It’s time to admit our true feelings and begin living with integrity in week four, part two of The Artist’s Way Challenge! For part two, I’m sharing the creative exercises from The Artist’s Way and some of my experiences with the process. Activities like these encourage self-discovery and aid us in reaching beyond our limits. Our true feelings were the highlight of this week, or more specifically, how we often lie to uphold the status quo in our relationships.

Living with Integrity, Authenticity

To recap, week four of The Artist’s Way course was, “Recovering a Sense of Integrity.” Cameron wrote, “the essays, tasks, and exercises are designed to catapult you into productive introspection and integration of new self-awareness.” Attaining a higher level of self-awareness isn’t painless. Cameron reminds us that living with integrity means being honest with other people, and most of all, honest with ourselves. So while self-awareness can bring about clarity, shedding the illusions of our old lives can lead to feelings of loss. We must go through this transformation, though, to unearth a Self to express in our art.

Morning Pages

I satisfied my morning pages requirement this week. The only thing worth mentioning is I ended up writing them at night a couple of times, so I still need more discipline. Otherwise, it was business as usual. They continue to be of great use for me and my mental state.

My Artist Date

For my Artist Date this week, I did nothing noteworthy (again). I should do more for these dates, but I’ve become even more of a homebody during the pandemic. Next week, I will make sure my Artist Date is unique, or that I at least do something more…artsy. I think it will make me feel more creative and productive

When I take my daily walks, I often find myself oblivious to my surroundings, so I made it a point to notice more this week. Along the way, I took pictures of scenery that piqued my interest. I have included a collage of three random nature photos below.

Living with Integrity, Noticing what's around you and capturing its authenticity

I never feel like I capture quite the right light or color in my photos, like what I see with my mind’s eye. I’ve never studied how to take better pictures from a technical standpoint, though. I’m sure it would help if I learned, and it’s on my list of educational goals to pursue. There are just so many things on that list. Sigh.

I need a time suspension device. Living with creative integrity is hard.

Task One: Environment – Is It A Factor?

What is your ideal environment? City or country? Posh or minimalist lifestyle? What’s your favorite time or season of the year?

Knowing how you like to live: Posh cartoon guy with monocle

I think it’s important to consider (or admit) how our environments affect us. Do you thrive on the hustle and bustle of city life or prefer to lead a quiet life under a starlit sky? Do you seek material comforts, or do possessions just tie you down? Living with integrity means being honest with ourselves about our needs.

A positive environment is vital to my mental health. For me, an overall lack of clutter in my environment is essential. My current apartment is a decent size, so I’m able to achieve an organized chaos. I wouldn’t mind an extra room for my art supplies down the line, though. I cannot stress how amazing it would be to leave a project unfinished, instead of having to clean up my workspace each time I’m done for the night. Oh, and I want a garage for those woodworking projects I’m probably not going to attempt until after I retire.

As for city versus country life, I’m somewhere in the middle. Sometimes I daydream about living in the wilderness, but I would draw the line at obtaining my lighting from gas lamps and candles. Realistically, I’d like to be at least semi-close to grocery stores and hospitals, though I do want to live somewhere that allows me a fantastic garden and a pond filled with a family of capybaras. I try to achieve a healthy balance by living in a suburb and doing outdoorsy things when I need to find peace. Also, Fall is the best season. Fight me.

Task Two: Time Travel – Letters from My Future Self

Describe yourself at eighty, but specifically what you did after the age of fifty. Next, write a letter from your eighty-year-old self to yourself at your current age. What would you say to yourself? Living with integrity means contemplating what we really want out of life.

At eighty, I picture myself as a semi-famous author who has written multiple books and stories across genres. I’ll have learned to balance my life by then, so I’ll carry genuine wisdom that people can feel when they’re in my presence.

Until recently, this has been a complete fantasy. I’ve never taken any action toward this becoming possible in real life, so it was just one of those things I told myself to satisfy my desire and not feel like a failure.

“Someday, I will…”

Now that I’ve started writing every day, it feels more realistic. I imagine by fifty, I’ll have at least five or six books traditionally published, and I’ll have created a mini-empire with my blog and other writing plans. Beyond fifty, my travels will have taken me to many places I’ve longed to visit, like Norway and Spain, and my writing will have become richer for it. I’ll also own a home by then, where I can create fun craft projects in my garage, such as upcycling old furniture.

I don’t want to include my full letter here because this post is becoming quite long, but here is a small piece:

“Dearest Jamie, Time is a strange thing…Once you commit to your purpose, plans move swiftly…So do not worry about the time you feel you have missed. Just believe in your dreams and continue onward. I promise, you’ll get there.”

Task Three: Time Travel – Letters to My Future Self

Remember yourself at eight. Describe some of your favorite things and what you liked to do. Next, write a letter from your eight-year-old self to yourself at your current age. What would you tell yourself? Living with integrity means examining where we’ve had it wrong…or right.

At eight-years-old, I was strong-willed and brave(r). My 3rd-grade teacher used to assign 30 minutes of reading each night, and I learned to forge my moms’ signature to avoid completing the task. This act seems absurd now, considering how voracious of a reader I am.

I lived in a small mountain resort town with a lot of forested and rocky terrain, which I didn’t appreciate when I was older.

[Spoiler: I was too big for that small town]

At eight, I loved exploring my surroundings, especially an area we just knew as “the rocks.” I enjoyed climbing the boulders and investigating the crevices and gaps between them. Some were wide enough to claim as tiny homes.

In spring, a stream ran through the valley below, a result of the melting winter snow. I recall hundreds of ladybugs collecting on an a petrified log, and the sound of the water trickling and bubbling through the rocks. It was so peaceful. Even at that young age, I could appreciate it.

It’s funny. The memory tasks were the ones I wanted to avoid when I considered The Artist’s Way. I have so many negative memories of the town I grew up in, Big Bear, but sometimes when I contemplate certain things about it, like its natural phenomena, I understand how lucky I was to grow up in such a beautiful city. I wish I had a place like this now, close to my apartment.

Like task two, I don’t want to include my full letter, but here is a small bit:

“Dear Older Jamie, I’m glad we don’t worry as much as we used to. I thought for sure we would have a stomach ulcer by now…We need to stop being afraid of everything, though. What happened to the times when we would be the first one to slide down Drop Out or jump in a freezing cold pool? I miss that about us…Why do we still have trouble seeing that we’re actually pretty awesome? I’m surprised that after 32 years, we still don’t have any confidence.”

(Drop Out was a water slide at Raging Waters in San Dimas, CA. It sent you straight down and you’d probably die if you tried to sit up or flail your arms or legs)

Task Four: Environment – Your Dream Area

Is there a room or area in your home that you can turn into a secret, private dream space?

In a perfect world, we would all have an area to which we can escape. Cameron suggests this area should not be your home office but rather a place, no matter how small, that you can dedicate to fun and creative or spiritual pursuits. Living with integrity means cultivating your creative life.

My apartment has an open layout outside the bedroom, so I’m limited as far as private space goes. I don’t have a home office per se, but I have a tall “dining room” table that I have set up with my laptop and other writing or painting related supplies.

As a result, my dining area has reasonably creative energy. I have some relatable quotes written on post-it notes to my right, a beautiful puzzle I finished set in a dark blue, vintage-like frame straight ahead, and a cute bear I painted at one of those paint nights hung to my left. All my booze is in a handsome cabinet, also to the left, for when I need additional inspiration. This area may not be an ideal separate space, but it’s what I’ve got, and it keeps me motivated. Sometimes.

Task Five: Life Pie

Review your life pie from week two. Has it changed shape?

In task seven of week two, Cameron asked you to draw a circle divided into a pie with six labels: spirituality, exercise, play, work, friends, and romance/adventure. Next, place a dot in each circle corresponding to how fulfilled you are in that area. The outer circle means great; the inner circle means not so great. Finally, connect the dots to see where you might be out of balance.

In my version, I stated I didn’t get much out of the life pie exercise. If anything, you may consider my working life out of balance since I’m attempting a new career. I’ve been investing a lot in myself, and it can take time to cultivate new skills.

Remembering to give equal time to friends

Currently, my friend zone might be a bit out of balance. I’ve been spending less time overall with friends since the pandemic started, and I’ve turned down some recent invites over my being in writing and revising mode. For some reason, my friends aren’t the type to jump on weekly Zoom calls, which is disappointing because that would be my number one choice for socialization.

Sticking to my writing is a good thing, though. I’ve been trying to get myself to commit to writing for a long time, so it’s important that I stay on this path. I need to nurture the relationships in my life as well, but I know I’ll get back to it. I think many of us are feeling this to some degree right now.

Task Six: Write Your Own “Artist’s Prayer”

In this exercise, Cameron asks you to write a personal version of her “Artist’s Prayer.” The original is below.

“O Great Creator,

We are gathered together in your name

That we may be of greater service to you

And to our fellows.

We offer ourselves to you as instruments.

We open ourselves to your creativity in our lives.

We surrender to you our old ideas.

We welcome your new and more expansive ideas.

We trust that you will lead us.

We trust that it is safe to follow you.

We know you created us and that creativity

Is your nature and our own.

We ask you to unfold our lives

According to your plan, now our low self-worth.

Help us to believe that it is not too late

And that we are not too small or too flawed

To be healed ­–

By you and through each other – and made whole.

Help us to love one another,

To nurture each other’s unfolding,

To encourage each other’s growth,

And understand each other’s fears.

Help us to know that we are not alone,

That we are loved and lovable.

Help us to create as an act of worship to you.”

Here’s my attempt:

“As a creator

I will allow imperfections

For I cannot improve without making mistakes

And being given the chance to correct them.

I will open myself up to new ideas

And pursue them with passion

But I will also Do the Work

When the muse cannot be bothered.

I will support my fellow creatives

On their path and pursuits

With appreciation and encouragement

Not jealousy or fruitless criticism.

I will go forth in bravery

Never again allowing my fear to overcome me

Nor allowing it to suppress my dreams

For the rest of my days.”

Living with integrity means having faith, at least in yourself.

Task Seven: Plan An Extended Artist’s Date

Plan a brief vacation by yourself, like a weekend day getaway. Prepare to execute!

I have caves to explore

I’ve wanted to go to this caving system down in Kentucky for a while, Mammoth Cave National Park, but the tour I want to take (the Domes and Dripstones tour) isn’t available because of COVID. ☹ There are also some bourbons tours I would like to take in Kentucky, particularly at Buffalo Trace or Kentucky Artisan, but that’s probably not the best loner activity.

I searched for alternative day trips in Ohio, and I found a place close by called Trammel Fossil Park in Sharonville. If I must go it alone, this seems like an option that’s just weird enough for me to try. You get to keep any fossils you find, and although they have nothing of the dinosaur variety there, it would still be cool to unearth some 300-million-year-old fossil of a Brachiopod or Gastropod.

Task Eight: Open Your Closet

Toss or donate a “low-self-worth” outfit. Make space for the new! Living with integrity means making room for better things ahead.

This one is simple and to the point. I plowed through my closet recently and donated a bunch of clothing, but I still hadn’t gone through my dresses. And dresses are the perfect item for this exercise since most of them make me feel low self-worth in some way or another.

I ended up donating a fitted jersey style dress I felt would never accentuate my body well. It was the kind of dress that hugs you in all the wrong places, no matter your size. I’m sure there will be more. It seems like I slip into donation mode quite often now.

Task Nine: What’s My Payoff?

What is one situation in your life you feel you should change but have struggled to do so? Consider the payoff you receive from allowing this situation to continue. Living with integrity means examining our behaviors.

One thing I’ve struggled with is keeping myself on a consistent daily schedule. I feel like I need to chain myself to my desk sometimes. I think the obvious payoff is the immediate gratification I derive from the things that distract me: entertainment (movies/television), social media (entertaining until it’s not), and putting off my fear of failure a little longer.

For a while there, I was wandering around aimlessly with no specific goals for my future. I suppose you could consider this time my midlife crisis. I recall having had similar feelings of purposelessness around the age of 24, aka my quarter-life crisis. Hopefully, by the time I’m 55, I’ll have moved beyond these self-confidence crises and fully embraced the writer’s life. That’s what I should have done all along, but damn, it’s hard to risk failing at the thing you have always considered your fate.

Task Ten: Reading Deprivation, Accountability

Did you stick to the reading deprivation requirement for week four? If not, why did you break it? How do you feel about breaking it, and why? Living with integrity means knowing what works for you.

A library with too many books to ignore
I mean, how can I resist?

Haha, no, I did not. I met my expectations on this one, in that I believed it to be impossible to deprive myself of reading for a full week. I don’t feel bad at all about missing the mark either. Most notably, I’m taking a course that requires reading if I want to complete it successfully. But I read in other forms as well. I finished reading a classic, Treasure Island. I read many of the articles included in my morning Medium (an online publishing platform) email. Reference books are also around, and I utilize them as needed.

Truth be told, I didn’t even try to be successful in this exercise, but I try my best to listen to myself. I believe there’s a time when we need to limit external resources and work on our creative pursuits. That’s one reason I take daily walks. It’s a legitimate way of replenishing my inner reserves without seeking inspiration from the outside world.

I consider reading part of my job. I’m inspired by what’s out there. Since I’ve started writing every day, seeing other people pursue their creative passions motivates me. I would probably consider reading deprivation in shorter spurts, like going a full day without reading or scheduling my reading times, but I see no need for cutting it out for a full week.

Final Thoughts (Check-In)

I loved the premise of this week’s lesson. We lie to ourselves and the people in our lives so often, even about trivial, surface matters, like what we want to do or what we’re craving for dinner tonight. And why? Do we want love and acceptance so much that we can’t even admit that we would prefer seafood linguine over steak and a baked potato?

The answer is yes.

I realize many issues are more profound than this, but they all come down to the same principle: we are avoiding some truth we don’t want to face. We don’t want to scare off our new love interest by having too many differences between us. We don’t want to admit to our mother or father that we’ve decided not to pursue that medical degree they’ve been dreaming about since we were seven. We’re afraid to be alone if we end up pissing off too many people.

Sometimes I tire of walking on eggshells to make everyone else happy, don’t you? Maybe it’s time to figure out what we really want and to stop living solely to please other people. Living with integrity means being honest, even when we’re afraid.

Wow! If you read all that, we must be friends! This blog post is definitely my longest, so I hope it wasn’t too dull. I know this particular project may not be for everyone, but I promise I’m adding some other content soon, and it won’t just be The Artist’s Way forever. If you’re still interested, though, you can find my other Artist’s Way posts below:


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