Journey through The Artist's Way
A few months ago I decided to embark on the journey of working through the book, The Artist’s Way, with two of my closest friends from college.
til six bookclub: vol. 1
As three artists and photo majors, who have all since left the bubble of art school, we were finding it tough to make time and give ourselves the space to create for the sake of creating with the chaos of real life, day jobs and impending bills. We thought this 12-week “artist recovery program” would be a great way to get us back in the creative mood.
Two of the main pillars of the course are the daily morning pages and the weekly artist dates. The morning pages are a daily practice of 3-page journal entries where you basically stream-of-conscious write to get all of the clutter out of your mind at the beginning of the day. Most of the time, the pages just help get the juices flowing, but occasionally there will be little nuggets of wisdom in them that maybe you didn’t even realize you’d been thinking about before.
As someone who has journaled semi-regularly throughout my life (starting in 2nd grade, in a notebook I still have) this was not a scary ask of me. However as a lifelong night owl, waking up earlier than I needed to, in order to make time for the pages was a challenge. I ended up doing more night pages, which maybe missed the point of being a “get the juices flowing” type activity, but still felt productive for me to get thoughts out of my mind before bed. Of course, throughout the 12 weeks there were times I wasn’t entirely on my ‘pages’ game, but when I was, I swear I slept better!
The weekly artist date was a bit more ominous. The concept being, once per week, you take your inner artist
per week, you take your inner artist on a date. Alone. Just to do something for yourself/your inner artist. It got a little multiple personality here, and before your mind goes to envisioning me as the star of Split 2: Artist Edition, think more of the whole ‘making art for arts sake’ that I was talking about before. As someone who gets paid to conceptualize and execute on creative for brands, with the expected outcomes often laid out before I even begin, I’d almost forgotten how to pick up a tool and just create for no purpose.
But your artist date doesn’t always have to be making something tangible. Some weeks my artist date was taking myself to a movie alone. Other weeks it was a yoga class. One week I went to a dollar store and allowed myself to spend $5 on ridiculous things that make me smile. My purchases included fingerpaint, which was then the next week’s artist date. Let me tell you, there’s a reason why kids love fingerpainting - its just plain fun - and everyone should do it more often! Honestly I even made some pretty cool abstract art, if I do say so myself!
Your dates don’t need to cost money - they just need to nourish your soul and your inner artist. Take a bubble bath! Try a new youtube eye makeup tutorial! Veg out and watch a movie you’ve been wanting to watch! Just commit - put down your phone and really enjoy doing something for yourself. And do it alone. You will notice things differently when its just you. Your inner artist will be inspired, I promise.
The rest of the journey consists of weekly chapters focused on different aspects of the artist recovery. To be honest, they felt a lot like therapy, in a really good way. My friends and I started a slack channel, where we could communicate throughout the week as we read, had things come up in our morning pages or took ourselves on artist dates we wanted to share about. Then we held a call once a week for an hour to discuss that week’s lesson in depth.
At the conclusion of every chapter there are activations and questions for you to delve further into the practice. Ranging from writing thank you letters to your artist’s greatest supporters, to listing all the jobs you’d want to do if money wasn’t an object.
As someone who hasn’t always been the best at homework that doesn’t have a consequence if I don’t do it, at first it was a challenge to not blow off these little assignments. “What is the point really, I read the chapter...” I thought to myself. But what I realized, in the end, that the only person I was doing a disservice to by not doing the work was myself. Sure it was a bummer for the accountability partners I had in my two friends but I was really trying to recover my own inner artist and if I had committed to read the book, I might as well do the rest. Also I often realized the activations I instantly retreated from were the ones I needed most.
All in all I think this book is a wonderful tool to help regain your creative footing when you feel lost. My biggest suggestions would be find some accountability partners and actually DO THE WORK. It’ll be hard, because you’re unlearning things you’ve conditioned yourself to believe - you’re not good enough, being an artist is just frivolous, you need to be tortured or traumatized to make good art - but when you reach that breakthrough, it’ll all be worth it.
And then when you complete it all, celebrate with your friends - my two Artist’s Way buddies and I got together IRL and went to play at a boardwalk! Remember to celebrate your accomplishments! Twelve weeks of deep inner work seems daunting, and it’s definitely a challenge, but I believe in you! And then once you complete the course, let’s chat about it 😉