Editor’s note: This is the 10th installment of a weekly 13-part series. If you would like to join Jessica on her journey, we suggest getting hold of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity or checking out Cameron’s online video course. Best of luck!
“Learn discipline.” Those were parting words of advice I received from an editor many years ago. Mind you, he was talking to a 19-year-old full-time honors college student with two jobs – one of which was as the youngest writer for a local alternative newspaper. At the time, I felt so dejected by this man who’d mentored me – with high praise – for the past year. He was implying that being more “disciplined” would give me a great career as a writer. Maybe he was right in some way, but that encounter (and all of the embarrassing flubs that happen when you’re an insecure kid parting ways with an employer) was an example of yet another time I allowed a seed of self-doubt to be planted in my mind. That seed grew and crippled me from writing in that particular genre for several years.
Over time, I allowed the idea of artistic discipline to override my enthusiasm for the artistic endeavors that I most loved. It had happened years earlier with acting when I was fired from a play that I was cast in. I allowed fear of abandonment and of failure to override my ability to love myself and what I naturally acclimated to. I tried to be “the best” at everything else, but not what I really enjoyed doing. I saw the things that I loved as a sort of childish rebellion.
If enthusiasm is a loving surrender to the creative process, then discipline is the rigidity that prevents that flow from occurring. Remember, art – the process of creating – is supposed to be fun. When we take the fun away, we cripple our child artist. “Our artist child can best be enticed to work by treating work as play,” The Artist’s Way, pg. 153. Think of it this way: you make plans to spend time with people you care about, but it’s not a chore to be with them. It’s a pleasure; it’s something you look forward to. Artist dates are like sticking your toes into the ocean of artistic possibility.
Ray Bradbury used to have a TV show called “Ray Bradbury Theater” and it opened with him entering his office space: a room cluttered with all manner of frivolity and fun. There were photographs pinned to the walls, stuffed animals, maps, trinkets, toys…it was a feast for the eyes. In the voice over, Bradbury said, “People ask, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ Right here. All this is mine. I’ll never starve here.” His office decor was a way to feed his child artist.
Can you imagine if an artist followed all of the imaginary rules of “work” and was disciplined? Do you think that she’d be quite as inspired by her surroundings? Likely not. But here we are, beginning to reopen the idea box and delve into our creative work. Each of us is different, but I dare you to be rebellious. Make your creative space your own. Forget what convention dictates. Or, work in a different way than you normally would: at a time that suits you better; with naked, wiggling toes; blaring music that inspires you; coloring outside of the lines. The key is: love yourself. The rest will follow.
There is so much more to Week 9: Recovering a Sense of Compassion, including a formula for blasting through creative blocks (finally!). I hope that you’re reading along and are taking advantage of all of the tasks, artist dates and morning pages that each week holds. Let me know how you’re doing in the comments below. Have a great week!
Read the first nine installments of this series:
- Unblocking the Inner Artist
- Of Monsters and Champions: Let the affirming begin!
- A Case of the Crazymakers
- The Power of Breaking Down Boxes
- The Flow of Letting Go
- The Trouble with Being “Good”
- The Joy of Living Luxuriously
- The Myth of Perfection
- The Beauty of Being in the Moment