Author of The Artist’s Way
and Walking in This World
“Pursue The Pied Piper of Delight!”
By Kay Walburger
Dear Artists and Other Creative Spirits:
This letter is coming to you with words of compassion, encouragement, understanding and wisdom. I feel you will be delighted to hear the news I have for you regarding my recent conversation with Julia Cameron, author of “The Artist’s Way.” She is sharing Artist to Artist the lessons she has learned personally in her newest book, “Walking in This World.”
“You are so Artistic!” “You are a true Artist!” Sometimes these phrases sounded so awesome. They had majesty and blessings in them and seemed to draw admiration from others. However, there were times when you heard pity in someone’s voice as if they were just informed that you had a curse or some terrible malady for which there was no cure and you would live out your days in pain and suffering!
Being an artist has elements of pain, suffering, frustration, rage, unmet needs, sorrow, regret, loss, sadness, grieving and many other emotions. Unbridled joy, euphoria, childlike playfulness, celebration, gleefulness, comedy and drama, expressions of love and beauty, and other lighthearted emotions are also a part of the Artist’s creations of self-expression, called “ART!”
For myself, and I suspect other artists as well, there is much confusion about the meaning of being an ‘artist.’ So many mixed messages, so much love/hate reactions to art and artists. We see some artists adored and others condemned and shunned. Why? Can someone tell us what it is all about?
Julia Cameron is that person for me. In her book I found a working artist of compassion and understanding who guided me to explore my feelings and emotions in a creative way that unblocked those areas of my artist’s soul and freed me to make my art again.
Now, I am thrilled by her newest book, “Walking in This World,” because it begins where “The Artist’s Way” ended. This book addresses real-life frustrations that a committed artist faces everyday. The Successes of your career can be a drain on your sacred creative time and she provides ‘stratagems’ for handling these trying elements. Here are some of the wonderful words Julia shared with me that have already changed my life for good. I am making new, vital and compassionate choices to honor my creative spirit in healthy and nurturing ways.
“I have made art for the last ten years . . . chiefly novels, plays, and musicals, and some non-fiction books as well as teaching. Hopefully, I am ten years smarter than when I wrote “The Artist’s Way,” Julia commented. My new book picks up where “The Artist’s Way” left off to present readers with a second twelve-week course in an amazing journey toward discovering our human potential.
We artists are ‘kin’ and Julia calls us an ‘artist’s tribe’ who share common challenges and possibilities. We are often extra sensitive to life and others, as well as ourselves. Julia says, “It is important to encourage each other to be true to our art and ourselves.”
“Walking in This World” shows us how to inhabit the world with a sense of wonder, a childlike inquisitiveness each of us was born with. “Great artists are actually great amateurs,” she writes in her introduction. “They have learned to wriggle out of the seriousness of rigid categorization and allow themselves to pursue the Pied Piper of Delight.”
“There are questions that come up later in an artist’s career,” remarked Julia. “I wrote this book to be a form of encouragement. I did this by identifying obstacles and saying, look we are all in this together. Here are some strategies for solving them that have been useful to me.”
“The major questions are: “How can I get enough time to make my art?” “How can I get enough money to make my art?” “How can I get enough solitude to make my art?”
“These problems are more acute as we get older/advanced and become more successful in our art and our day jobs. Families and significant others create more demands on our time and this results in life being more stressful for us creatives!”
Ten years ago Julia published a groundbreaking work that offered an original and astoundingly effective twelve-week course in creative discovery. With nearly two million copies sold, “The Artist’s Way” is now a classic cherished by aspiring and working artists who have experienced its rich benefits.
Don’t be surprised that Julia starts us with what she considers the three most important tools in her tool kit. Yes, you should know them well by now. The Morning Pages! The Artist’s Date! The newest addition, The Weekly Walk!
Book Tour: “As I was signing books, people were asking many of the questions which I had addressed in “Walking In This World.” That felt to me like I was on the mark with topics I covered in this book. During the twelve-week program the intention is for you to discover and recover your creative self!” In weeks 1-12 you will be discovering a Sense of Origin, a Sense of Proportion, a Sense of Perspective, a Sense of Adventure, a Sense of Personal Territory, a Sense of Boundaries, a Sense of Momentum, a Sense of Discernment, a Sense of Resiliency, a Sense of Camaraderie, a Sense of Authenticity, and a Sense of Dignity.”
*Excerpt below from book as a sample of what is in store for your artist.
Discovering a Sense of Origin: “This week initiates your creative pilgrimage. You are the point of origin. You begin where you are, with who you are, at this time, at this place. You may find yourself hopeful, skeptical, excited, resistant, or all of the above. The readings and tasks in week one all aim at pinpointing the “you” you have been evading. When we avoid our creativity, we avoid ourselves. When we meet our creativity, we meet ourselves, and that encounter happens in the moment. The willingness to be ourselves gives us the origin in originality.”
“We all have our fears, and they feel as real as the chair you are sitting in. Like that chair, they can be slouched into or left behind. Sometimes we need to sit up and ignore the cricks in our back and shoulders and just begin. That’s how it is with art. We just need to begin.”
Finding enough time: “Ten years ago, I would have probably told you that an artist could become exhausted from too much ‘out flow’! Now I believe that just the opposite is true. Too much ‘in flow’. Too many phone calls, too many interruptions, too much broken time, too much T.V., talk-radio, etc. And I believe the cell phone is a clear and present danger!”
“One thing I have learned about the ‘imagination’ is that it can be oversaturated with facts and information. Our information age can overwhelm and deaden our imagination. It is really more stimulated by less info.”
“Time is of the essence! For artists the time and solitude to be inspired and creative is at a premium. Set boundaries and protect your time,” advises Julia.
Drama and the Artist: “Often, when we yearn for a more creative life, we cue up the sound track for high drama. With great dissonant chords crashing in our heads, we play out the scenario of leaving those we love and going somewhere lonely and perhaps exotic, where we will be artists with a capital ‘A’. When I hear this plan, I think, Okay. You do it. Experience has taught me that my artist performs best when the stakes are lower. When I keep the drama on the page, pages accumulate,” continues Julia.
“I turned the lens toward our own tendency for DRAMA! We have a heightened sense for drama when we are not making our art. Our imagination always seems to need an activity. If it is not given a positive activity it will routinely turn to negativity.”
“Dreams have a will-o’-the-wisp quality!” “Creativity is inspiration coupled with initiative. It is an act of faith and, in that phrase, the word “act” looms as large as the “faith” that it requires.” When we do not act in the direction of our dreams, we are only “dreaming.” Dreams coupled with the firm intention to manifest them take on a steely reality. Our dreams come true when we are true to them. Reality contains the word “real.” We begin to “reel” in our dreams when we toss out the baited hook of intention. When we shift our inner statement from “I’d love to” to “I’m going to,” we shift out of victim and into adventurer.
“We hunger to make art the same way we may hunger to make love. It begins as desire, and desire requires that we act upon it if we are to conceive things. Thinking is not the enemy, over thinking is. Just do your art!” “Another thing I talk about is what I call the ‘Glass Mountain’ phase of creativity, when a project either comes together or it doesn’t. This is when we need to pull our energy back into our own core and use it on our creative project. This can often drive our intimates crazy. I suggest we warn them that we require this time to retreat now, however we will be back.” “I think of this book as an ‘owners and drivers manual’ for artists. It can help us understand and explain our needs, wants, and desires to ourselves and our loved ones.”
Surviving Success! “When an artist’s life picks up in velocity which is what happens when we have success, we also have a higher vulnerability. We may find we are now attracting two different things into our life. One is new opportunity and the other is an opportunist. It behooves us to be able to sort out these two very different choice points. We must be alert. As we have creative breakthrough, we have a certain heightened creative voltage. If we are not careful that voltage can be channeled along someone else’s agendas. It is vital to stay in tune with ourselves and deflect overtures of creative saboteurs when they come in our direction.”
“We tend to think of Success as our ‘Happy Ending’ and I believe it actually is just the ‘Beginning’ of a new phase.”
“I love what I do and look forward to many more years as an ‘Artist.’ I am finding as the years roll on that I have more strength, more enthusiasm, higher aspirations, and livelier dreams. This is true for many of us enjoying our midlife. We live in a youth culture, yet I believe the later years are the most creative ones because a ‘new energy’ comes on us! We’ve raised our children and now it’s time to raise our ‘Brain Children’.”
The day job: “If we do not limit our inflow, we become swamped by the life demands of others. If we practice too much solitude, we risk being flooded by stagnation and a moody narcissism as our life and our art become emptied of all but the big question “How am I doing?” What we are after is balance, enough containment and autonomy to make our art, enough involvement and immersion in community to have someone and something to make art for.”
“What gives us the idea that people with “day jobs” can’t be real artists? Very often our day job feeds our consciousness. They bring us people and ideas, stories, opportunities as much as obstacles. A day job is not something to “outgrow”. It is something to consider, especially if your art feels stale. You may have cannibalized your own creative stories and need to restore them with contact from new sources. As artists, we need life, or our art is lifeless.”
“Art thrives on life. Life feeds it. Enriches it. Cloistering ourselves away from life in the name of being artists causes us to run the risk of producing art that is arid, artless, and, yes, heartless.
Mindfulness vs Heartfulness: Julia says, “Artists have ‘Heartfulness’. See the word ‘Art’ in Heart? Also, notice the word ‘Ear’ in ‘Heart’. So much of making art is the processing of listening to your own spiritual process. ‘Art’ is a form of prayer? We experience an altered sense of ‘time’ when we make art and that results in an ‘Altered Consciousness.’ Old Masters of long ago expressed that angels and guides came to them with Divine Inspiration coming from on high. We are shy to talk about it today, yet many artists experience a Spiritual High!”
“People are drawn to my tool kit because of that hunger for self expression. More and more individuals require themselves to be stronger at their own core! My tool kit helps develop that inner strength. The major tools are: The Morning Pages, The Artist’s Date, The Weekly Walk.”
The Art Critic: “Today, more than ever, people criticizing art and artists is a spectator sport (thumbs down/thumbs up). For artists there isn’t that sense of safety. Many writers as they begin their book or play often finish their first chapter and commence to imagine ‘their N.Y. Times Bad Review!’ The good news about the ‘Morning Pages’ is, it helps you bracket your inner critic long enough to make art! These three handwritten pages (first thing in the morning) siphon off negativity and take the ‘grumpiness’ out of the rest of our day. Without pages to release these worries or fears into, they tend to become the filters we perceive through the rest of the day.”
I told Julia that I had personally resisted the ‘morning pages’ but finally surrendered to doing them every day. I confessed that they were whiney and snively and that was hard for me to look at, however they were important to my process. I asked if this was common to the other artist’s experiences?
“Resistance is part of the creative process and everyone at some level experiences resistance! What I hope to teach is that it is OK to have resistance if you don’t let it stop you. I am showing you ways to recognize it, accept it and move right through it! We learn to deal with our resistance in the ‘morning pages’. Then when it shows up in our work we recognize it saying ‘oh, it’s just resistance’ and we do our art anyway.”
Groups are wonderful: “Any groups with this book as a model, are welcome to create a circle of ‘peers’. For me this idea is important because the group becomes a “Creative Cluster of Believing Mirrors.” These are people who mirror back to you, your possibility and your largeness.”
Artist Date: “Romancing your artist by taking them out for some quality alone time is a wonderful way of wooing your inner creative sensibilities.
Time to Walk: “Walking is very important. I believe as we move into our bodies we have a much better chance moving into a body of work. When we walk we go out with a problem, but we come back with a solution. Walking alters our consciousness very quickly. Making time to walk makes windows of time in our day because we have our priorities straight.”
Divine Paradox: Walking Vs Running:
“A paradox in life operable to the artist is…
If we want to go Faster…. we need to go Slower!
If we want to get There …we have to be Here!
If we like the Then…we have to live in the Now!
Enough Money: “Guidance and generosity are always closer at hand than we may think. It always falls to us to be open to receiving guidance and to pray for the willingness and openness to know when it arrives. Possibilities are a day job, a gift, a grant, a mentor, or loan, a patron, a scholarship, a sponsor, etc.”
“It is a spiritual law that the good of our projects and our growth as artists must rest in divine hands and not merely human ones. While we are led to and drawn from teacher to teacher, opportunity-to-opportunity, the Great Creator remains the ultimate source of all our creative good . . . When we place our reliance on an understanding of divine assistance, we are able to hear our cues clearly, thank those who step forward to aid us, release those who seem to impede us, and keep unfolding as artists with faith that the Great Artist knows precisely what is best for us and can help us find our path, no matter how lost, distanced, or removed we may sometimes feel from our dream. In the heart of God all things are close at hand, and this means our creative help, support, and success. As we ask, believe, and are open to receive, we are led.”
“Goethe told us, “Whatever you think you can do, or believe you can do, begin it, because action has magic, grace and power in it.” This was no mere bromide. It was a report on spiritual experiences. An experience that each of us can have whenever we surrender to being a beginner, whenever we dismantle our adult’s aloof avoidance and actively seek the Great Creator’s hand by reaching out our own to start anew.”
“There is an infallibility to the law — as we each seek to express what we are longing to say, there is always someone or something that is longing to hear precisely what we have expressed. We do not live or create in isolation. Each of us is part of a greater whole and, as we agree to express ourselves, we agree to express the larger Self that moves through us all.”
“Artist to artist, we can safely have faith in the Great Creator’s interest in our creative pursuits.”
Kay Walburger,, Writer/Artist
“Walking in This World: The Practical Art of Creativity,” published by Penguin Putnam is available at local bookstores.
*Portions of this article are excerpts from Julia Cameron’s books, and www.penguinputnam.com web sites with publisher’s express permission.
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