WEEK ONE – RECOVERING A SENSE OF SAFETY
QUICK NOTE: In respect and honor of Julia Cameron’s work, I will not be providing a full report or deep dive into the text. I’ll be sharing a light summary and one or two of the week’s activity list. To hear my thoughts and insights, listen to the pod!
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“Creativity is play, but for shadow artists, learning to allow themselves to play is hard work.”
So many of us have had a lack of encouragement to try things out and explore when it comes to art and creativity. The stereotype shows parents stressing to their children that if they want stability and a bright future, that the only activities worthwhile are the ones that will provide them with grants and scholarships. It’s not unfamiliar for a parent to provide caution to dissuade their children from artistic urges, and then the children grow up believing that this is no artistry within them.
Shadow Artists are those who have had those experiences, want to explore the creativity within them, but remember what their parents said and feel timid about giving it a try. They live with could-have-beens and regrets.
Typically, as they continue to harbor these feelings, shadow artists will find careers that are close to the art they are called to create, but are also a safe distance away from doing that art. Examples could be art dealers, critics, journalists, artist managers, publicists, etc. Of course, these aren’t guaranteed to be the reason why these careers are chosen. We’re simply discussing why a shadow artist would want to follow these careers.
Shadow artists are so good at judging themselves harshly and reprimanding themselves for wanting to pursue anything around their artistic desires. When they follow bravery and begin to do the work, they will set their expectations to a level that is unreachable and find reasons why they shouldn’t and could never be an artist.
Protecting the Artist Child Within
The first thing to connect to is that your artist is a child. And just as a baby begins to walk by first crawling, trying to get up, using the wall as a guide, and then eventually gaining enough stability that they roam all over the house – that same process is the way we need to approach these new, untouched artistic ventures. We must take our time, be patient, and allow ourselves to start at the beginning.
Julia Cameron makes it loud and clear that, “judging your early artistic efforts is artistic abuse.” Comparing your beginning work to masters within your field will only bring you disheartenment. And what you’re doing is inviting premature criticism, invited or internalized, to come in and break you down. To walk away from this and remove those creative blocks, we must take our time, follow ease, use baby steps, and be gentle with ourselves when starting this new exploration.
This new practice is for ourselves and ourselves alone. That’s not to say you couldn’t make something out of it, but it’s premature to determine. Anything you force will eventually shatter and fall apart. So, “give yourself permission to be a beginner.” By letting yourself be “bad” at this artistry, you are allowing yourself to work at becoming an artist.
YOUR ENEMY WITHIN: AFFIRMATIVE WEAPONS
“If being an artist seems too good to be true to you, you will devise a price tag for it that strikes you as unpayable.”
When we ignore the impulse to be fully creative we are choosing to be in safety, led by our internalized negative beliefs. It’s important to take time to locate and address what those negative beliefs are. They can come from any area of our life and experiences: parents, religion, community, school, friends, co-workers, partners, etc. They can also be incredibly subtle and hard to determine, but they will grow and fester if not addressed. So we need to confront them head-on.
The first thing to recognize is that our negative beliefs are beliefs – they are not facts. Being an artist does not make you lazy, dumb, irresponsible, unhappy, and broke. You can live a fulfilling, worthwhile, and wholesome life by being an artist. And another secret to spill is that the artists you see out there that “have it made” weren’t born artists. They were simply brave enough to try it.
Combined together, all of our negative beliefs fuel on central belief. And that is we must give up something essential within us – a need, ambition, or desire – to follow the dream of being an artist. But there is no ultimatum between being an artist and living the big life. If you allow it to be, being an artist can mean to be someone who is living the big life.
Your Ally Within: Affirmative Weapons
As blocked artist, we may openly critique and bash any artist who is under the spotlight. That’s not to say that you aren’t right with your views about their work – they may not be that great – but if we go in deeply and harshly, it may not be just jealousy that is channeling through us. It may be that we are continuing to define that it is unsafe and hopeless to become an artist.
That’s the opposite of what we want to be telling ourselves. The thing is, it’s not about how amazing the artist is that you have your attention on – it’s about that they had the chutzpah to go out there and give it their all. You may be right if you think you could do it better, but the thing is that you aren’t doing it. So how could you or the world truly know what you are capable of if you don’t try?
Practicing affirmations will help you win big time in venturing out in your creative desires. Julia recommends starting with one affirmation and writing it down ten times. Something like, I am a brilliant _______. You can interchange whatever you like. But the point is to write a statement declaring that you are wonderful at the artistry you want to follow. Remember, you don’t have to be talented or skilled to be wonderful at something. That’s another block our culture assigns on us.
As you do this exercise, your Censor will likely pop-up and try to object to your affirmation. By writing it down, consciously thinking it as you do so, ten times, you’ll be working at quieting your Censor and beginning the work to shift your beliefs.
This is so useful in locating your negative beliefs. “You’ll be amazed at the rotten things your subconscious will blurt out.” Julia even encourages you to then write down what your Censor says in objection. You didn’t come up with them on your own. You heard them from somewhere else. And finding where you picked that up will help you in letting go of the bars that keep you locked away from the creative within you.
Remember, we want to be practicing the morning pages and artist dates.
- List three old enemies of your creative self-worth. Go in deep if need be, but locate three “monsters” who told you to not follow your artistic ambitions. Be specific and explore how that made you feel.
- If you had five other lives to lead, what would you do in each of them? Let this be light and have fun with this. Don’t overthink it. When we were children, we were brave, bold, and it was so easy for us to declare what we wanted to be. Take a deep breath before, go into your desires, and write the first five that come to you. Afterward, Julia wants you to choose one of them and practice being that for a week. “For instance, if you put down country singer, can you pick up a guitar? If you dream of being a cowhand, what about some horseback riding?”
And with that my friend, is the end of week one. Thank you so much for joining us and we can’t wait til next week!
Remember, you can buy the book, here. And the podcast episodes are dropped every Friday.
No pressure, friends! After all, we’re trying to be better.