Sustaining My Inner Artist

Recently, I’ve begun working through The Artist’s Way by creativity teacher Julia Cameron. I find her work very wise; it often presents a perspective with which I already agreed, but has been rendered very practical and in words I would not use.

She recommends three things to sustain the creative life. 1) Morning Pages: Three pages of longhand stream-of-consciousness writing that is, in effect, a form of “brain drain.” By clearing the pipes, we make room for an influx of creativity, which ultimately comes from God. 2) Artist Dates: These are solo excursions that give us the opportunity to find child-like delight in our lives by doing simple things that we enjoy. Cameron often uses the phrase “filling the well” to describe what an Artist Date does for our souls. 3) Walking: If Morning Pages and Artist dates are “clearing the pipes” and “filling the well,” Walking allows us, in some sense, to “connect the dots” between creative input and creative output. In our culture, we often ignore our bodies, which often “know” things before our conscious minds can catch up. Blocked ideas and breakthroughs can come just because of a leisurely walk. Cameron claims that Einstein got the breakthrough for one of his key ideas while walking to his job at the patent office.

All of these practices are gentle and simple, but they require good boundaries–in other words, gently and firmly sticking up for myself and my art. I am bumping into how important these are, already. When we decide that being creative and more in touch will God is a priority in our lives, all kinds of crazy-making voices that create drama or urge us to be “realistic and practical” come out of the woodwork. Lent (including Holy Week, which we’re in right now) is already a time of stirring, re-shaping, and even death, but I didn’t expect Cameron’s warning to be so true! As a result, I find I use the Morning Pages to learn to be gentle with myself and others. It is important that I learn to mark out, for God and myself, the space I need in order to do my art (which in my case involves writing above all else).

May all of us find the courage, gentleness, and tenacity to become the creative people God has designed us to be. Julia Cameron puts two statements on her wall: “I am willing to make bad art,” and “You take care of the quality, Lord, and I’ll take care of the quantity.” Walking between those two places is not a bad way to start the journey.

What do you do to sustain your inner artist?

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