“The Artist’s Way”

You are a creative being, even if you don’t know it. If you feel like you aren’t creative, or if you know you are and just feel stuck, I cannot recommend enough “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron.

The book is a 12-week course in creativity. Each chapter’s reading and activities are designed to unblock our natural creative impulses. Cameron’s philosophy is that we are all creative, but are told throughout our lives that artistic dreams are financially unstable and therefore irresponsible, or just unrealistic, so we block our instincts in favor of something more acceptable.

It was somewhere in the middle of this course that I came up with the idea for my book. The exercise was a Q&A where you give the first answer that comes to mind. The question: What is something you’ve never tried that you’d like to try? My answer: I’d like to write a YA novel with an adventure/fantasy element. Then, out loud: “Whoa.”

I’m a fan of the YA fantasy genre. The books aren’t always the best-written, but they are a lot of fun. I’d never considered writing one before. Once I gave that answer, though, I started considering. What would my “hook” be? Not wizards, not vampires, not post-apocalyptic dystopian societies (who else is super stoked about “The Hunger Games” movie, by the way?)… it needed to be something else. Then, a thought: Time travel.

As soon as I settled on that, the entire thing just exploded into my brain. By the end of the night I’d written out a basic plot outline, character bios and the mythology of time travel as it applied to my story. Again, “Whoa.”

So, where does all this happen? I’m glad you asked. Welcome to my Creativity Corner!

This is where I write, blog and troll the Internet when I’m at home. I considered clearing off the clutter so you’d all be impressed by my organization, but that would be living a lie. This is what it looks like in all its glory. (Confession: I did remove the clothes that were draped over the back of the chair.) Let’s take a tour, shall we?

1. A framed copy of the front page and staff box of my very last issue of The Paisano. This was my sister’s graduation gift to me. I always get a little thrill when I see my name at the top of the staff box under Editor-in-Chief.

2. My bulletin board, where I put things that inspire me. That’s a bumper sticker that reads “God is too big to fit into any one religion.” There’s also a striking postcard of a wolf’s penetrating stare, some mandalas I drew back in 2008 and a scrap of paper where I jotted down something that President Obama once said – “Our security emanates from the justice of our cause.”

3. The computer. If I was on MTV Cribs, I’d point to it and say, “This is where the magic happens.” 🙂

4. The least comfortable chair ever. The desk is actually an old drafting table from when I briefly majored in architecture. Those cans by the printer are spray adhesives for building models. I can probably throw those away.

5. “South of Broad” by Pat Conroy. On my list of books that made me want to beat my head against the wall. It now serves as my door stop.

6. Clutter. Cords for my camera and iPod, scraps of loose paper, office supplies, stuff I should probably shred and recycle.

7. Clutter with purpose! Just a sampling of my notebooks filled with ideas, the calendar with my blogging schedule and bright green notes of encouragement to myself, including the one on top of the monitor that asks “What if I never finished?”

8. Mandalas. I drew these this past summer. The one on top is a literal interpretation of Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain,” the middle one is supposed to look like stained glass and the one on the bottom is the first I’ve ever drawn where the subject is outside of the circle.

Do you have a place where you feel most creative? Tell me all about it!

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17 thoughts on ““The Artist’s Way”

  1. Pingback: A geek for a theme: “The Night Circus” « stefawrites

  2. I did it! I got a desk and rearranged my room so that I have a special spot! wait….

    Anyway, good news is that I’ll be collaborating with a friend in New York to create a stop motion animated film that I need to write ASAP. I dont think my original idea will work so I’ll have to start from scratch. Any advice on how to “kill your baby” and be okay with creating a new one?

  3. I love that you have your own creative corner. My typical writing spot is either on my bed or on the couch, which are probably not as productive. Today has been a good day for writing, though, which reminded me to come by your blog (this is N from book club by the way!). 🙂

  4. I’ve been meaning to get this book! I think everyone i know had already read it. I think I’m scared to admit how much I am keeping my brain from exploring my creative side. I have taken notice of it and got a new job because of it. I’ll get there, slowly but surely. I think I need a creativity corner of my own.

    I don’t have a desk. Its been one of those things that I just never get around to doing. It’s also the reason why I probably been having back pains lately because I use my laptop switching positions every so often. How much time do you think you spend at your desk? Blogging? reading? I tried to do an evaluation like this before, but the numbers started to get too scary so I stopped. Maybe it’ll be a good way of taking inventory of my time so I can be more creative. Okay, now I’m rambling!

    • Hi Sammie! I’d say I’m in this uncomfortable chair a couple of hours a day. When I was writing the book (mainly on weekends) it was sometimes up to 6 hours at a time. I’ve only just begun to feel my rear end again. 😉 I know you’re a creative person and a good writer. We’ve shared ideas before. Your good ideas deserve a physical presence – write them down, pin them on a wall and look at them every day. Be proud of what you can create!

  5. My favorite thing about “The Artist’s Way” was the chapter about calling what we often punishingly call “laziness” by it’s true name: fear. Fear of failure, fear of success…

    I also love the diagram of your creativity corner. Please do my OCD mind a favor and throw away those two canisters you’re not using. 😉

  6. I love this! I don’t always feel very creative, but I love seeing creativity bloom in my children. They’re not afraid to mess up. They don’t ascribe to how things are supposed to look (green faces, orange hair, purple legs), and their pieces are beautiful anyway. I love to write, so that’s my creative release…even if it’s sometimes just an email or a Facebook post. I don’t have a creative space…maybe that’s something I should work on for 2012!

  7. It seems silly for me to comment since you already know all of these things about me, BUT for the sake of participation and maybe encouraging others to comment…

    I actually find myself struggling with the creative block that is life, lol. I feel like I am bursting with creativity but must push that down to the bottom of the barrel so I can keep a job that pays me well enough to take care of financial responsibilities and provide for my kiddo. Whats on the list – writing, photography, painting/drawing, designing spaces for prayer/meditation…and so much more. Hence the reason I get super excited about the idea of “art days” with our aunt who is a creative being herself, and the reason I try to squeeze my creativity into to the spaces of opportunity wherever I might find them (i.e. gifts to others…shout out to the family!)

    Does the book talk about how you can merge your creative being and your day to day responsibilities? Or maybe how to transfer into a situation where your creativity becomes your livelihood…that would be the life!

    • http://www.amazon.com/Quitter-Jon-Acuff/dp/0982986270/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1325696094&sr=8-1 – I am loving this book. I haven’t finished it, but there is a great chapter about “falling in like with a job you don’t love” that is essentially about looking at how you can appreciate your day job more by seeing how it supports your dream instead of suppressing it.

      Abundance Bound – http://www.abundancebound.com/free-teleseminar.php – an actress started a financial management business designed specifically for actors and other creative professionals. It is focused on healthy finances but there is a component about looking at the skills you have that can help you generate income in more pleasant ways than a day job that is too hard to “fall in like” with. Example: my friend Jon wants to be a filmmaker but he is also an excellent photographer so he is building up a headshot business. My latest photo is actually one he took. Headshot photography is potentially very lucrative in NYC and VERY flexible, timewise. The link above is directly to a page where you can sign up for her free teleseminar outlining the 9 steps of her program. I haven’t signed up for anything beyond that free call yet, but I got TONS of useful info from that call. If you can’t make the call live, as long as you sign up, you’ll get a link to the recording afterwards, so you can listen any time that’s convenient. I downloaded it to my iPhone. 🙂

      Lots to think about. Hope it helps!

    • Nat, the book does offer advice on being creative while going about your daily life. Some things (like taking at least and hour to yourself each weekend, called an Artist’s Date) will feel like a disruption at first, but they are necessary. And yes, the goal is to transfer creativity from being a hobby to being a serious focus, but what is considered success is subjective. No matter what, I can promise you’ll feel spiritually revived. (I’d loan you my copy but I’ve written all over it.) 🙂

  8. I love reading your blog! I confess that I’m guilty of stifling my kid’s creativity because it doesn’t help the GPA or get them into college cause there’s not an AP creativity class. But I’m going to stop doing that TODAY! Can’t wait for the book. Since I think it must be different than the draft you gave grandma and grandpa several Christmases ago, can I read that one? Please 🙂

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