the book, was what came from the practice of writing the morning pages. Throughout the workshop I stuck to the daily three pages I wrote each morning. It was grounding to have an outlet to turn to first thing each morning when I had a lot of thoughts to get on the page, but it was most powerful to find out that I could go on writing even when I had nothing to say because I had committed to creating three pages, and that’s what I was going to do, even if the content was at first, to put it gently, not so good.
Since the workshop ended, I have finished a 50,000 word novel-to-be, I’ve continued writing a travel blog, and I have been writing professionally. Almost one year down the line, it’s far easier for me to create than it ever has been. Now, I’m not an evangelist for this book or this workshop or for anything really (except not doing the dishes if you can avoid it as I said), but what I can say is that applying some of the lessons and techniques in the Artist’s Way changed my thinking about my relationship to creative work, that it helped.
Here’s something else I learned from doing the Artist’s Way workshop: when I am having a hard time creating, I just recommit to the process. Sometimes all you have to do to unblock creativity is to keep writing, or painting, or exploring new ideas, or whatever it is, and the creation will come.
And here I am at the end of this blog, and time passed without me even noticing I was writing and creating because I was just immersed in the process. Perhaps then there’s no irony here after all.
Ayelet is a lawyer and writer who can be found sharing her stories about a lifetime of travel on her blog at supernationalblog.com.