Ongoing Book Review: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, Week 2

Before beginning The Artist’s Way, I would wake up and instantly reach for my laptop. First e-mail account. Second e-mail account. Third e-mail account. New York Times. I would start the day by drowning my brain in communication with others. Well, The Artist’s Way has changed all that, and now the first thing I do is slide out the drawer of the bedside table to pull out my gold and red Chinese print fabric-covered journal and my InkJoy retractable pen and write down three pages of whatever comes into my mind. Since I am sleeping well for the first time in years, I actually have dreams that I can remember. I usually begin by writing those down, and then I write down whatever else is on my mind. Rather than infecting my brain will e-mails and advertisements, I am beginning the day by slowly massaging the thoughts from my mind and onto paper. It feels great.

Week Two focuses on rediscovering one’s own identity.

The second week of The Artist’s Way focuses on recovering a sense of identity through exploring self-definition, creating boundaries, and exploring one’s personal needs, desires, and interests. Ironically, these themes are something that I periodically I focus on with my own students, yet it never occurred to me to take the time to examine them for myself.

On page 43, Cameron states: “As blocked creatives, we focus not on our responsibilities to ourselves, but on our responsibilities to others. We tend to think our behavior makes us good people. It doesn’t. It makes us frustrated people.”

Prioritizing taking care of others over self-care is an extremely easy trap for those in the teaching profession or any human services career for that matter. In my teaching career, I feel an extremely compelling passion for and responsibility to my students and their families. However, there came a point last year when I began to felt burnt out or, as one friend said, like I’d been put through “the old-time, old-fashioned wringer”. I had spent nearly a decade putting my responsibilities to others over spending time taking care of myself, and I found myself feeling short-tempered, moody, and exhausted. Interestingly, since focusing more attention on myself, I feel more clear-minded, energetic, and self-assured, and I am better able to assist others with my stronger sense of self.

In this chapter, Cameron carefully cautions the reader to be wary of “poisonous playmates” and “crazy makers” in one’s life. She encourages the recovering artist’s to avoid those who diminish our self-worth and increase our skepticism and self-doubt. And she asks the provocative question: “What creative work are you trying to block by staying involved [with those who make you feel terrible and insane]?”

7 thoughts on “Ongoing Book Review: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, Week 2

  1. Susan says:

    Glad I found this, it seems you started TAW about the same time as I did. Keep posting, I look forward to checking back and seeing how the remaining weeks work out for you! 🙂

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    • jenniferdines says:

      Thank you for reading! I am enjoying the process of working through this book. I really connect with the author’s thoughts about creativity. There is so much truth to be discovered, both in the book and from within. Happy Reading and Art-Making!

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  2. Christine Bissonnette says:

    I have recently been feeling burnt out as well, but for a bit of a different reason. I have been drowning myself in work. I’m also doing the Artist’s Way, and the book is slowly helping to take more time for myself. The artist’s date have been invaluable to my sanity. Thank you for the post.

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  3. gabrielle griffin says:

    I’ve done it cover to cover twice- once 7 years ago, and then just finished it again a month ago. Let me assure you: IT WILL CHANGE YOUR CREATIVE LIFE! Let it in, let it flow through you. Don’t skip a single task or a single ‘artist’s date’. Be selfish: by taking time out from everyone else, you connect better with yourself, and then can connect yourself better with others.
    Julia Cameron was totally ‘onto it’ when she wrote this book I reckon, and you are in great hands.
    Enjoy the ride 🙂

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    • jenniferdines says:

      Thank you, Gabrielle, for your encouragement. It is taking me longer than weekly to complete the assignments, but I am sticking to my morning pages and artist’s dates. I agree that this book holds something special, and the messages that Cameron gives are things that I am really ready to hear. Thank you again for sharing your positive experience.

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