This book is incredible. I’ve been hyping The Artist’s Way to anyone who will listen to me – so what better way to rave about it more than writing a book review on my blog?
But before we get to that…
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First off, I’m finally returned from my brief hiatus. The site has been updated with a new slant and there is still more to come!
My focus has shifted from helping people with depression to helping storytellers with depression. I figured a good way to kick off this new and improved blog would be to introduce some help with the creative side of things.
“Creativity is oxygen for our souls.” – The Artist’s Way, pg. 180
But enough about that. You’re here for a book review!
I first heard of The Artist’s Way on a podcast and I was immediately intrigued by it, but never actually took any steps towards buying it.
Years later, I worked for a bookstore and I ran into it again. I still was curious about it. But as you can imagine, working at a bookstore means being surrounded by a lot of books that you want to read. Sadly, The Artist’s Way fell to the wayside.
Fast forward to a month after being discharged from the hospital. I went to a second-hand store with my dad. Lo and behold, I found it for super cheap. I think it was the Universe’s way of saying, “Would you just read the book already?” I heard the message loud and clear, and finally bought it.
The Artist’s Way, first published in 1992, is a book that is meant to re-ignite your creativity. It was written by Julia Cameron, who is a teacher, filmmaker, novelist, poet, playwright and more. So it’s safe to assume that someone with that sort of resume knows a thing or two about creativity.
The book is set up as a 12-week program with one chapter dedicated to each week. Each chapter covers a different topic, which is made up of several essays and ends with tasks for the reader to complete each week.
“Art is not about thinking something up. It is about the opposite – getting something down.” – The Artist’s Way, pg. 117
There are two main components to the program beyond the tasks each week: the morning pages and artist dates.
The morning pages are three page written by hand every morning no matter what, even if you don’t want to write. Artist dates, on the other hand, are dates only for you and your inner artist – anything that brings joy to your inner artist or provides inspiration. While morning pages are done daily, artist dates only need to be done once a week – but more than that is even better.
This book is now more than 20 years old and has sold millions of copies. Most reviews I read seem to be favourable, but just like everything else in life this book isn’t perfect either (I’ll get into that a little later).
Obviously, this book got me back in touch with my creativity. In the last few years, it felt like I had gradually forgotten all the things that made me happy. As I went through the book, I re-acquainted myself with all the things I used to love and it made my life brighter again.
But this book did more than that.
“Growth is an erratic forward movement: two steps forward, one step back. Remember that and be very gentle with yourself.” – The Artist’s Way, pg. 74
I’m not exaggerating when I say that this book single-handedly changed my life. It helped me figure out how to control my thoughts and keep depression at bay.
The morning pages have been an indispensable part of this process. I’ve had journals in the past, but I would write in them very sporadically. Maybe few times every year. Writing down my thoughts every day helps me to see patterns in the way I think. I think this is crucial if you want to keep them in check and prevent them from wrecking havoc on your mood.
Through the morning pages, I realized just how much I guilt myself every day and beat myself up about so many things that truthfully don’t matter. From this, I learned that I needed to reframe my thoughts for all the other facets of my life outside of productivity.
I had to move past that mindset of doing things for other people just to feel value in myself. I know now that every part of my life is important, no matter how miniscule or seemingly frivolous. Through that I learned that I have value as a person in just being.
“Remember, treating yourself like a precious object will make you strong.” – The Artist’s Way, pg. 172
A lot of this book talks about pampering your inner artist child, which for me was synonymous with learning to love myself – truly and completely loving myself. Before I read this book, logically I could understand the concept of self-love. I thought I was implementing it most of the time, but the truth is I wasn’t even close.
I won’t lie, it’s not an easy process. There are plenty of days when I catch myself wandering into self-hate territory again and I have to find a way to gently guide myself away from it. When my mood is on the decline there are times when my best efforts are not enough. Even when I’m fairly stable, it’s still a lot of work to remind myself of why I’m a pretty cool human.
But it’s worth it. I would rather work hard at making those loving thoughts natural to me than being mired in negativity and overwhelmed with self-loathing every single day.
I want so much for every single one of you to experience real self-love. There is so much about you that is lovable and you deserve to see that, I promise. And who knows? Maybe this book can serve as a stepping stone to self-love for you as well.
Now, I will admit that this book is pretty New Age-y. That’s fine for me since that’s my jam, but if it isn’t yours this book might not be for you. The secondary title for the book is “a spiritual path to higher creativity,” so there is also a lot of God/Great Creator/Universe talk as well. If you’re the type of individual that puts less stock in these concepts, it’s possible that you may think some of the content of this book is silly.
However, I do think the intent behind the New Age veil is helpful and worth trying. The writing exercises specifically revealed to me issues that I had never realized bothered me or needed attention.
There are also some tasks, which seem a bit… bizarre. While I’m all for that New Age stuff, there were tasks that seemed kind of ridiculous even to me.
Some of them I just could not execute given my current living situation. There is one week that the reader is asked to collect some flowers or leaves. For myself, this week occurred in the middle of a Canadian winter. I didn’t exactly feel like digging through snow for some dead leaves.
The one task that seemed unreasonable to me was where you had to deprive yourself of reading for one week. That includes work and school. Cameron points out that procrastination has often been the cause of avoiding work. While some people may get away with that, I think there’s a lot more of us with responsibilities and goals that require reading.
Example: I used to work for a bank and 90% of my job was reading. If I had done the program during that time, short of my vacation time miraculously aligning with the no-reading week, this would have been impossible.
The world doesn’t stop for anyone. Life goes on even when pursuing creativity.
“We are, ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves.” – The Artist’s Way, Basic Principles, pg. 3
I can’t promise it’ll produce the same results for everyone, but I highly recommend it. If nothing else, give yourself the opportunity to try the morning pages – at least for a week or even a few days. For the sake of your mental health, anything that can help is worth a shot, right? I know I wish I read this book A LOT sooner.
If you’re interested in checking it out, you can click on this big scary affiliate link (I warned ya!) and buy it for yourself.
So, have any of you tried The Artist’s Way already? Please share your thoughts in the comments!