The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

Notes from ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron: “A course in discovering and recovering your creative self”

Chapter / Week 1

Basic Principles

There is an underlying, creative force infusing all of life. We are creations and are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves. Creativity is God’s gift to us, using our creativity is our gift back to God. The refusal to be creative is self-will and counter to our true nature. Our creative dreams are important and come from our divine source.

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” – Pablo Picasso

Julia Cameron promotes a) morning pages: 3 pages written as a stream of consciousness. Helps to release the inner critic (teaches logic brain to stand aside and let artist brain play). Helps you identify negative attitudes and detach.

b) artist dates: 1-2 hours set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness / inner artist / playful child. Spending time in solitude, exploring what intrigues or interests you. Think mystery, not mastery. An excursion to an art gallery perhaps.

“Why should we all use our creative power? Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold & compassionate, so indifferent to fighting & the accumulation of objects & money.” – Brenda Ueland

Parents should respond: “Try it and see what happens” to artistic urges from their offspring. They should offer encouragement but they perpetuate the myth of the starving artist. It is possible to be financially successful and an artist.

Those too intimidated to become artists themselves, very often low in self-worth, tend to become shadow artists. Unable to recognise they may possess the creativity they admire, they often date those with an art career or become artist reps or critics. Creativity is play, but for shadow artists, learning to allow themselves to play is hard work.

“Creative work is play. It is free speculation using the materials of one’s chosen form.” – Stephen Nachmanovitch

Often audacity, not talent makes an artist. You are not necessarily born one but can become one with practice and training. You must first be willing to be a bad artist; give yourself permission to be a beginner. Remember every failed experiment is a chance to learn something.

Personal Affirmations

I can become a great artist with practice / training
I can be financially solvent & an artist
Art is essential to my health / wellbeing
Ignore your parents & society. Follow your own non-conventional path / lifestyle

Chapter / Week 2

Common self-attacks are: “I did okay this week but it’s just a temporary thing…” Do not let self-doubt turn into self-sabotage. Creativity flourishes when we have a sense of safety and self-acceptance. Toxic playmates can capsize our artist’s growth.

We want to set aside time for our creativity but feel we should do something else instead. We focus not on our responsibilities to ourselves but those to others, falling in with their plans for us. We tend to think this makes us good people but it just makes us frustrated.

“Every time you don’t follow your inner guidance, you feel a loss of energy, power, a sense of spiritual deadness.” – Shakti Gawain

You will learn that it is actually easier to write than not write, paint than not paint etc. You will learn to enjoy the process of being a creative channel and surrender your need to control the result. You will discover the joy of practicing your creativity. The process, not the product, will become your focus.

We need to stop burying our feelings of doubt and explore them instead. Ultimately, turning negative thoughts into positive affirmations. Soon enough, you will be a bridge that will allow others to cross over from self-doubt into self-expression.

One thing worth noting is our reluctance to take seriously the possibility the universe might be cooperating with our new, expanded plans. We’re brave enough to try creative recovery but we do not really want the universe to pay attention. We still feel too much like frauds to handle success.

The mind is like a room, where we keep all of our usual, comfortable ideas about life, what’s possible and what isn’t. The door is slightly ajar and out there in the dazzling light are many new ideas that we consider too far-out. Anything weird or threatening, we pull the door shut.

Inner work triggering outer change? (Slam!) Synchronicity supporting my artist with serendipitous coincidences? (Slam! Slam!) We need to set aside our skepticism & gently nudge the door a little further open (open-mindedness).

Rather than working or living in the now, we indulge in fantasy or daydreams of could’ve, would’ve, should’ve. One misconception of artistic life is constant aimlessness but the truth is it involves great attention (connection).

Mindfulness brings joy and comfort from the feeling we are ‘unutterably alone’. – Rilke) In times of pain, when the future is too terrifying to contemplate and the past is too painful to remember, pay attention to right now where you are safe. Each moment, taken alone is always bearable.

In order to be an artist, I must:

1. Show up at the page, to rest, to dream, to try.
2. Set small, gentle goals and meet them.
3. Remember that it is far harder & more painful to be a blocked artist than it is to do the work.
4. Choose companions who encourage me.

Chapter / Week 3

In the recovery of a blocked artist, anger (and jealousy) is a sign of health. It lets us know when we are frustrated, on the wrong path. It points the way and can be tapped into & drawn upon. It is an invitation to take action. Sloth, apathy and despair are the true enemy.

Answered prayers are scary, they imply responsibility. You asked for it, now that you’ve got it, what are you going to do. If there is a responsive force that hears us and act on our behalf, then we may actually be able to do things. “Ask and you shall receive.”

We commit and set in motion the principle that C.G. Jung dubbed synchronicity, loosely defined as a fortuitous intermeshing of events, or serendipity. An intelligent and responsive universe, acting and reacting in our interests. First choose what you would do, the how usually falls into place itself.

“Desire, ask, believe, receive.” – Stella Terrill Mann

If a child has ever been made to feel foolish for believing themselves talented, the act of actually finishing a piece of art will be fraught with shame. Shamed by criticism, an artist may become blocked. We must learn to be very self-protective, to comfort our inner child over unfair criticism and create our own safe environment.

“I have made my world and it is a much better world than I ever saw outside.” – Louise Nevelson

Doubting thoughts can be stopped but it takes vigilance. Constructive criticism gives us another piece of the puzzle for our artwork but useless criticism leaves us with a feeling of being bludgeoned. Artistic child abuse creates rebellion, which creates block.

Remember that even if you have made a truly rotten piece of art, it may be a necessary stepping-stone to your next work. Art matures spasmodically and requires ugly-duckling growth stages. Easy does it.

“Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything.” – Eugene Delacroix

Art opens the closets, airs out the cellars and attics; it brings healing. Experiment with solitude, make a commitment to quiet time. Acquire the habit of checking in with yourself several times a day. Ask how you are feeling, listen and respond kindly.

Chapter / Week 4

“Each painting has its own way of evolving… When the painting is finished, the subject reveals itself.” – William Baziotes

Through the morning pages, we learn what we want and become willing to make changes but not without a tantrum and not without a kriya, a Sanskrit word meaning a spiritual emergency or surrender e.g. a case of flu after you’ve broken up with your lover. The need to let go.

People frequently believe the creative life is grounded in fantasy but it is grounded in reality, the focused, the observed. As we lose our vagueness about our self, our values, our life situation, we become available to the moment. It is there in particular, that we contact the creative self.

Art lies in the moment of encounter: we meet our truth and we meet ourselves; we meet ourselves and we meet our self-expression. As we gain or regain our creative identity, we lose the false self we were sustaining. You may discover surprising likes and dislikes that you had not previously acknowledged.

“To become truly immortal, a work of art must escape all human limits: logic and common sense will only interfere. But once these barriers are broken, it will enter the realms of childhood visions and dreams.” – Giorgio De Chirico

One sign that something healthy is afoot is the impulse to sort through and discard old clothes, papers and belongings. By tossing out the old and unworkable, we make way for the new and suitable. When the search-and-discard impulse seizes you, the old you is leaving and grieving, while the new you celebrates and grows strong.

Each of us is a unique, creative individual but we often blur that with sugar, alcohol, drugs, overwork, underplay, bad relationships, toxic sex, under-exercise, over-TV, undersleep, junk food etc. Morning pages help us see these smears and wipe the mirror so our image becomes clearer.

“The center that I cannot find is known to my unconscious mind.” – W.H. Auden

If you feel stuck, few jump starts are more effective than a week of reading deprivation. We have a daily quota of media chat that we swallow up. Like greasy food, it clogs our system. Without distractions, we are thrust into the sensory world. With no newspaper to shield us, a train becomes a viewing gallery. With no novel to sink into (and no television to numb us out), assumptions get rearranged.

For most blocked creatives, reading is an addiction; words are like tranquilisers. We gobble the words of others rather than digest our own thoughts and feelings, rather than cook up something of our own. If we monitor the inflow and keep it to a minimum, our reward will be more outflow. Less input, more output.

“We are always doing something, talking, reading, listening to the radio, planning what next. The mind is kept naggingly busy on some easy, unimportant external thing all day.” – Brenda Ueland

Chapter / Week 5

You have unlimited power if you are willing to utilise it. Everyone can draw on this universal supply, we deprive no one with our abundance. We must learn to let the flow manifest itself where it will, not where we will it. The shift to spiritual dependency is a gradual one. With each day we become more true to ourselves, more hopeful, more open to the positive.

“Expect your every need to be met, expect the answer to every problem, expect abundance on every level, expect to grow spiritually.” – Eileen Caddy

Experiment with asking for guidance before you go to sleep, then listen for answers in the morning pages. The stream of consciousness loosens our fixed opinions and short-sighted views. We see that our moods, views and insights are transitory. We acquire a sense of movement, a current of change, a flow.

Blocked creatives often get caught in the virtue trap, being good, responsible, respectable, mature. Afraid to appear selfish, we end up depriving ourselves; we become listless, disassociated, a shadow of ourselves. This false self is always willing to defer its needs to meet the demands of another.

Chapter / Week 6

We are raised to believe that money is the source of security, so a dependence on the universe feels foolhardy. We pay the bills, buy the groceries and we will pursue our art, we tell ourselves, when we have enough money to do it easily. Maybe God would feed and clothe us, in a pinch, but painting supplies?

We cling to our financial concerns as a way to avoid not only our art but also our spiritual growth. “I have to keep a roof over my head,” we say. “Nobody’s going to pay me to be creative.”
Most of us harbour a secret belief that work has to be work and not play, and that anything we really want to do – like write, act, dance – must be considered frivolous and be placed a distant second.

“The more we learn to operate in the world based on trust in our intuition, the stronger our channel will be and the more money we will have.” – Shakti Gawain

But what would a non-toxic god think of your creative goals? Many of us equate difficulty with virtue and art with fooling around. Hard work is good, sensible. A terrible job must be building our moral fiber. However, looking at God’s creation, unique flowers, snowflakes etc, he looks suspiciously like someone who just might suport for our creative ventures.

“Money will come when you are doing the right thing.” – Mike Phillips

What are your ideas surrounding money? It’s hard to get? You have to work long hours for it? You need to worry about money 1st and creativity 2nd? All too often, we become blocked and blame it on our lack of money but it is actually our feeling of constriction, our sense of powerlessness. We find ourselves in barren lives, devoid of interest no matter how many meaningless things we have filled them with.

“All substance is energy in motion. It lives and flows. Money is symbolically a golden, flowing stream of concretized vital energy.” – The Magical Work Of The Soul

Think about what gives you true joy, simple pleasures. Fresh raspberries, roses, music? For Laura, a cheap set of watercolour paints was her 1st foray into luxury. For Kathy, it was a deluxe Crayola set, “the kind my mother would never get me. I let myself do 2 drawings the 1st night, and one of them was a sketch of me in my new life, the one I am working toward.”

Creative living requires the luxury of time and space. Much of what we do in recovery may seem silly. Silly is a defence our Wet Blanket adult uses to squelch our artist child. We may find ourselves practicing our craft, rather than enlarging our art. Creativity lives in paradox: serious art is born from serious play.

Personal Attitudes Towards Money

Need to transform negatives into positives…

The root of all evil? = Debt / inequality in the world (Posh/tory/capitalists/greedy/materialistic/conceited/selfish/businessmen) But it’s corrupt people not money itself. And not everyone, think creative entrepreneurs / self-employed. Does £ come from hard work and motivation or flow? Combination?

Parents influence? Dad was the breadwinner. Career and affluence was important but he was frivolous / careless. Mum became the homemaker. She feared money would run out so was overly cautious, thrifty, frugal and invested wisely. Need to balance their views.

Religious influence? “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Means those who recognise they are spiritually helpless, humble) “Woe unto you that trust in riches” (Idolatry, attachment to possessions, cruel, unsharing) – Important to retain perspective / priorities. God rarely extols a person for wealth but wisdom must be nearby. “There are people so poor, that the only thing they have is money.”

If I had more £s, I could buy a house with a garden; take the OU philosophy / psychology course; revisit Findhorn for spiritual practice; re-visit the cinema, theatre etc.

With £s, you wouldn’t be a jerk, you would be more generous e.g. charity, gifts, drinks. Less tight, skint, dependent on others. Give more, receive more. Think flow.

Money is freedom, buys time and space, security, peace of mind. Think contentment, abundance, prosperity.

Chapter / Week 7

Learning to listen is important. Morning pages enable hearing past the censor whereas artist dates allow you to hear the voice of inspiration. Both activities are unconnected to actually making art but are critical to the creative process. Art is not about thinking something up but getting something down.

When a painter is painting, he or she may begin with a plan but ends up surrendering to the painting’s own plan. “The brush takes the next stroke.” We are more the conduit than the creator of what we express. Art is an act of tuning in. It is as though all the stories, painting, music, performances in the world live just under the surface of our normal consciousness.

We can learn to hear with increasing accuracy that inspired, intuitive voice that says, “Do this, try this, say this…” We are the instrument more than the author of our artwork. Some people find it easier to picture the stream of inspiration as radio waves being broadcast continuously. We learn to hear the desired frequency on request.

Perfectionism has nothing to do with getting it right, fixing things or having standards. It is a refusal to let yourself move ahead. It is a loop, an obsessive, debilitating closed system that causes you to get stuck in the details and lose sight of the whole.

“Cerebration is the enemy of originality in art.” – Martin Ritt

Instead of creating freely and allowing errors to reveal themselves later as insights, we often get mired in getting the details perfect. We correct our originality into a uniformity that lacks passion and spontaneity. “Do not fear mistakes,” Miles Davis told us. “There are none.”

To the perfectionist, there is always room for improvement. It calls this humility but in reality, it is egotism or pride that makes us want to paint a perfect painting. It is not a quest for the best but a pursuit of the worst in ourselves; the part that tells us nothing we do will ever be good enough.

“A painting is never finished. It simply stops in interesting places.” – Paul Gardner

Letting go is a normal part of creativity. Question: What would I do if I didn’t have to do it perfectly? Answer: A great deal more than I am. We’ve all heard that the unexamined life is not worth living but consider too the unlived life is not worth examining. We must not measure our baby steps against the master’s craft.

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it, you will land among the stars.” – Les Brown

We must take risks and remember that in order to do something well, we must 1st be willing to do it badly. “So Do it. If you win, you win and if you lose, you win.” Selecting a challenge and meeting it creates a sense of self-empowerment that becomes the ground for further success.

“When you start a painting, it is somewhat outside you. At the conclusion, you seem to move inside the painting.” – Fernando Botero

Chapter / Week 8

Because artistic losses are seldom acknowledged or mourned, they become scar tissue that blocks artistic growth. Deemed too painful, too silly, too humiliating to share, they become secret losses and so are left unhealed.

Our artist is a child and what we can handle intellectually far outstrips what we can handle emotionally. The disappointing reception of a piece of artwork, the inability to move into a different medium, criticism etc are artistic losses that must be mourned.

“I shall become a master in this art only after a great deal of practice.” – Erich Fromm

Many academics are artistic beings, deeply frustrated by their inability to create. Skilled in intellectual discourse, they become distanced from their creative urgings and often find their students’ creativity deeply disturbing. Hence, teachers can be highly critical and quash creative spirits.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Albert Einstein

They neglect to supply the most rudimentary nutrient: encouragement. Creativity cannot be comfortably quantified in intellectual terms. Intellectualism runs counter to the creative impulse. For an artist, to become overly cerebral is to become crippled.

“To the rationally minded the mental processes of the intuitive appear to work backwards.” – Frances Wickes

Young artists are seedlings. Their early work resembles thicket, underbush, even weeds. They need room to exist, grow, flourish. However, many talented creatives have been daunted early and unfairly by their inability to conform to a norm that was not their own. Artists are also threatening because aren’t studying creativity, they’re actually practicing it.

Admit your artistic wounds, including those that are self-inflicted, for this leads to healing them. Every loss must be viewed as a potential gain. Ask yourself, “How can this serve me? Where does it point my artwork?” “What next?” instead of “Why me?” Do not stagnant, take action. If one avenue for your creativity is blocked, find another.

“The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

“I’m too old” we tell ourselves to save from the ego deflation involved in being a beginner. But those who study later often have greater hunger, more life experience and a stronger learning curve. On the other hand, we might tell ourselves, “I’ll let myself try it when I’m retired.” We allow our youth the freedom to experiment and the old the right to be eccentric. Why not the inbetweeners?

We like to focus on having learned a skill or on having made an artwork but this attention to final form ignores the fact that creativity lies not in the done but the doing. Focused on process, our creativity retains a sense of adventure. Focused on product, it can feel foolish or barren; we deny our exploration, our curiosities. Our use of age as a creative block interlocks with our toxic finished-product thinking.

Keep asking, “What is the next thing?” It is often something small: washing out paintbrushes, going to the art shop etc. There is always one action you can take for your creativity daily; this demonstrates commitment. Fantasising about pursuing our art full-time, we fail to pursue it part-time – or at all.

Looking at the big picture thinking ignores the fact that a creative life is grounded on many, many small steps and very, very few large leaps. Creativity requires activity, it makes us responsible and we hate having to do something, we prefer to obsess instead.

Watch yourself for a week and notice how you pick up an anxious thought to blow off or delay your next creative action. And remember, work begets work, so continue to practice your artwork even if you are not being paid.


I am a talented person
I have a right to be an artist
My creativity is appreciated
I now share my creativity more openly
I now treat myself & my creativity more gently
I now allow myself to heal

Chapter / Week 9

Calling the inability to create, ‘laziness’ is inaccurate & cruel. Blocked artists are not lazy, they are blocked. They spend too much energy on self-hatred, on regret, on grief, on jealousy & on self-doubt. Don’t call procrastination laziness, call it fear.

The need to be a great artist makes it hard to be an artist. The need to produce a great work of art makes it hard to produce any art at all.

Enthusiasm is more important than discipline, which is like a battery, useful but short-lived. The discipline rather than the creative outflow, becomes the focus. Enthusiasm is grounded in play not work. It is joy, not duty, that makes for a lasting bond. Many artists find their workspaces are best dealt with as play spaces e.g. toys, papier-mache monsters, a fish tank. Remember art is process.

“The journey is always the only arrival.”

Those of us addicted to sympathy in place of creativity can become threatened as we become increasingly functional. Many recovering artists make U-turns & sabotage themselves. We commit creative hara-kiri. The glare of success can send the recovering artist scurrying back into the cave of self-defeat. For example, a painter is invited to his 1st show but picks a fight with the gallery owner.

Remember, creativity is scary & in all careers, there are U-turns. A successful creative career is always built on successful creative failures. Creativity, not time, best heals creative wounds. Think of your talent as a young, skittish horse that you must coax into finishing the course. The ego always wants to claim self-sufficiency. It would rather pose as a creative loner than ask for help (with a U-turn). Ask anyway.

“We learn to do something by doing it. There is no other way.” – John Holt, Educator

Beginning any new project, it’s a good idea to ask your artist a few simple questions. They can also be asked when work grows difficult or bogs you down to clear the obstructed flow.

1. List any resentments (anger) you have in connection with this project. It does not matter how petty, picky or irrational these may appear to your adult self. To your artist child they are real big deals / grudges.

2. Ask your artist to list any / all fears about the projected piece of work and/or anyone connected to it.

3. Ask yourself if that is all.

4. Ask yourself what you stand to gain by not doing this piece of work.

5. Make a deal: “Okay, Creative Force, you take care of the quality, I’ll take care of the quantity.” Sign your deal & post it.

NB: This is a very powerful exercise; it can do fatal damage to a creative block!

Chapter / Week 10

What slows your growth? Food, work, sex are all good in themselves. It is the abuse of them that makes them creativity issues. Knowing yourself as an artist means acknowledging which of these you abuse when you want to block yourself. Has overeating and oversleeping sabotaged me? Has sex or love obsession blocked my creativity? Overworking to avoid ourselves, our true feelings?

Blocking alleviates fear. We turn to our drug of choice whenever we experience the anxiety of our inner emptiness. Rather than trust our intuition, our talent, our skill, our desire, we fear where our creativity is taking us.

“The life which is not examined is not worth living.” – Plato

In any creative life, there are dry seasons. Life loses its meaning; our work feels mechanical, empty, forced. we feel we have nothing to say & are tempted to say nothing. These are the times when the morning pages are most difficult & valuable. They are the lifeline, the trail we explore. During a drought, the mere act of showing up on the page is a challenge but the time in the desert is necessary; it brings us clarity & charity.

“Truly, it is in the darkness that one finds the light…” – Meister Eckhart

The desire to obtain fame can produce the “How am I doing?” syndrome. This question is not “Is the work going well?” but “How does it look to them?” Fame interferes with our perception. Focusing on whether we are getting enough creates a continual feeling of lack. Wanting more will always discredit our accomplishments & erode our joy. Fame is a shortcut for self-approval. We must actively, consciously, consistently & creatively nurture our artist selves. Only when we are being joyfully creative can we release the obsession with others & how they are doing.

“Real learning comes about when the competitive spirit has ceased.” – J.Krishnamurti

When we are ogling the accomplishments of others, we take our eye away from our own journey. What do I have to offer? Competition lies at the root of much creative blockage. As artists, we must go within. We must attend to what it is our inner guidance is nudging us toward. We cannot afford to worry about what is in or out of fashion. If it is too early or late for a piece of work, its time will come again. We cannot afford to think about who is getting ahead of us & how they don’t deserve it. This compare-and-contrast school of thinking may have its place for critics, but not for artists in the act of creation.

“Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.” – Edgar Degas

The ego demands to be not just good but 1st & best & that our work be totally original. However, all work is influenced by other work; all people are influenced by other people. No man is an island & no piece of art is a continent unto itself. The spirit of competition, as opposed to creation, often urges us to quickly weed out whatever doesn’t seem like a winning idea. We abort awkward or unseemly projects that may be our finest work.

Judged early, it may be judged incorrectly. Be willing to paint badly while your ego resists. Your lousy painting may point you in a new direction. Art needs time to mature, to incubate, to sprawl, to be ungainly, misshapen & finally emerge as itself. The ego wants instant gratification, the addictive hit of an acknowledged win but merely showing up is what matters.

Chapter / Week 11

An artist’s cash flow is typically erratic. The idea that money validates my credibility is very hard to shake. If money determines real art, then Gauguin was a charlatan. Since my artist is a child, the natural child within, I must make some concessions to its sense of timing. Not total irresponsibility but letting the artist have quality time, knowing that if I let it do what it wants, it will cooperate in doing what I need to do. Sometimes, I will paint badly but that is required to get to the other side. Creativity is its own reward.

“No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination.” – Edward Hopper

To a large degree my life is my art and when it gets dull, so does my work. As an artist, I may frizz my hair or wear weird clothes. My self-respect comes from doing the work; one painting at a time. I do not need to be rich but I need to be richly supported. I cannot allow my emotional & intellectual life to stagnate or the work will show it. The more I nurture my artist child, the more adult I can appear. Spoiling my artist means it will let me type a business letter. If I allow myself to be bullied by other people’s urges for me to be more normal, I sell myself out.

“The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.” – Francis Bacon

If I sabotage my artist, I can expect an eating binge, a sex binge, a temper binge. To be an artist is to appreciate the peculiar. To ask why? To acknowledge the astonishing. To allow the wrong piece in a room if we like it. To hang on to a weird coat that makes us happy. Making laws, not in following them. And to risk admitting that money, property & prestige etc strikes you as a little silly. To kill your dreams because they are irresponsible is to be irresponsible to yourself.

Creativity is a spiritual practice. It is not something that can be perfected, finished & set aside. It is my experience that we reach plateaus of creative attainment only to have a certain restlessness in. Walking (moving meditation) helps. The goal is to connect to a world outside of us, to lose the obsessive self-focus of self-exploration & simply explore. That rhythmic, repetitive action transfers the locus of the brain’s energies from the logic to the artist hemisphere where inspiration bubbles up unrestrained. Exercise, much maligned as mindless activity turns out to be thought-provoking instead. We learn by going where we have to go. Exercise often moves us from stagnation to inspiration, from problem to solution, from self-pity to self-respect.

“To keep the body in good health is a duty… Otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong & clear.” – Buddha

Chapter / Week 12

Creativity requires receptivity & trust. Faith requires we relinquish control. Our resistance is a form of self-destruction; we throw up road-blocks on our own path. We do this in order to maintain an illusion of control. Mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote, “Follow your bliss & doors will open where there were no doors before.” It is the inner commitment to be true to ourselves & follow our dreams that triggers the support of the universe. N.B. While we are ambivalent, the universe will also seem to be erratic.

“Do not fear mistakes – there are none.” – Miles Davis

Insights may come as blinding flashes but most are preceded by a gestation period that is interior, murky & completely necessary. We speak often about ideas as brainchildren & should not be dragged from the creative womb prematurely. Bright ideas like stalagmites form in the dark inner cave of consciousness, in drips & drops. We must wait for them to hatch. Mulling on the page is an artless art form. It is fooling around, doodling; the way that ideas slowly take shape. All too often we try to push, pull, outline & control our ideas instead of letting them grow organically. The creative process involves surrender, not control.

Many hobbies involve a form of artist-brain mulling that leads to enormous creative breakthroughs. When artists are stuck, doing mundane tasks such as mending, sewing or gardening can help. As we serve our hobby, we are freed from our ego’s demands & allowed the experience of merging with a greater source. This conscious contact frequently affords us the perspectives needed to solve vexing personal or creative conundrums. Remember, life is meant to be an artist date.

“For me a painting is like a story which stimulates the imagination & draws the mind into a place filled with expectation, excitement, wonder & pleasure.” – J.P. Hughston (Painter)

As recovering creatives, we often find that every time our career heats up we reach for the nearest wet blanket. We blurt out our enthusiasm to our most skeptical friend. This is the test we must evade. You must hold your intention within yourself, stroking it with power, self-containment. Only then will you be able to manifest what you desire. We must learn to keep our own counsel, to move silently among doubters, to voice our plans only among our allies. Surround yourself with artists.

Creativity Contract

I am a recovering creative person. To further my growth & joy, I now commit myself to the following self-nurturing plans:

Morning pages have been an important part of my self-nurturing & self-discovery. I hereby commit myself to continuing as & when it’s required.

Artist’s dates have been integral to my growth in self-love & enjoyment in living. I am willing to commit to them indefinitely.

My specific commitment is to allow myself to more fully explore painting. I have chosen ? as my creative colleague / back-up.


Imagine a mountain of Himalayan proportions with a path winding upward to its height. As we pursue climbing, we circle back on ourselves. The road is never straight. Growth is a spiral process, doubling back on itself, reassessing & regrouping. Every loss has meaning; a creative failure may be the compost that nourishes the next creative success.

“A painting is never finished – it simply stops in interesting places.” – Paul Gardner

More excerpts here >>

Next reading idea: The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp >>

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