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Reflections on Doing The Artist’s Way

March 24th, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

One of the promises Tracy and I made to each other as part of getting married is to maintain (and act upon) a persistent commitment to growing and developing ourselves.

(We figure this is a very good thing because if you’re going to spend seven decades with another human being, you’re way less apt to get sick of them if they are constantly changing in the direction of becoming more rad.)

So when our friend Nick told us he was doing The Artist’s Way, a book by Julia Cameron whose sub-title is “The spiritual path to creativity” and which takes you through a 12 week process of exploring and unfolding it, we were quickly game to take it on ourselves.  (Kudos and thanks to Lee, who first introduced me to the book when I visited her in San Francisco back in November ’05: I was intrigued then which made me quick to jump in now).

The Artist’s Way has two core activities that you do regularly over the 12 weeks: Morning Pages and Artist Dates.  Morning Pages mean the practice of writing out, long hand, 3 pages of whatever is floating around in your brain first thing in the morning, every morning.  Stream of conscious, just keep writing until you’ve filled those three pages.  Artist Dates mean once a week do something, anything, that nourishes your spirit, and do it by yourself.   Without interruptions and anyone else to please, take time for you and no one else.

The act of keeping up Morning Pages alone is well worth the price of admission1.  For me they started feeling a little cumbersome but quickly turned into a delightful and downright practical ritual.  Things swirling around in my head got quickly sorted as simply what’s going on (with suddenly zero added anxiety or concern for how it will turn out).  A vague sense of what I should be focusing on (which for me is apt to creep in between contract jobs) turned into a clear path of to-dos and compelling motivation.  Dreams and visions and purpose for my life got created and refined over the weeks.

Purpose and vision got created regularly on a smaller scale as well: at about halfway through the second page I would often start to create exactly what I wanted to accomplish in my day, and with brain well primed with all the great things I wanted to do by mid-page three I could hardly wait to get on with it and start kicking ass in my day, armed with purpose, clarity and excitement.  (If you’ve never experienced this phenomenon on a regular basis, say, daily for a week, you really might want to try it.)

Artist Dates were a treat, too.  The author challenges you to actually make time and space for such indulges, and invites you to experience how much push back to doing so you will likely put up.  Among other things I took myself out to Peruvian restaurant for dinner and a big glass of Malbec, saw an improv comedy show, took a walk through downtown on a snow day and made snow angels in the park, holed up in a coffee shop reading Heinlein with a decadent hot chocolate, and took a field trip to the science museum.

The author is right: these were things I just wouldn’t have organized for myself without the external prompting.

Regarding going through the twelve weeks with someone else: a very good idea.  Tracy and I regularly compared notes on how it was going, the insights we were gaining, and things we were creating.  It was a shared experience that added depth to our relationship.

And the end result?  I’ve got big dreams worth playing for which constitute purpose and direction for the next few years (put simply I want to be a famous nerd, following in the footsteps of the thought leaders and contributors in my craft who make the world a better place).  The coding work I do is now thoroughly recognized and related to by me as artistic creation, and bringing my art to my work both shows in quality and elevated enjoyment in doing it.  I’m reconnected to my roots as being the art guy as a kid (it’s strange how thoroughly I’d forgotten) which just feels good and grounding in a way that is hard to described without getting all woo-woo.  My month between my tenure as CTO of DealNation and the next big project was flush with purpose and accomplishment, and tangibly sowed seeds of awesome for what was next.

Finally, through the experience and growin’ I am indeed a more interesting and rad person to my love, thus fulfilling more on the promise.

At about 10 hours per week, this was twelve weeks and $18 very well spent.

Notes:

  1. About $18 off the bookstore shelf, in case you were wondering.
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