Welcome to week one, part two of my Artist’s Way Challenge! For part two, I’m sharing the creative exercises from The Artist’s Way and some of my experiences in going through the process. Activities like these encourage self-discovery and help us break through our barriers.
A few of the tasks this week reminded me of one of my favorite quotes, which it turns out is the title of a book by author Marie Thieme.
“Onward Ever, Backward Never.”
I’ve never read the book, but this is how I’m trying to live my life these days. We can’t change our pasts, but everything we go through leads us to the person we are now. Is that good or bad? It doesn’t matter because we can only move forward.
A quick recap: week one is known as “Recovering a Sense of Safety.” Cameron explains this week will allow you to,
“establish a sense of safety, which will enable you to explore your creativity with less fear.”
You can read my full week one, part one post here if you’d like to follow along from the beginning.
The first two creative exercises are just a review of the two basic tools in the creative recovery process. Cameron encourages us to utilize these tools throughout the course (and probably beyond). Those are Morning Pages and the Artist Date.
Task One: Morning Pages
I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been using morning pages for the past few months. When I first started writing them, I do recall struggling with them a bit. The fact is, it’s much easier to write when you have something specific to say.
There are days when I sit at my desk and stare at a blank screen because I’ve argued the same topic to death. On those days, I usually begin by discussing my breakfast or how I slept the previous night. More often than not, this fires up the old neurons.
If you’re really struggling, however, Cameron suggests writing about not being able to write.
“If you can’t think of anything to write, then write, “I can’t think of anything to write…” Do this until you have filled three pages.”
And remember that there are no rules with morning pages. No subject is off-limits, so feel free to return to the same subject time and again. If it’s still at the forefront of your mind, it’s probably there for a reason, right?
Well, there are two rules actually. You are supposed to handwrite three pages worth of stream-of-consciousness writing. I never had any intention of doing so, (I explain my reasons in this pre-challenge post), which has remained true. I’m making sure I type out three pages, though. Most days, I end up writing way more anyway.
Task Two: The Artist Date
For my artist date this week, I didn’t do anything substantial. Like most of us, I’ve spent more time at home during this pandemic. I must admit spending time outdoors hasn’t sounded pleasant to me, though, since I went about two weeks without a working air conditioner. During that time, my apartment reached about 85 degrees due to the 95-degree heat indexes outside. I just want to enjoy my AC!
While scrolling through Facebook earlier in the week, I found a picture of something I thought would be fun to paint. It was a woman’s face surrounded by colorful and whimsical designs. I don’t want to post the image here because I’m not sure who owns it the rights, but it inspired me.
My artist date was attempting to draw the image on a 12×12 canvas. Please note, I’d like to protect my inner artist by pointing out that I haven’t drawn a picture since high school. Here’s my result.
Honestly, drawing well isn’t that important to me. It would be a remarkable talent to have, but I mainly wanted to get an idea of shape, form, and color placement. I’m new to painting, so if I can make it halfway decent, that will be a win. Besides, I need to make it my own anyway, right? I don’t need an exact copy.
Creative exercises like this are fun. If nothing else, I now know I have a lot of room for improvement!
Tasks Three and Four: Time Travel
I’m pairing tasks three and four because the creative exercises are related. In task three, you are to list three old enemies of your creative self-worth. You can include anyone that ever made you feel wronged, no matter how big or small the slight. Per Cameron,
“your historic monsters are the building blocks of your core negative beliefs.”
She calls this your “Monster Hall of Fame.”
In task four, you choose one of these monsters and write a lengthier explanation about what occurred. I couldn’t think of any specific creative incidents for this exercise. I’ve been fearful of sharing my work for as long as I can remember. Instead, I decided to think of a couple of incidents where I allowed someone to chip away at my self-worth.
This exercise uncovered a pattern of my feeling stupid. Many people in my former life suggested as much, including some adults, which feels even worse when you’re young and impressionable. I won’t bore you with specifics, but they usually compared me to my older sister. She wasn’t a social butterfly or a party animal. She was good in school, creatively talented, and didn’t get into trouble. I, on the other hand, was going to be a loser. I was told as much on numerous occasions, often with an emphasis that “I at least have my looks to fall back on.”
No breaking news here, as I have thought about these incidents separately before. Reviewing them together, though, helped me understand why I’m hyper self-critical.
Task Five: Write a Letter to the Editor in Your Defense
This task felt silly to me, but I still completed it. I’m committed to these creative exercises. I’d like to share it because it ended up being kind of fun. It’s nice to see positive words written about you, even if you wrote them about yourself. Haha.
“Dear Sir or Madame:
Jamie may not be the most prolific writer or have the most beautifully crafted prose. Considering how long she put off writing regularly, though, it’s impressive to see how her skills have blossomed. Currently, she writes thought-provoking content, including essays and opinion pieces. These are presented with a strong sense of clarity and flow and backed by credible sources.
Her creative writing skills need work, but they too will flourish as she lets go of her previous need for perfectionism and continues to address the mental and emotional blocks that previously held her back.
Overall, her skills will only grow as her confidence expands. As she learns more about herself, she’ll notice the small but significant details and truths our world has to offer. She’ll use this information to consistently deliver her craft through avenues, like blogging, narrative, and self-help related nonfiction, as well as poetry, short stories, novels, and other fictional prose.
I urge you not to dismiss this talented, upcoming writer. You will find her potential for turning into a prominent voice within the field is infinite.”
I drew the line at mailing it to myself, though.
Tasks Six and Seven: Time Travel
I’m pairing tasks six and seven, because the creative exercises are related, like tasks three and four. Instead of listing three old enemies, though, you are to list three champions of your creative self-worth. Then you are to write a thank you note to whomever you chose.
Sadly, this one was tougher for me. As a typical human, I tend to focus more on my negative encounters.
One of the champions I chose was my classmates in a Gotham Writer’s course I took last year. In the class, we were to present work twice, either a scene or story. Our classmates were to critique our work with two positive and two negative pieces of feedback. In the remaining weeks, I was to critique two of my classmates in a similar manner.
I shared part of a story I felt confident about, and none of the students said anything overtly negative. A few even praised a sentence I was especially proud of writing. They also mentioned enjoying my descriptive prose. All of this feedback gave me a little bit more confidence to share again.
Task 8: Imaginary Lives
This exercise was a fun one, and I’m sure most of us have thought about something like it. You were to choose five other lives to lead and what you would do in each of them. Then, you were to select one of these lives and do something related to it this week. My five lives were:
- Medical Examiner
- Ballroom Dancer
- World Traveller – I would totally be a travel blogger
I did watch some documentaries about some Egyptian tomb excavations. Does that count? Either way, it’s always fun to consider alternative possibilities.
Task Nine: Blurts
This exercise wasn’t something to complete but more of an ongoing activity. Throughout the creative process, you are asked to notice (and record) your negative thoughts, which Cameron calls “blurts,” and turn them into positive affirmations. One of mine was turning:
“Your writing looks like a pile of shit I stepped on in my Jimmy Choo’s,”
“I am already a great writer, and the more I practice, the better I will become.”
Task Ten: Take a Walk
This last exercise was more of a suggestion. Cameron asks you to take a brisk, 20-minute walk. I take a brisk, 40-minute walk nearly every night, so I feel like I’m ahead of the game. Nothing earth-shattering here, but any physical activity helps us break up the monotony and encourages mind-body connection.
This post is getting quite long, so if you’re still with me, bless your heart! Each week’s final goal is to perform a check-in to determine how you felt about the material, creative exercises, and any progress (or not) you made. You don’t have to get fancy with it. You can even make it part of your morning pages if you want to. Cameron states,
“remember that this recovery is yours.”
So just be honest, even if it feels silly.
I feel like I gained something from week one. Yes, some of it was silly, but I think part of becoming creative is allowing yourself to play and explore different possibilities. Additionally, reviewing our memories for the things that helped or hindered our progress enables us to recognize our patterns. For me, making the “I feel stupid” connection revealed a lot. It may even explain why I apologize so much.
2 thoughts on “Creative Exercises: The Artist’s Way Week One”
I feel that morning pages really do make a difference longhand compared to typing though. The only trouble is that it takes about thirty minutes, which is the quickest I can scrawl through three A5 pages. Thanks for sharing, and wishing you a fruitful journey!
I don’t disagree. I just wanted to do them the way I knew I would commit. Thanks for stopping by!