Note: this text was taken directly from the appendix to The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
Although creative recovery is a highly individual process, there are certain recurrent themes and questions that we have encountered over and over in our teaching. In the hopes of answering at least some of your questions directly, we include the most commonly asked questions and answers here.
Is true creativity the possession of a relatively small percentage of the population?
No, absolutely not. We are all creative. Creativity is a natural life force that all can experience in one form or another. Just as blood is part of our physical body and is nothing we must invent, creativity is part of us and we each can tap into the greater creative energies of the universe and pull from that vast, powerful spiritual wellspring to amplify our own individual creativity.
As a culture, we tend to define creativity too narrowly and to think of it in elitist terms, as something belonging to a small chosen tribe of “real artists.” But in reality, everything we do requires making creative choices, although we seldom recognize that fact. The ways in which we dress, set up our homes, do our jobs, the movies we see, and even the people we involve ourselves with—these all are expressions of our creativity. It is our erroneous beliefs about creativity, our cultural mythology about artists (“All artists are broke, crazy, promiscuous, self-centered, single, or they have trust funds”) that encourage us to leave our dreams unfulfilled. These myths most often involve matters of money, time, and other people’s agendas for us. As we clear these blocks away, we can become more creative.
Can I expect dramatic results to begin occurring right away?
The answer is both yes and no. While dramatic changes will occur within the twelve-week course, much more dramatic changes occur when Artist’s Way tools become life tools. The shift over a two- to three-year period can feel like a downright miracle: blocked filmmakers who make one short film, then a second and then a feature; blocked writers who began with essays, reviews, and articles moving into whole books and plays. If the basic tools of morning pages and the artist date are kept carefully in place, you can expect to experience large life shifts.
What factors keep people from being creative?
Conditioning. Family, friends, and educators may discourage us from pursuing an artist’s career. There is the mythology that artists are somehow “different,” and this mythology of difference inspires fear. If we have negative perceptions about what an artist is, we will feel less inclined to do the diligent work necessary to become one.
On a societal level, blocked creative energy manifests itself as self-destructive behavior. Many people who are engaged in self-defeating behaviors, such as addicts of alcohol, drugs, sex, or work, are really in the hands of this shadow side of the creative force. As we become more creative, these negative expressions of the creative force often abate.
How does this book free people to be more creative?
The primary purpose — and effect of – The Artist’s Way is to put people in touch with the power of their own internal creativity. The book frees people to be more creative in many different ways: First, it helps dismantle negative mythologies about artists. Second, it helps people discover their own creative force, access it, and express it more freely. Third, it provides people with an awareness about their self-destructive behaviors and allows them to see more clearly what the impediments on their individual path might be. Finally, the book helps people identify and celebrate their desires and dreams and make the plans to accomplish them. It teaches people how to support and nurture themselves as well as how to find others who will support them in fulfilling their dreams.
The Artist’s Way is the link between creativity and spirituality. How are they connected?
Creativity is a spiritual force. The force that drives the green fuse through the flower, as Dylan Thomas defined his idea of the life force, is the same urge that drives us toward creation. There is a central will to create that is part of our human heritage and potential. Because creation is always an act of faith, and faith is a spiritual issue, so is creativity. As we strive for our highest selves, our spiritual selves, we cannot help but be more aware, more proactive, and more creative.
Tell me about the two central exercises in the book — the morning pages and the artist dates.
The morning pages are three pages of stream-of-consciousness longhand morning writing. You should think of them not as “art” but as an active form of meditation for Westerners. In the morning pages we declare to the world—and ourselves—what we like, what we dislike, what we wish, what we hope, what we regret, and what we plan.
By contrast, the artist dates are times for receptivity, preplanned solitary hours of pleasurable activity aimed at nurturing the creative consciousness. Used together, these tools build, in effect, a radio set. The morning pages notify and clarify—they send signals into the verdant void; and the solitude of the artist dates allows for the answer to be received.
The morning pages and artist dates must be experienced in order to be explained, just as reading a book about jogging is not the same as putting on your Nikes and heading out to the running track. Map is not territory, and without reference points from within your own experience, you cannot extrapolate what the morning pages and artist dates can do for you.
The Artist’s Way is a twelve-week program that requires daily commitments. How much time do I need to devote to it each day, and what can I accomplish in these twelve weeks?
It’s a daily commitment of a half hour to an hour. One of the most important things we learn during the twelve weeks is to give up our ideas of perfection and to see a new perspective, to change our focus from product to process.
Participants enter the program with certain unstated expectations and preconceived notions of what will happen and what they will get out of it. And often, just as in a great short story, they are profoundly surprised and thrilled to discover something entirely different. Therefore, to predict what someone will learn from this course would undermine the very principle on which it was built. It is experiential, and the results are something to be discovered, not explained.
What can I do to overcome my self-doubts about being a good artist?
The point is not to overcome your self-doubts about being an artist. The point is to move through your self-doubts. Many of us believe that “real artists” do not experience self-doubt. In truth, artists are people who have learned to live with doubt and do the work anyway. The exercises in the book will help you dismantle the hypercritical inner Censor and perfectionist. You will learn that part of being fully creative means allowing for an “off” day. Because the Artist’s Way focuses on process rather than product, you will learn to value your “mistakes” as part of your learning.
Why do artists procrastinate, and what is procrastination really about?
Artists procrastinate out of fear, or because they try to wait for the “right mood” in order to work. The Artist’s Way will teach you how to separate mood from productivity. It will also teach you to value a self-loving enthusiasm over mechanistic discipline.
How can I expand my ability to derive new ideas?
Learn to miniaturize your critic, your Censor. While you may not fire your critic entirely, you can learn to work around the negative voice. When we use the morning pages and the artist dates—specifically designed to put us in touch with our nonlinear intuitive selves—we expand our ability to derive new ideas. As we lessen the static, the interference caused by old habits and blocks, and become clearer and more able to listen, we become more receptive to creativity and its sometimes subtle arrival in our consciousness.
What is the most common misconception about creativity?
The most common misconception is that we would have to leave our current lives in order to pursue our dreams. It is easier for us to use our jobs, families, financial situations, time obligations, etc., as a way (or ways) to keep us “safe” from the anxiety caused by stepping out of our comfort zones into the creative process. When we allow ourselves to be thus thwarted, we deny ourselves tremendous joy. The most effective way to center confront blocks is to form creative cluster groups in the lives we’re already leading.