Last week, a friend told me that she'd started working her way through a book called "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. She suggested I might want to take a look at it as well, talking as we were, about the stressful subject of career paths and prospects.
Our stories shared much in common; we both went to the same fiercely academic independent girls' school in North London, we both went on to study Theology at Cambridge, and we both continue to struggle with the fact that our mutual rejection of careers in Investment Banking, Law, Management Consultancy and Medicine, has left us in a pretty confusing place.
Between us we'd lived in the US, Zambia, New Zealand, India and the UK, gaining experience in Brand Strategy, Cooking, Psychotherapy and Digital Development. We both acknowledge that it’s not a bad CV, and yet we both remain concerned about what it is exactly that we do at the moment, and what exactly it is that we want to do in the future. Enter The Artist's Way.
It's not the kind of book that I'm naturally drawn to, because it's written with a continuous spiritual undertone, something I find quite off-putting and difficult to stomach. (And yes, I did say that I studied Theology, but that was from an entirely academic rather than a personal perspective). As a result, my eyebrows rose numerous times, on reading the book's first few chapters, confirming my position as a "cynical reader".
Nevertheless, The Artist's Way does have some solid psychological principles behind it, and author Julia Cameron, is herself a success as an international screenwriter and author. That it hasn't been written by a "Wellness Guru" or "Life Coach", I find reassuring.
The basic idea is that over a twelve-week period, you develop the confidence and the discipline, to pursue whatever creative activity you choose. Consequently, much of the book is about building self-esteem, through perfectly sensible exercises, and focuses on getting you past the "I don't feel like painting/writing/singing/designing today" excuse.
The first step is "Morning Pages", which comprises three continuous pages of writing, done first thing in the morning, falling somewhere between a stream of consciousness and a journal entry. In essence it's about becoming comfortable with producing large amounts of rough-and-ready content that you are not allowed to re-read, edit, or polish in any way. For "Type-A" students such as myself, the idea of putting pen (and yes it has to be pen, no computer typing for Morning Pages), to paper, without knowing that the result will be perfect, is a real challenge. The willingness to iterate, to acknowledge that anything is better than nothing, and the recognition that being a good writer-in-your-head is not actually being a writer at all, is fundamental to the creative process, and a substantial hurdle to clear.
But I think I'm off to a good start. I have twelve pages of handwriting to show for my efforts, and I decided on Saturday to start a Tumblr blog of interesting things that inspire, amuse or pique my curiosity in some way, as a public record of my journey with the book.
Next week is all about "Self Definition" and learning to assert yourself as a Creative without feeling like a fraud, which all seems pretty close to home… I'll keep you posted!
Lizzie Shupak is a Digital and Brand Strategist. She is also one half of the international social experience, Wok+Wine. She is currently on a journey of creative discovery, which may or may not affect her biography, in the weeks and months ahead.
Wok+Wine - The World's Most Delicious Social Network
Global Lifestyle Project - A Global Experiment in Lifestyle Design