Book Friday: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

My word for the year is CREATIVITY and my intention is to live my live creatively, with a focus on adopting good habits, adapting situations to suit me and using my talents to create more and better both through writing, art and other creative methods themselves. It’s partly inspired by my decision to reread Simple Abundance properly every day as I outlined in my post on Tuesday, and partly because I feel it’s time to follow The Artist’s Way again. I want to live creatively, with life as my canvas and my work full of creativity. Even as an office manager, I know that my creativity is useful because it feeds into how I organise, how I run the website, what I do around the office (and even how I dress most days) and I have always felt that as a homemaker and mother my family were an artistic outlet that I loved spending time on and with.

I have already reviewed Simple Abundance as a hygge book in this post: Hygge Book: Simple Abundance. but I haven’t ever properly reviewed The Artist’s Way.

Full disclosure: today I’m reviewing the updated, November 2020 edition of The Artist’s Way on Kindle, not in physical form, so please excuse the fact that there aren’t any pretty photographs of the book. Although I love a physical book (and actually have the updated version in paperback as well, thanks to a Christmas present) I also love the portability of my Kindle or the Amazon web-reader app on my PC and the fact that a highlight that I place while reading on one platform gets automatically transferred across to the book to read on my Kindle or phone app as well.

I first read The Artist’s Way as a young mother. I was too busy to really implement some of the ideas in it: the three morning pages seemed like an impossible dream, while an hour or two alone a week was not going to happen with three under-fives all wanting attention and not knowing that a break for Mummy was not an excuse to crawl all over her. I left the book aside as a future read. And indeed, I came back to it again and again and dipped into it, but never actually set out to firmly follow the course. Eighteen years after my last child was born, here I am.

It’s a twelve week course, clearly set out to be followed in order, so no rushing ahead to see whether week 9 suits you better. Each week concentrates on an area of the artistic experience or life, so that you start by recovering a sense of safety in week 1 (allowing yourself to feel safe enough to create) and move through recovering a sense of integrity, possibility and strength to week 11 (recovering a sense of autonomy) and 12, the last week, recovering a sense of faith.

Julia is very strict about what you have to do to follow the course: it will take at least an hour a day and involves morning pages (preferably in the morning, but may be done at night if that’s the only time available) and a regular Artist’s Date with your inner child, which is a two hour excursion. Trust me to choose the middle of a pandemic to foster creativity. Especially during Lockdown in the UK when galleries and unnecessary shops are closed and all excursions will rely on takeaway coffee or a flask for any physical refreshment. You can see my creativity is being exercised already.

Week One is Recovering a Sense of Safety, and I’ll be starting that properly on Monday 11th January. It needs me to look at the factors that make me feel unsafe in being an artist, and aims to let me explore creativity with less fear. I recognise very much some of the things Julia writes about: my Shadow Artist, for instance, that led me into teaching rather than following a more openly artistic path. I can’t regret that, though. At the time it was the right path for me, just as now it would be wrong for me to return to teaching and be constrained by the rules and legalisms of school, rather than taking the step towards freedom and letting my creativity soar.

Each chapter is a quite dense patch of writing followed by a set of tasks. Julia Cameron recommends you only choose half the tasks every week, and that you select the ones that appeal most and those that repel you most. Often the tasks we turn away from can be the ones we need most, and we dislike them because our inner self, critic or shadow artist sees them as a threat or a challenge to a life half lived.

There’s also advice to have a weekly check in, on the day before you start your new chapters. For me, that means sometime on a Saturday before I start the next chapter on a Sunday. I’m aiming to use my magazine time that I usually have early Sunday morning to read the book and plan my excursions. (I will have to come up with a list of possible virtual artist dates soon!) The morning pages I plan to do while I sit in front of my daylight lamp for half an hour, and I plan on infusing my daily round with a little more creativity as the weeks go by. Plans, as John Lennon allegedly said, are what we make while Life ignores them, so expect a little more versatility as the weeks go on.

Who would I recommend the book to? Possibly anybody who feels or knows that there ia an ounce of creativity in their body that they want to pull out into the open and use properly. It does take time, so you have to be either totally dedicated in the middle of a busy life or happy as I was to do the course improperly with a nod and a wink, and the promise to come back when life is less full to complete it properly. I wish I’d read the book as an early twenty-year old or in my late teens, before children. Would I have lived my life differently? Probably not, but I might have infused even more of it with a creative glow and been able to proclaim that I Am An Artist earlier.

It’s intensive, and it does ask you to think deeply and look at your life without judgement. There’s no use beating yourself up about past decisions, so be prepared to accept your past and move on. I know it’s been recommended to me by several more people since I first suggested it as a course I wanted to do. I’m looking forward to reading it all properly, living The Artist’s Way and seeing what effect it has on my life and my creativity.

I am also using it as the focus of my Hibernation this year: usually I draw up a personalised collection of crafts, cookery and community ideas to do but this year it would be ridiculous to have two areas to focus on. Taking this enforced period away from most external events (no WI, no bookclubs, no meeting for coffee) and using it for personal growth strikes me as a good use of time I wouldn’t usually let myself have.

I will be sharing any The Artist’s Way blogposts and quotations in the A Year of Simple Abundance Facebook group, as well as any thoughts or emotions thrown up by a reread of Simple Abundance. Membership is free, and only relies on the answers to three simple questions, so if you fancy it do please ask and join.

Like all my blogs, Facebook groups and other social media content, A Year of Simple Abundance is free to join and ad free as far as possible.

How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters.

I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:

Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little rhings in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.

Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better.

If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.

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