The Artist’s Way / week one

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”

-Joseph Chilton Pearce

I’ve unexpectedly found myself working through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I’ve attempted to make it through the entire twelve week program at least three, possibly more, times. I’ve always gotten tripped up on something: not finding time for morning pages, which are essential, or finding time to write the morning pages but not doing the weekly tasks, which are also essential, and eventually, last time I think it was week 7, it started to feel like busywork and not actually helpful in any way, and I’d stop.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my goals for 2019 the past couple of weeks (’tis the season, and I’m not going to lie, yearly goal setting is one of my favorite things ever), and I had it in my head that I might try to do The Artist’s Way again, starting in January. (Actually, I hope to do a Julia Cameron year, by following up The Artist’s Way with three of her other artist recovery programs, but I’m trying not to get ahead of myself, especially given my track record.)

Related, I’d also been wanting to start getting up earlier, before my kids, so I could have some real time to myself at the beginning of the day when I actually have brain cells to work with. The kicker is that I’ve always been a night owl, and left to my own devices, I will stay up until midnight. Which is fine if I don’t mind waking up in the morning and immediately being on mom duty. But I do mind, and would prefer to drink my first cup of coffee alone, in the quiet, without needing to reheat it 4 times. I need to wake up at 5 am to have any hope of this happening.

A couple of weekends ago, we had my oldest’s fifth birthday party. I’d been up late the night before getting things ready and then was completely exhausted after the party and felt like I could actually fall asleep early, if I made a point to actually get in bed at a reasonable time. I announced my intention to my husband, he laughed at me, and I set an alarm.

I woke up the next morning and thought, “This is great. But it’d be better if I had a reason beyond just being alone to get up this early.” Working through The Artist’s Way seemed like the perfect thing to do, and I decided not to let myself get in the rut of thinking that I need to wait until January 1 to start working towards a goal.

All of this to say: I’ve been waking up at 5 am, writing morning pages, doing the tasks, and, most importantly, noticing a difference.

If you’re familiar at all with Julia Cameron’s work, she talks a lot about artists being blocked due to lack of support and disparaging comments from parents and teachers at a tender age. Truthfully, I never felt particularly blocked (although I have loads of negative self-talk!), and I didn’t identify with placing the blame on my parents or teachers. I resisted writing any of the tasks that involved identifying enemies of your self worth. I kept telling myself, Nothing like this has ever happened to me!

Except, obviously, it has. Of course it has.

I remembered a time, around 4th grade or so, a kid who lived down the street made fun of a project I’d made in art class. I’ve never considered myself a particularly gifted visual artist, but I always enjoyed art class and still love playing around with art supplies (especially water colors!). That little punk made fun of me simply because I’d chosen an option for the project that no one else had. He sneered at me and said, “I can’t believe you picked that. No one in my class did that.” I remember crying later as I told my mom, who responded, “Well, why does it matter that no one in his class picked it?”

I knew that it didn’t and I told her so. I actually hadn’t realized I’d picked a different option than everyone else in my class (same could be said about most of my choices in life), and I didn’t care. But this kid made me feel I should care, and that’s what upset me.

Sometimes I feel like even though I don’t feel like what I’m doing is particularly odd, because it comes naturally to me, I should feel strange because jeez, what kind of weirdo writes about their own life all the time? No one else I know does that!

Probably there were all kinds of other reasons this kid said what he did to me, and none of them had anything to do with me personally. But I think I’ve been carrying his words around without realizing it.

I have some additional thoughts about why this round of The Artist’s Way has so far been much more successful than previous attempts, but I will hold my observations until it’s clear that the last week hasn’t just been a fluke.

Here’s to more 5 am revelations.