As I ambled along on my third journey through The Artist’s Way, I kept coming back to the question of what drew me to do this again? What am I looking for beyond a refinement of my own creative process? I felt impatient this time through. An insistent voice in my head said, come on, you’re done with this exercise. Move on.
Those of you who have gone through The Artist’s Way know that there is a great deal of emphasis on acknowledging your resistance to artistic growth. I wondered if my impatience was resistance, but decided it was not. I really do need to move on. My impatience is the itch to get working on other things. It is the recognition that, if I’m going to be a student of something, it will be to learn a new technique or form.
On page 196 of my edition of The Artist’s Way*, Julia Cameron wrote, “We are an ambitious society, and it is often difficult for us to cultivate forms of creativity that do not directly serve us and our career goals.” As I reread this phrase this morning, I realized that some of this idea was at the heart of what prompted my return to The Artist’s Way. I am a writer who lives with a tenured scientist whose career is well-defined and well-respected, who gets published regularly, teaches, does research, gets invited to speak at conferences. He gets a lot of recognition for his work.
I get asked if I get paid.
That’s quite a difference in scales of recognition for our chosen paths. Sure, sometimes someone will ask how much time it takes to edit something, or how it’s going or if I’ll read their stuff. As a freelancer who works out of an office across the hall from my bedroom, however, there is the occasional pang of doubt over whether anyone takes me seriously. Those pangs are especially sharp when Mick, my husband, prepares for a conference where he’s going to give a talk on his latest research. But pangs, by their nature, are short-lived things. They pass. I go back to my computer.
Being a writer, an artist, a non-traditionally-employed creative person of any sort, means there will always be a question about what we really do with our time and how we get any money at all. So, it’s a good thing that there are books, workshops, and forums to remind ourselves what originally drove us to follow our dreams. It’s helpful to remember our resiliency in a world that is geared more towards rewarding concrete, quantifiable work. We know that the world needs both concrete and abstract thinkers, concrete and abstract careers. It’s all about balance.
My impatience to be done is a big clue that something else is waiting to be created. I used The Artist’s Way as a break with my daily routine, a shuffling of my work schedule. That’s as valuable as any lessons the book teaches. My biggest take-away thought this time around is that I trust my process and my sense of urgency more than I trust books about the writing process. Which must mean that, regardless of what anyone else thinks, I take my work seriously.
And that’s the kind of artistic growth we all need to find.
*Cameron, Julia. The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1992.