1-Sentence-Summary: The Artist’s Way is an all-time, self-help classic, helping you to reignite your inner artist, recover your creativity and let the divine energy flow through you as you create your art.
Read in: 4 minutes
Favorite quote from the author:
This book is a classic example of someone choosing themselves. Long before Amazon was around and self-publishing became standard practice, Julia Cameron self-published this book after it was turned down by a publisher. It picked up steam fast and so in 1992, was published again by what today is called The Penguin Group.
It outlines a 12-week course to help you spark the light of your inner artist again, even if you haven’t created much art since doodling stick figures in second grade.
Here are my 3 favorite lessons to help you find back to the artist’s way:
- Write Morning Pages to freely let your creativity flow.
- If you feel stuck, ask other people for prompts.
- Think of yourself as a gardener, who takes care of ideas.
Ready to sing, dance, doodle, draw, paint, spray or whatever you used to love way back when you were an artist (=kid)? Time to reignite!
Lesson 1: Give your creativity the chance to run freely by writing Morning Pages.
Creativity, much like most other things which are confused for being the result of pure talent, is a skill you can practice like any other. Real artists, real musicians, real writers, they don’t lie around nine months of the year, waiting for inspiration to strike, and once it hits they jump up, write for 90 days straight and then hand in yet another bestseller.
They just show up to practice their creativity. A little bit. Every day. Performance ebbs and flows, as it does in most other aspects of life. But over time, their creative accomplishments compound.
However, if you’re just starting out, you won’t have the fierce determination of a long-term writer, like Steven Pressfield, who soldiers through hours of writing every day.
A good way to start slowly, but steadily is to write what Julia Cameron calls Morning Pages. First thing in the morning, sit down, let your thoughts wander and just write down what comes to mind. Make it a page or two, nothing big, start small.
See this as meditation – a way to just let your creativity flow without building barriers around it. Do this for a week and watch as magical things start to unfold.
Lesson 2: If you have writer’s, singer’s or painter’s block, just let other people give you prompts.
I love coming up with headlines for new articles. The scary part is what comes afterwards: writing the article. Even for someone who’s written half a million (that’s 500,000!) words in 2016, starting with a blank page is still daunting.
And I’m no exception. World-class writers struggle with this. A great tip from Seth Godin is to write like you talk. That helps, because nobody gets talker’s block.
Julia Cameron has another great idea and it works for any kind of block: writer’s block, singer’s block, painter’s block, you name it. It’s as simple as it is efficient: let other people give you prompts.
Go to a friend, family member, or ask your audience: What do you want me to write about? What song should I sing? What motif should I paint?
And then do just that. It can be wonderfully liberating to not have to think about what to create for a while, and once you’re done, you’ll be in an entirely different place, ready to take on what’s next!
Lesson 3: Ideas are already out there – as an artist it’s merely your job to take good care of them and watch them grow.
Michelangelo didn’t create David. He said he found him. Isn’t that humble? One of the world’s greatest artists and he takes zero credit. Just says he found the idea and happened to be the one chiseling away at that block of stone at the right time to make it happen.
But this is more than humility. It’s a tool. The minute you stop thinking of yourself as an idea generator and instead see yourself as a vessel that ideas just happen to flow through as you find them out in the world, you take all the creative pressure off.
A gardener doesn’t create a tree. A gardener plants a seed and then he takes good care of it, hoping it’ll one day bloom and turn into a big, beautiful tree. Being a gardener of ideas is all you have to do as an artist.
Find them, take care of them, help them grow and watch what happens. It’s quite often in these situations, where you give up control, that the universe conspires to present you with great opportunities.
Be a good gardener, okay?
My personal take-aways
This was probably one of the first self-help books for artists. I didn’t know about it until recently, but I instantly saw why it was such a big deal at the time – the ideas are transformative. Julia really takes the pressure off being an artist. Nowadays, we often think we have to make a full-time living in a creative way, just because we can. But often it’s only thanks to the creative freedom we have because we don’t pay the bills with our art that we really make something remarkable. This is a great reminder of that.
What else can you learn from the blinks?
- Why you should schedule an artist date with yourself
- What a shadow artist is and why you should avoid becoming one at all costs
- How crazymakers can derail your creativity
- Why emotions like anger and frustration reveal you’re on the right track
- How workaholism and competitiveness ruin your workflow
- Three ways to drag your creative self out into the open
Who would I recommend The Artist’s Way summary to?
The 23 year old project manager, who has lots of different things to coordinate and could use a creative outlet to manage her ideas, the 45 year old hobby writer, who spends more time staring at blank pages, than actually writing, and anyone who thinks they have to come up with something super creative to justify calling themselves an artist.