Saturday, April 04, 2009

Creative unblocking

I have been working my way through 'The Artist's Way' by Julia Cameron, which is a coursebook designed to unblock and unlock creativity and is designed to help all kinds of artists, from writers and poets to painters, dancers and designers. More than that, I feel it's a book that would benefit just about anyone - specifically those seeking to explore their creativity - and despite the fact that some people tell themselves they're simply "not creative", I believe that's just mindcrap (incidentally, I so want to patent that word!). We all have creative impulses whether or not we recognise them. Creativity can be used in so many different mediums and outlets and can be used to enhance and enliven just about every aspect of our lives.

Anyway, 'The Artist's Way' is a 12 week course comprised of essays to read, tasks to undertake and it also requires you to use two tools in particular that are designed to really set your creative fire alight: Morning Pages and Artist's Date.

Morning Pages sound deceptively simple but I've found them extremely beneficial and I would in fact recommend them to anyone at all, whether they're interested in creativity or not. The premise is simple: write 3 pages of stream-of-consciousness thoughts every morning. The point is not to write art, but simply to get whatever is on your mind onto paper; you write quickly, without censure. There's no wrong way to write these, so long as you commit to writing the full 3 pages and just splashing down whatever thoughts come to your mind. It's a tremendously therapeutic and liberating practise, aptly nick-named the "brain drain" because that's precisely what it does. The Morning Pages can be used to mull over difficult issues, problems, neuroses, hopes and fears, petty grievances, or perhaps to express your delight about anything great that's happening in your life, or even to write your shopping list. It's the simple act of discipline that seems to help fire up the creative juices, and I've noticed a great creative unblocking occurring simply through the act of doing this practise. Again, it has an enormous therapeutic, unburdening effect so I'd recommend it to anyone.

The other basic tool of the Artist's Way program is what Cameron calls 'artist dates'. This is a once-weekly diversion in which you do anything that excites and interests you, more often than not it's something frivolous and dumb, but it's meant to serve the function of inspiring your 'inner artist' and filling up the artistic well with fresh ideas, spontaneity and fun. Whereas I'm addicted to Morning Pages now and actually look forward to doing them, I'm finding the Artist Date more of a challenge - partly due to the fact I rarely have the energy to do very much of interest and partly because I simply haven't grasped the necessary touch of frivolity yet. But I'm working on it and definitely see the value in re-filling the well of creativity and inspiration.

I like the holistic, spiritual approach Cameron takes in the course. She speaks of how we were created by a universal Creative Force (she uses the word "God" a lot, a word I actually now copiously dislike, but she doesn't use it in a dogmatic way at all) and that our very nature is creativity. Using our creativity can be seen as a way of giving something back to that creative force. The essays and exercises deal a lot with overcoming our inner obstacles such as self-doubt, self sabotage and fear...which are the heinous trinity that have long eaten away at my creativity like an insidious poison.

Anyway, I'm not at week 6 and progressing nicely. I recommend the book for any artist that's struggling with inner blocks and for anyone who's interested in exploring their creative potential but are held back by fears and doubt. Approach the book with an open mind, an open heart and a willingness to explore and discovery. You don't have to automatically agree with everything she says, just be willing to listen and take from it what works for you. You might be surprised...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am just reading an article by Julia Cameron in the Mind Body Spirit magazine by Watkins, which led me to your article after googling 'creative unblocking'.

I like the idea of morning pages, and doing something you like once a week sounds great. I cant say I will buy the book, but it has certainly given me something to think about.