Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Category: Creatively Blocked

The Artist’s Way Versus the Queens of Denial

Today was the end of the first full week after my Writers Group had begun “Working?” Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way Program and I was a little stunned by the outrage of the voices as we listed the reasons that the Artist’s Way would not work for us.

The first and foremost tenet of the Artist’s Way is that it is essential that EVERYONE write 3 pages of morning dribble every morning. We should get up 30 minutes earlier each morning and write, whether we feel like doing it or not, and we should not expect anything great to come out of the writing that we do. We should simply do it, and what’s more–we should commit to doing it. Here are some of the excuses that I heard from my group:

  1. I am commitment phobic – I refuse to commit to anything.
  2. I am too busy. I don’t have 30 minutes to toss at something that I don’t want to do.
  3. I am not creative. Some people simply aren’t creative, and I am one of them. Again, this is a waste of my time.
  4. I have a better plan.

Although I wholeheartedly agree with almost every word of Cameron’s book, I found myself saying, “Well, when I write, I need a topic–I can’t, won’t, just free-write. I need a topic. I heard myself saying that and Hey! I am teaching this course. Shortly after I got home, I thought that  ALL of US Are QUEENS of DENIAL.

I have decided to step back and reconsider my own behavior, and I challenge others to join me:

  1. I am not smarter than Julia Cameron.
  2. I did not write and publish trillions of break-out books that have improved the creativities of thousands of people.
  3. I am not operating at the level of production and success that I want.
  4. Yes, I am worth 30 minutes of dribble drabble writing each day.
  5. Yes, I WILL commit to working the Artist’s Way Program EXACTLY the way that Julia Cameron prescribes it.
  6. Yes, I will get out of my own way and try the Artist’s Way.

From the very beginning, Julia Cameron warns us that we will probably go through a period of clinging to old behaviors–simply because they feel safe to us. On one hand,

“Many of us wish we were more creative, but….Our dreams elude us. Our lives feel somehow flat. Often we have great ideas, wonderful dreams, but are unable to actualize them for ourselves….We hunger for what might be called creative living–an expanded sense of creativity in our business lives, in sharing with our children, our spouse, our friends….” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 5.

BUT we still resist making the changes that are required to become as creative and as fulfilled as we might be.

“Working with this process, I see a certain amount of defiance and giddiness in the first few weeks. This entry stage is followed closely by explosive anger in the course’s midsection. The anger is followed by grief, then alternating waves of resistance and hope.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 5.

Excuses that we might make for not committing to creative change [Examples of our own denials}

  1. It’s too late.
  2. When I make enough money in my real job, I’ll work on my creativity.
  3. My thinking that I could be more creative is only my ego.
  4. My dreams don’t matter. I need to be more practical and more sensible.
  5. My family and friends will think that I am silly or even crazy for trying to be more artistic.
  6. Creativity is a luxury–one that I cannot afford.

[This list is paraphrased from Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 7].

Julia Cameron says that we have logical and linear behavior embedded within us. She says that this logical behavior is part of our survival instinct, and she says that the part of ourselves that tries to discourage us from creating is part of this logical behavior. Cameron says that our tendencies to mercilessly self-edit and censor ourselves are linked to this logical behavior.

“As blocked artists, we tend to criticize ourselves mercilessly. Even if we look like functioning artists to the world, we feel we never do enough and what we do isn’t right. We are victims of our own internalized perfectionist, a nasty internal and eternal critic, the Censor, who resides in our (left) brain and keeps up a constant stream of subversive remarks that are often disguised as the truth. The Censor says wonderful things like: You call that writing? What a joke. . . .

“…always remember that our censor’s opinion doesn’t count.

. . .

“Think of your Censor as a cartoon serpent, slithering around your creative Eden, hissing vile things to keep you off guard. ” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 11.

When we convince ourselves that we must be in the MOOD to paint or to write, we are buying into denial behavior.

“Your mood doesn’t matter. …We have this idea that we have to be in the mood to write. We don’t.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 12.

Cameron says that free writing every morning trains the Censor to stand back, and it teaches us that we don’t have to be in the mood to write.

“I didn’t have to be in the mood. I didn’t have to take my emotional temperature to see if inspiration was pending. I simply wrote. No negotiations. Good, bad?? None of my business. I wasn’t doing it. By resigning myself as the self-conscious author, I wrote freely.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. xiv-xv, 1992 Edition.

Some of us ARE writing and creating, and we tell ourselves that we don’t need the morning pages to spring us into action. Yet, perhaps we too are in Denial.

Perhaps our denial wears a different face. Perhaps we are writing and painting but we are not digging deeply enough when we write or paint. Perhaps we are writing or painting what is safe and familiar and we are not taking the necessary chances to take our work to the next level of self-examination. I believe that Cameron is saying that by working her program and by writing the morning pages, we can find ways to dig deeper–into the realm of greater truth and more originality.

Logic brain is our brain of choice in the Western Hemisphere. It is the categorical brain. It thinks in a neat, linear fashion. As a rule, logic brain perceives the world according to known categories. …

“Logic brain was and is our survival brain. It works on known principles. Anything unknown is perceived as wrong and possibly dangerous.  … Logic brain is the brain we usually listen to, especially when we are telling ourselves to be sensible.

“Logic brain is our Censor….Faced with an original sentence, phrase, paint squiggle, it says, ‘What the hell is that?

. . .

“Any original thought can look pretty dangerous to our Censor.

“The only sentences/paintings/sculptures/photographs it likes are ones that it has seen many times before. Safe sentences. Safe paintings.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 12-13.

Some of us who have written and painted for quite some time have developed ways of writing and painting that SEEM to be very creative, very deep, very pretty, very elusive, and very truthful, but we need to examine ourselves carefully to be sure that we haven’t created code art that we hide behind. We need to be sure that some of our own pretty little devices have not evolved into creative trickery. Any time that we reach for some familiar tool or stylistic jargon without considering whether it is truth or whether it is a mere habit, we run the risk of writing and painting trickery and not truth. I believe that the morning pages can ferret out some of that behavior.

Some of us seasoned artists and writers may think that we are feeling bored when we are writing morning pages, but I remind myself and others of the great truth: Don’t Believe Everything that You Think.

Julia Cameron tells us that this Boredom with the Morning Pages is probably masked fear.
“Boredom is just What’s the use in disguise. And “What’s the use?” is fear, and fear means you are secretly in despair.”  Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 12.

How do we know if we have any level of blocked creativity?

Julia Cameron’s answer to this question definitely hit home with me:

Jealousy is an excellent clue. Are there artists whom you resent? Do you tell yourself, ‘I could do that, if only…..? Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 7.

OUCH!!!!! The truth does hurt!

All in all, I do believe that most of us are guilty of hiding in rabbit holes. Our rabbit holes may be the simple excuse that we don’t write because we aren’t in the mood or it might be a stylistic habit that camouflages our true feelings. In my opinion, most of us need to repeatedly commit ourselves to the type of self-examination and creativity renewal that Julia Cameron’s program can foster. But before we will get anywhere at all with the work of the Artist’s Way, we need to dare to shine the light on all of the ways that we are lurking within our own systems of Denial.

©Jacki Kellum April 6, 2016


A Tribute to Julia Cameron – Life Coach, Spiritual Guru, and Author of The Aritst’s Way

Several years ago, I found myself wading through a set of personal trials that made my life tedious. It didn’t take long for me to find myself creatively blocked, frozen, and silent. A friend recognized my struggle and gave me Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way, and gradually,  my creativity was restored. Since then, Julia Cameron has written several books similar to The Artist’s Way, and I believe that most artistic people who are familiar with Cameron’s work would agree that she has made a massive contribution to people who are trying to live more mindfully, more spiritually, and more creatively. I have decided to begin a series that will explore Julia Cameron and her vast reservoir of tips for living. I’ll begin by discussing her first book The Artist’s Way:

Most of Cameron’s books are set up as a series of training sessions that are presented as weekly studies. I teach an offline writing class, and as part of that class’s agenda, we will begin to work through Cameron’s training program one week at a time. My class members are waiting for their books to arrive, and you might like to order a book and begin this program with us. My class has been assigned the reading of the Introduction to the Artist’s Way during the week of March 23, 2017, through March 30, 2017. We’ll discuss the introduction  though page 24 of the book on March 30, 2017, and we’ll study Week 1 the following week. After March 30, we’ll study one week of the program each week for twelve weeks. In many ways, The Artist’s Way is a type of 12-Step Program Designed to Help You Recover Your Creativity. You are welcome to join us free online via this blog site. I strongly recommend that everyone buy their own books. Julia Cameron’s books are treasures. You will want a book to mark and highlight and to keep for reference.

Julia Cameron teaches us how to quieten our own inner critics or self-editors and to quit trying to control our own creative processes.

Julia Cameron is synonymous with the wisdom of writing morning pages. She urges all creatives, and not just writers, to write morning pages.

We’ll discuss our study of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way more during the next week. For now, I want to encourage everyone to get their own copy of The Artist’s Way and to begin preparing themselves for the learning opportunity of a lifetime.

©Jacki Kellum March 16, 2017


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