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Week Ten begins with a discussion of the "myriad ways" people use to block creativity. Her examples are food, alcohol, drugs, busyness, sad love drama, and sex. One potential blocking device that Cameron doesn't mention, but which is relevant to this workshop, is the buying impulse -- picking up a new journal in lieu of writing on the paper you already have -- or the getting-my-head-straight-first impulse, e.g. reading self-help books instead of working on existing projects. I can relate to that. If you have a blocking device or two of your own, you probably know what it is.

Some slightly OT musing )

More assessment, more boundaries )

Sometimes you may feel dried up )

There's a section on fame, competition, and the need for approval -- Cameron's theory is that we're all just hoping for fan letters from ourselves. She also suggests that when someone we know is successful, "That proves it can be done!" can be a more helpful reaction than, "Everyone else is succeeding instead of me." "The desire to be better than," Cameron says, "can choke off the desire to be." Don't be afraid to do things badly on the way to doing them well.

Morning pages! Artist's date! How's everyone doing, eh?
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EVERYONE. I am so sorry. I got busy and then I got tired and then I spent several days forgetting what day it was and not wanting to do anything but watch whole seasons of television in a single day. I'm sorry! I don't think you missed anything life-changing, I hope?

Anyway, I'm back and here's Cameron's task for today.

Choose an object to be what Cameron calls an "artist totem. It might be a doll, a stuffed animal, a carved figurin[e], or a wind-up toy." Choose something you feel protective and fond of. Give it a place of honor and don't harm it. "Honor it by not [being cruel to] your artist child."

My object for this exercise -- I'm not really on board with "totem" -- is a plastic toy figure of Evil-Lyn (it's really spelled like that) from the old He-Man cartoons. I associate her with a Mary Sue character of mine whom I feel protective toward* and who has, typically enough of a Sue, more than her fair share of hidden darkness and hidden strength. I've had it for a long time, but today I took it out of a tucked-away shelf and put her on the windowsill behind my desk. I don't know if it will actually help me to have a tie-in toy from the 80s in my line of sight, but I'll try most things once.


*I use the term Mary Sue with affection; I am 100% in favor of them and I think Cameron would be, too.
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Remember last week when you wrote down your dream and true north? Now imagine it. Details are good. More details are better. Write down your goal. In the present tense, describe yourself achieving your goal. If it feels right, read this aloud to yourself daily and/or post it above your work area.

Did you do your morning pages today?
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Read your morning pages!

Cameron suggests doing this with highlighters in hand, one to highlight insights and one to highlight actions needed. Do not judge your pages or yourself.

What have you consistently been complaining about? What have you procrastinated on? What have you allowed yourself to change or accept?

Don't be thrown by black-and-white thinking and reversals: "it's a great job, it's a terrible job", etc.

"The morning pages have allowed us to vent without self-destruction, to plan without interference, to complain without an audience, to dream without restriction, to know our own minds. Give yourself credit for undertaking them. Give them credit for the changes and growth they have fostered."
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We're always calling ourselves lazy. For “we,” read: I. Maybe you're not like that. A lot of people are.
Cameron says that laziness is the word blocked artists use for fear. I think there's probably some laziness mixed in from time to time, to be honest. But it's important to acknowledge that a lot of what we call laziness might actually be fear – one fear, or a bunch of fears swirling together.

Fear of failure. Fear of success! Fear of beginning and not finishing! Fear of not being good enough! Fear of hurting friends and family! Fear of not being good enough to justify hurting friends and family! As we talked about in the previous week, blocked artists often think in terms of huge tasks and terrifying life changes, instead of small steps. This makes it easy to be afraid.

Disguising fear as laziness makes it easy to laugh with and to keep around. A lot of the time, though, it's still fear. And sometimes a little laziness. But mostly fear.

The only cure for our fears is love. Cameron hopes that by calling fear by its right name, we can begin to show compassion for our artist selves, instead of rolling out eyes and saying, “Lazy.”

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


It can be hard to begin, even with small steps. Realize you can ask for help – from friends, from your Great Creator if you're about that, and from yourself. You can say, “I'm afraid,” and expect understanding and support.

Enthusiasm – which Cameron is happy to point out comes from a Greek word meaning “filled with god” – is as important as discipline in maintaining a creative practice. I'm not sure what to make of Cameron's extravagant dislike of the word “discipline,” since she doesn't seem to have any trouble with the practice – that's what “filling the form” and the morning pages are, after all – but anyway, she thinks it sounds boring and is over-emphasized and indulges in some false dichotomies in the service of a very reasonable idea: that if you enjoy what you're doing, you'll be better at it and do it more. She offers a few suggestions for maintaining enthusiasm. One that I like to do myself is switch up writing methods once in a while: see if using markers or your phone or acorn ink changes the way you write. I think it's a good idea, especially when creative work is still incomplete, to set aside some time to entertain your most self-indulgent ideas about the project - -the characters no one else loves, the dialogue that doesn't fit but is funny to you, and so on. Sometimes these can be the seeds of other projects, sometimes they're just a fun way to enjoy what you're creating.

Being blocked often feels safer than being productive – so much so that many people find themselves self-sabotaging just when things are going right. Cameron has a long list of examples of self-sabotage following a success: the screenwriter with an agent interested in this script given a few changes, and the screenwriter doesn't make the changes; the poet who gets approval at the neighborhood open mic, then enters a poetry slam, loses, and stops reading poems in public. She calls these setbacks "creative U-turns." In order to mend a creative U-turn, we have to first admit we're doing it. "Yes, I did react negatively to fear and pain.” Then we can begin to sort it out, to ask for help from supportive friends, and if possible, to get back on track.

You might try asking your artist self some questions at the beginning of a new project. You can ask them again when the work gets difficult or gets stuck.

1) List any resentments or anger you have in connection with this project.
2) List any and all fears about the projected piece of work and/or anyone connected to it.
3) Ask yourself if that is all. Have you left out any tiny bits of fear or anger?
4) Ask yourself what you stand to gain by not doing this piece of work.

Finally, 5) Make a deal with yourself. The deal is, "This week, I'll stop worrying about the quality and take care of the quantity," Leave the quality to chance or future revision or the alchemy of both. Sign it and post it if you want to!

On questions one through three, don't worry about how petty or irrational or insignificant the fears and resentments sound to you. They may all be big deals to your artist.

Don't forget to go on a date with your artist sometime this week and do your morning pages every day!
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This is actually four related tasks from the book, combined into one for your convenience.

List twenty things you like to do. (If you listed these before, you can recycle that list!). Answer these questions for each:

Expensive, cheap, or free?
Alone or with somebody?
Job-related?
Physical risk?
Fast-paced or slow?
Mind, body, or spiritual [if that distinction makes sense to you; ignore it if not!]


Using that information, plan a perfect day in your life as it now is.

Then plan a perfect day in your life as you wish it were, no restrictions whatsoever.

Choose one festive aspect from that latter ideal day and allow yourself to live it. Maybe you can't live in Rome yet, Cameron says, "but you can have a cappuccino and a croissant" -- or write a poem, read a book or part of a book, choose a free wallpaper image, or listen to music that makes you think of Rome.

Did you do your morning pages today?
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Pick a color and write a quick few sentences describing yourself in the first person with regards to the color. Like, "I am green, here are some traits green and I have in common." What is your / do you have a favorite color (does it change)? What do you have that is that color? Do you want more things in your favorite color, or would that oversaturate it?

Cameron keeps hinting that you should just go ahead and repaint a room somewhere, but I feel like she really doesn't understand how much work that is. But if painting a room, or a piece of furniture, is within your budget and sounds appealing, now is a good day to go for it.

Did you do your morning pages today?
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There wasn't really enough Spiritual Path material in this chapter to merit a post, so I'm opening up a discussion / check-in thread. Talk about your progress or regress, complain about me or Cameron or me complaining about Cameron, or talk about what's been working / not working for you.

Search your feelings, interrogate the text from the wrong perspective, swap recipes, or just go back to bed and call it an artist's date. Anything goes in this special Artist's Way Extra Meta Post!
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This one is, as previously noted, a bit of a doozy.

Name your dream. Cameron is murky on what constitutes a dream, but from context, this is meant to be a dream about something you want to accomplish or become. Write it down. "In a perfect world, I would love to ___."

Name one concrete goal that signifies that this dream has been accomplished; Cameron describes this goal as "true north" on the "emotional compass". For example, I might consider my goal accomplished if I get 80 rejections in a year. Someone else might want to write something that gets nominated for the Yuletide fanfiction exchange, or to make enough money from writing not to need another job. From the outside, their goal might look the same: "be a writer." But everyone's true north is (potentially) different.

To be perfectly honest, I read the "true north" part about eight times and I'm still not entirely sure I get it, but maybe others can elaborate?

In a perfect world, five years from now, where would you like to be in relation to your dream and true north?

In the present world, what action can you take this year to move you closer? This month? This week? Today? Right now? Like for example, today I can convert one longish story into a flash story that will be easy to rewrite and easy to reject quickly. Right now I can open up that file and cut one paragraph down to a sentence! Hold on, I'm going to do that now. . .

[. . .]

[. . .]

Ok, but wait, there's more! List your dream. List its true north. Select a role model, someone who has already achieved that dream and that true north. Make an action plan. Five years, three years, one year, one month, one week, now. Choose an action. Cameron emphasizes that reading this book is an action (because of course it is) & for those of you following along without a copy of your own, this counts too. But maybe don't use "reading this book" for all your actions; I'm just saying.

Did you do your morning pages today?
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Pick three to five of these affirmations to work with this week, or make your own. Write them down and decorate them if you like. Listen to some music.


I am a talented person.
I have a right to be an artist.
I am a good person and a good artist.
Creativity is a gift I accept.
My creativity is a gift to others.
My creativity is appreciated.
I now treat myself and my creativity more gently.
I now treat myself and my creativity more generously.
I now share my creativity more openly.
I now accept hope.
I now act affirmatively.
I now accept creative recovery.
I now allow myself to heal.


If you've tried affirmations and they don't do it for you, skip right over them and listen to some music you haven't heard yet or haven't listened to in a while. Maybe hang out with some poetry if you like poetry.

Did you do your morning pages today?
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I learn by going where I have to go – Theodore Roethke

So, a lot of things hurt. Growth hurts. Rejection hurts. So do impatient toleration, insincere praise, and lack of interest. So does realizing that something you were trying to make just isn't working right now. So does criticism sometimes, even if it's really good criticism that will help you in the end. In weight training, you learn that injury isn't just a roadblock on the way to strength – it's in an important sense intrinsic to it. You have to break yourself down in small ways in order to build back stronger.

Still hurts, though. )

'Cerebration' )

Gain disguised as loss )

"Do you know how old I'll be by the time I learn to play the piano?"
"The same age you will be if you don't."


There's a brief return to the idea that it's too early, or too late, to take up something new or pick up where you left off. This is shenanigans; creativity happens in the moment and the moment is whenever we say it is.

The most important thing is to keep taking small steps-- what Cameron calls filling the form. She doesn't explain this metaphor, but I guess it's like filling out the blanks on an application, one by one? The point is that a lot of people have worries about what might happen if they dedicated more of their lives to art – they'd have to move, there would be family drama, maybe they would lose friends, and then what if they wrote a whole novel and no one liked it? What if it's all for nothing? What if they become famous and then die, and Columbia University Press publishes all their second-person Jack Sparrow fanfic in a four-volume critical edition with copious footnotes and their ghost is embarrassed forever?

It's easy to worry about big-picture fears when we could be painting or sculpting or drawing or writing. “Contemplating the odds” is one way of avoiding taking small steps. Don't do it! Or at least restrict it to one evening a week, and leave the rest of the week for action.

There is (almost?) always one creative thing you can do, no matter how tiny. If you have five minutes or two minutes, you can sketch on a post-it note or a pad of paper (character-limited forms, like those on Facebook and Twitter, can be good for composing tiny stories or poems), jot down dialogue, mark down a tune that's been following you. Everything is made of something. Novels are made of words, paintings are made of brushstrokes, forests are made of trees which are made of branches and roots and leaves and bark and plant cells. Every step is a step. In fact, you should probably stop reading this and do a small creative thing right now.

Did you do your morning pages? Don't forget to schedule a date with your artist this week!
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Do you have a favorite item of clothing? A piece of jewelry that's special or that you really like? Wear it today, for no special reason, because you like it.

Did you do your morning pages today?
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For this task, you'll need:

A stack of magazines (10 or more) that you don't mind cutting up, if you can get them
Other image sources, as available
Scissors (optional)
Glue, tape, or other adhesive
A big sheet of newspaper, butcher paper, cardboard or posterboard

Set aside twenty or thirty minutes and grab up any images from the magazines or whatever that reflect your life or interests. Include your past, present, future, and dreams. It's also ok to include images you just like. Pull them out until you have a stack of at least twenty images. Then arrange them in any way that pleases you on the big paper or posterboard or whatever.

You can add to your collage in the future, including other images and themes as they occur to you. Cameon suggests that you give it a place of honor ("Even a secret place of honor is all right") and make a new one every few months.

Last time I tried to work through this workshop, this is the point at which I said, "You know what? I don't want to make another damn collage about my hopes and dreams, I want to write a damn story." So I went and worked on a story instead. That's ok, too.

Did you do your morning pages today?
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Go to a good place where you can "savor the silence and healing solitude," or just be alone with the world for a while. Cameron suggests "a church, synagogue, library, grove of trees[. . .] or a great aquarium store"

Experiment with different places and see which ones work for you. If you can't get to a good place for whatever reason, try to make space around yourself for a little while with breathing, music, meditation, scent, or whatever works.

Did you do your morning pages today?
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I'm still on a work trip & still in Busy Mode, but yesterday I had a small amount of free time, so I made a valiant attempt to wander around a little and *gasp!* do some writing. As a direct result of my meanderings, I lost my phone. If I believed in a responsive universe that used events to send messages, I think the message of today would be, "Never try to write, or you will lose work-related objects and have to pay to replace them."

It's a good thing I don't believe that.

Anyway, today's task: Create one wonderful smell in your living space. Burn a candle, bring in some fir branches, bake some bread, cook something aromatic. Be sure to make it a smell you especially like, not necessarily a smell you think other people will like.

Did you do your morning pages today?
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One of the things Cameron suggests for this week: Take some time to listen to one side of an album, or around 20 minutes of music, just for the pleasure of it. Draw as you listen, if you like. Notice how twenty minutes can refresh you. Call it a mini artist date, and start taking them every now and again to counter stress and produce insight.

Did you do your morning pages today?
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Cameron suggests that you make this phrase a mantra, or motto if you don't do mantras: Treating myself like a precious object will make me strong.

I'm not super-keen on being an object, even to myself (how does that work?) and didn't much feel like having Gollum's voice in my head all day anyway, so I encourage you to adjust this phrase to better suit what actually makes you strong.

Cameron's idea here is that we think that being hard on ourselves will make us strong, but sometimes it just smashes and bruises us. Sometimes being kind to ourselves makes us strong. I agree with this even though I have trouble living by it. But I can't really jump on board with "precious object."

If you have a phrase that works for you, watercolor or crayon or calligraph your phrase and post it where you will see it daily. You can be as hard on Cameron as you want to this week, but go easy on yourself.

Did you do your morning pages today?
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This week's topics are perfectionism, risk, and jealously, and the importance of listening.

N.B.: In the spirit of overcoming perfectionism, I will be publishing this weekly post in its original unedited form, as I wrote it while waiting in an airport at 3 AM. I hope it makes sense but if it doesn't, that's a risk I'm willing to take. See what I did there? Woooooooooo. . . .

Perfectionism! )

Risk!! )

Jealousy!!! )

Cameron likes the idea that our creative works are waiting for us out in the world and we can reach up and bring them down like we would pick maybe an orange or a peach. She calls our attention to directional metaphors: getting things down as opposed to making them up. There's the apocryphal Michelangelo thing where the statue is inside the marble and all you have to do is chip it out.

I have mixed feelings about this approach but it's ok, I guess. But you do have to chip it -- it isn't going to bust out all on its own. That's the point, maybe.

There's also some stuff about searching your childhood some more for people who supported and failed to support you; maybe these activities are relevant to you and maybe not. If I were Julia Cameron's sleep-deprived editor I would call her up RIGHT NOW and tell her she needs to come up with some alternative activities because the degree to which Childhood Emotional Archaeology is useful is going to vary a lot from person to person.

This concludes a thing I wrote while sleep-deprived! Take that, perfectionism!

Don't forget to go on a date with your artist sometime this week and do your morning pages every day!
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First of all, I am so sorry for missing Saturday. I had to take an impromptu trip and neglected it completely.

Saturday's task was to send postcards to five friends – make sure they're people you really want to hear from. If you don't have five addresses that fit the bill, send postcards to authors or artists you like.

For Sunday, Cameron asks you to be a source of abundance and make room in your life for more of what you want. Is there something in your living or working space you can give away? Pass on something you have to someone you think would like it.

If you're not perpetually burdened with objects like everyone in Cameron's imaginary audience, give someone a story you thought was interesting or a (sincere) compliment instead.

Did you do your morning pages today?

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Twelve-week creativity workshop!

August 2014

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