💌 Respecting my Energy 💌
I think Julia Cameron is a great writer? Groundbreaking.
A few weeks ago, I started The Artists’ Way by Julia Cameron, a 12-week program in artistic creative recovery. I saw it while browsing the Strand and remembered the cover from somewhere forgotten, but somewhere I remembered fondly. So I picked it up. I had nothing to lose. I’d been scattered and jumbled up in creative projects, jumping from this to that; I really needed something to commit to. Something to focus on and a goal to reach– just get through this book. The 12-week program has quickly become a 13, 14, 15 week program as my procrastination insists, but I’m still getting through it, slowly.
Cameron’s essays and exercises are hard to face. They caught me off guard, shining a spotlight on my darkest, repressed thoughts and convictions about my stunted artistic development. It’s hard to face your demons, especially when they’re articulated so gently it’s brutal. So kind it’s miserable. So simple it’s annoying.
I think we really struggle to look forward, and rather masochistically just point the blame and wallow. “Oh, I’m not writing recently because of x, y, and z. I’m not writing because my job takes up all my time. I’m not writing because I have nothing to write about. Blah blah blah.” What if we just focused on the first part? “Oh, I’m not writing recently. I’m not writing recently and that makes me feel sad. I’m not writing recently and I miss writing. I’m not writing recently so what if I tried reading something to get back into it. What if I talked to my friend who also likes writing. What if I put a timer on for 10 minutes and tried to write something down”.
I think a symptom of TikTok brain is convincing yourself that everyone and everything else in the world is to blame, you are the center of the universe, and on top of that, you’re also a piece of shit. The algorithm wants you to believe you’re incapable of being the bad person, but also it’s cool to hate yourself and it’s cringe to try self improvement because it’s all meaningless anyway. Or to be so hyper focused on their definition of self improvement, you lose yourself in the process. It distorts reality to see every situation and relationship as you against the world– inflating yourself to some grandiose, narcissistic plane. No one likes to be told they are capable of being the problem. No one likes to be told they are in charge of their own life. And no one likes to face their demons. We are all complex, beautiful, and deserve to be honest with ourselves.
Cameron’s book argues the successful artist we seek is already who we are, but fear shackles us to what we deem “realistic” and “what we deserve''. She tries to free us from those shackles, or at least acknowledge the exhilarating liberation from this mindset and set us free. She lifts a veil I thought no one else was suffocating under, but now I feel a sense of community among the chaos. So much of her generalities punch me right in the throat, humbling me greatly. I definitely don’t know as much as I think I do. Absorbing the wisdom and knowledge of those we admire is often the key to our own growth we are looking for.
Even after a few weeks of these exercises and readings, I’m starting to notice a significant shift. It’s a change that sounds so simple, but the shift has led to monumental clarity: to trust myself and respect my energy and self is the groundwork of any genuine fulfillment and creative transparency. Being honest about how we spend our time and energy clears a lot of fog we thought could never go away. It takes time, happens slowly, but small steps are better than nothing. Rather than the cycle of hyper-productivity and burnout, a more honest approach towards the joy of creation will lead to sustainable happiness and artistic fulfillment.
I often find myself stuck in this loop. I have an idea that sounds so great, attainable, fun, new, and exciting in my head, then I start to execute it, and then I give up. This happens all the time. Throughout my life, I have started the lives of a canvas painter, watercolor-er, designer, author, poet, sculptor, sewer, screenwriter, filmmaker, sewer, director, nail technician, photographer, jewelry maker, editor, essayist, youtuber, blogger, clarinetist, bassoonist, pianist, etc. etc. All avenues that still spark joy when I think about doing them, and still bring a smile to my face as I write them in this list. Flexing my creative muscles in any capacity makes me feel good, frankly, better than most other things (or people) ever make me feel. But then, just as things get juicy, I stop. I always stop. So many people I know stop. Why do we always stop, never finish anything, never see projects through to the end? What even is the end? Why are we scared to find out?
Cameron alludes the answer is likely trauma, from a past of discouragement and abandonment that seeps into our belief of creative abilities. Past pain that seems so acutely unrelated to our artmaking still convinces us that what we start is not worthy of full commitment. That serious dedication would be silly for someone as undeserving of success as you, the reader. So what I’m trying to drill into my head these days is that the risk is worth it– the risk is the reward in itself. And all those excuses “it’s not done yet! It’s not my best work! I want to edit it again!” are the same self hate demons we mask as perfectionism. For Cameron, the question is “what would I do if I didn’t have to do it perfectly?” And her answer is, “A great deal more than I currently am”.
It’s hard, I know. Personally, this negative voice in my head is so deeply ingrained, I can’t really remember a life without it. When I imagine a life without this torture, it makes me cry. It makes me cry to think of this sort of freedom.
Her exercises have led to extraordinary progress, plus extraordinary lows, but let's focus on the positive for now. I finished a draft of a play I was putting off. I said yes to directing a play, something I would never typically do, but went great. We had a sold out show. I am writing this blog post! In general, I am writing more. Filming more. Reading more. Dreaming more. Just–noticing things. Haha. I feel alive.
Artmaking is making me happy again, and the crashes of fear and self-loathing have receded. Creating gives me energy, rather than taking it all away. And this surge of energy needs to be treated delicately, with the grace and support I try to give everyone else. Cameron says we need to remind ourselves, “treating myself like a precious object will make me strong”. I am rooting for myself again, when I spent so much time convincing myself why I don’t deserve fulfillment. The universe is allowed to work in our favor, and there’s nothing selfish about loving the person you’re becoming. I’m really glad I picked up that book.
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