Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Artist's Way: Week One

Week One: Recovering a Sense of Safety

Here are some excerpts from The Artist’s Way, a brilliant and inspiring book written by Julia Cameron. I have found it immensely encouraging and helpful. I read through it a while ago, but now I want to go through it again, week by week. There are 12 chapters in the book, 12 weeks, and at the end of each chapter, Julia gives a list of tasks for the artist to do, helpful for whatever discipline the artist might be pursuing, whether writing, acting, filmmaking, painting, dancing, etc.

Week One’s purpose is to create a sense of safety for the artist. Perhaps the artist grew up hearing only negative responses to their art, and now they have stopped trying. They have no confidence, no faith in their own abilities. Julia eases the person back into their art form. Don’t judge yourself, in order to be an artist, you must be willing to be a bad artist first. Just begin, she coaches.

The following excerpts will give a glimpse at Julia’s tone and style, and they are excellent insights for any person who dreams about creating art.

“Shadow artists are born when artists do not receive the encouragement and support they need to pursue their artistic passions. Often, parents do not respond positively to a child’s dream of pursuing an artistic career. Instead, they encourage their children to become doctors or lawyers or something else that pays high money. As the artist gives in, they slowly forget their dream, thinking it was not meant for them.”

“Remember, your artist is a child. Find and protect that child. Learning to let yourself create is like learning to walk. The artist child must begin by crawling. Baby steps will follow and there will be falls—yecchy first paintings, beginning films that look like unedited home movies, first poems that would shame a greeting card. Typically, the recovering shadow artist will use these early efforts to discourage continued exploration.” (29)

“In recovering from our creative blocks, it is necessary to go gently and slowly. What we are after here is the healing of old wounds—not the creation of new ones. No high jumping please! Mistakes are necessary! Stumbles are normal…Too far, too fast, and we can undo ourselves.” (29)

“It is an awkward, tentative, even embarrassing process. There will be many times we won’t look good—to ourselves or anyone else. We need to stop demanding that we do. It is impossible to get better and look good at the same time.” (30)

“Remember that in order to recover as an artist, you must be willing to be a bad artist….By being willing to be a bad artist, you have a chance to be an artist, and perhaps, over time, a very good one.

“When I make this point in teaching, I am met by instant defensive hostility: “But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really play the piano/act/paint/write a decent play?”

Yes…the same age you will be if you don’t.” (30)

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