The Complete Artist's Way: Creativity As A Spiritual Practice, a book written in 1992 by Julia Cameron, is a book that reflects on the life and practice of artists and provides a twelve-week guide that centers healing and cultivating one's inner artist and artistic practice. I found this book through recommendation on TikTok of all places. Having just graduated arts school in May and currently trying to navigate the daunting landscape of career-building and artistic life post-grad in the middle of a pandemic, I figured it would be worth a read. Each week, Cameron provides a central topic which she reflects on in a short chapter. At the end of each chapter, she assigns tasks to be completed each week as well as reflective writing, aimed at establishing healthy creative habits while unblocking past doubts, worries, and concerns. The book takes a highly spiritual approach, specifically a Christian one, but can be read to one's own beliefs. In the spirit of the new year, I am starting a new series on the blog following and sharing my own journey on this 12-week program. Here's to week one!
Week one is entitled: Recovering a Sense of Safety. Cameron says, "This week initiates your creative recovery. You may feel both giddy and defiant, hopeful and skeptical. The readings, tasks, and exercises aim at allowing you to establish a sense of safety, which will enable you to explore your creativity with less fear." Cameron then provides some musings on what she refers to as shadow artists, the inner artist child, and core negative beliefs. The writings this week remind me instantly of inner child work and psychological techniques used in certain psychotherapy techniques. The aim is usually to nurture the inner spirit that is often not respected or given space in our every day, fast-paced lives while simultaneously acknowledging the ways we have had to repress and condemn these inner feelings in the past. While it may seem frivolous at first, this active acknowledgement and re-engagement of a childlike innocence begins to tap into a more fundamental intelligence and sense of trust in oneself. Cameron provides some tasks to support this journey back to one's safety: the most fundamental of which she labels "morning pages," where upon waking you immediately write three pages of literally anything that might come to mind, whether it makes coherent sense or not. Other tasks include reflection such as labeling those who have condemned your creativity in the past, as well as those who have celebrated it, and taking time to reflect on how those influences may effect your current mode of creation. All of these tasks combine to essentially provide a space to question the origins of creation and trace the development of your own artistry in your life. This approach is very effective in establishing a sense of artistic safety, as it has a way of proving the inherent act of creation: everyone is inherently creative, and has been since birth, and therefore is and can be endlessly creative at any point in the present or future.
While I struggled a bit with some of the tasks, such as the morning pages (journaling has never been an activity I enjoy), overall the first chapter felt like a good foundation for what is to come in the rest of the book. Personally, I feel that I already have an established sense of safety in my own creativity having gone to art school and had the privilege of artistic validation throughout my life. This first chapter, though, could prove invaluable for those who desperately want to be creative and feel called to make, but feel they don't have the internal resources to do so. Cameron over and over validates the inherent creativity of all human beings, an encouraging and inspiring thought.
If anyone is interested in taking this 12-week journey with me, Cameron's book can be purchased online anywhere. Leave a comment on the blog if you are interested, and let's connect!