September 1, 2009

The Artist’s Way to Unblocking Your Life

We can all get “blocked”. We lose sight of what we want or how to achieve those dreams. Utilizing some basic creativity tools, you can revitalize your life and begin to uncover your inner dreams, aspirations, and hopes.

I was blocked.  I had trained and worked as a mental health therapist for years and while there was much about it I still enjoyed, I knew I needed a change.  However, the answer to the “Now what?” question eluded me.  I read the numerous self-help career books and while their suggestions often made sense, their sage advice seemed to fall flat when I tried to implement their 5, 6, or 8 point plans.


There was one last book collecting dust on my shelf that I intended to read but kept putting off:  The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  While I in no way saw myself as an artist, I had heard numerous testimonials from friends how it “wasn’t just for artists” and that it helped them uncover their own individual paths.  Finally, I got miserable enough and decided to dive into the 12-week course.  I did as instructed … reading the chapters, doing the tasks and implementing some basic tools.  While the material in the book had  tasks to complete, they were ones that helped me uncover my own very individual and glorious path.  What I came to realize was that while the “point plan” strategy could be helpful, it was no substitute for doing my own individual investigation as to what I wanted and what might be blocking me from achieving those dreams.  Within 6 months after doing the necessary individual exploration, I had a new sense of clarity, saw options where I had not seen any before and left my therapist position to work at a dream job as a PR Manager at a theatre I loved. 

Fast-forward two years later:  seeing how many of our students, friends, and colleagues were being laid off, a fellow instructor and I had our “ah ha we have got to teach an Artist’s Way class.”   Our students all had a similar goal of making some changes in their lives and included aspiring actors, painters, software developers, writers, trainers and massage therapists.  So the journey began …

Here are a couple of the tools that you can use to help you uncover your own individual path or “way” (artist or not!):

1)    Morning Pages.  Do nonstop “free writing” for 3 pages every morning.  The pages help clear out the clutter of constant internal chatter and make room for thoughts and goals that have been blocked.  When asked “why do we write morning pages?” Julia Cameron jokes, “To get to the other side”.  She says she isn’t kidding as the morning pages “do get us to the other side:  the other side of our fear, of our negativity, of our moods but most importantly they get us beyond our Censor.”  Some students found the pages were an ideal place to write to-do lists, while others used it as a stream of consciousness out of which they discovered new truths, dreams, and hopes they’d never before acknowledged.

2)    Artist’s Date. Take time out every week for at least two hours to have a solo artist’s date.  Our students artist’s dates included seeing new plays, going to Archie McPhee’s, swing dancing, or just getting a new box of beautiful pencils for drawing. Give yourself permission to answer the question “what would be ‘play’ for me?”  Allow yourself to dream big or to quote a colleague “be audacious!”  Students raved about how such a small change could provide such great dividends.  One student noted “I swear because of the artist dates I’m now more observant of things around me – I see details in things where before they would just whiz by me and it’s carried over to my professional life.”

One student, Jenness Klein wrote about how the process of getting in touch with her creative side enhanced her life and that of her colleagues:

“We all have our own reasons for holding back, for staying blocked.  Maybe it’s a fear of how we’ll be perceived, of judgment, of looking foolish. Maybe it’s a fear of actually succeeding in what we love to do, of now being responsible for our art.  For whatever reason we do these things… we do them.  This class helped me to identify when I block myself, why I do it and gave me tools to work through these moments ….  Each person came into this with his/her own intention but all of us in some way were looking to unblock or unleash the part of us that wants to flourish as artists and as people.”

So go ahead, treat yourself to a date with your inner artist, write some morning pages, blow the dust off Julia’s book, or check out an Artist Way class.  To quote William Bridges, “Genuine beginnings begin within us, even when they are brought to our attention by external opportunities.”

Gin Hammond and Kate Gavigan will be teaching another Artist’s Way Class at Freehold Theatre starting September 28 – December 7, Mondays, 6:00-8:00 pm, $225 Tier I, $265 Tier II (tier levels based on household income). To register: or call us (206) 323-7499.

For more information about Freehold,  To read all of Jenness’ story, go to:


Volunteers Needed for Relationship Research

The Relationship Research Institute, a non-profit Seattle research organization founded by Dr. John Gottman, is conducting a study titled “Creating Healthy Relationships” and is currently seeking volunteers to participate. All study participants are offered modest payment for their time.

If you:

* experience some disagreement or conflict in your relationship

* have at least one child 12 yrs of age or younger,

* are currently living with your partner,

* are currently in a relationship that you have been in for a year,

* are 18 yrs of age or older,

we invite you to contact us!

To learn more about the Creating Healthy Relationships Research Study, call (888) 6COUPLE or (888) 626-8753 or email

Funding for the Creating Healthy Relationships Research Project was provided by United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Grant 90OJ2022.

Privately owned public spaces: privately kept, publicly unused

Council member Nick Lacata’s recent tour of the privately owned public open spaces (POPOS) around downtown prompted Belltownpeople to explore our own POPOS in Belltown. Downtown’s spaces are mostly easy to find, including The Wells Fargo plaza, and the many hill climbs adjacent to some of the tallest buildings. But in Belltown, despite following the (link)map of public spaces(link) I had a hard time figuring out what was public space, why it was public space, and why some were shooing people away with “no trespassing” signs and even gates.

(To be clear, POPOS are spaces, anything from sidewalk widening to huge open plazas, created by developers that allow buildings to be, to put it simply, taller.)

Belltown has few public parks, so finding a place to sit after walking up the inclines from Elliot Ave. can be hard. As such, most of the of the POPOS found in Belltown consist of open areas with chairs, benches or raised planters that are easy to rest on. Despite their functionality, they are not so easy to find, and even some spaces like the large brick laden plaza in front of the Grange Insurance group building at 2nd and Cedar (designated as a “major private open space”) have signs saying “criminal trespass prohibited” and “no loitering”. The same goes for the art space/gutter drain at Vine and Western, and the large plaza outside of Tully’s at Westerna and Lenora…

more after the jump



While signs reminding people of laws are obviously allowed, Lisa Herbold from Councilmember Nick Lacata’s office says they should also have a sign designating and encouraging use of the space. Lacata’s office has been diligently pressing for better recognition and use of these spaces, as well as awareness of public rights to them. But even Licata has had trouble with misunderstandings of the spaces, as Herbold said his touring party was confronted by a building security guard asking them to leave a POPOS.

The blame does not rest solely on the private businesses. After an audit of the nearly 50 year old law, the city discovered in 2000 that the law required them to design a logo for signage at the POPOS. This hindered their ability to regulate, and enforce any penalty on businesses that did not comply. Now, armed with the new logo, the Department of Planning and Development has started notifying businesses and ordering compliance. 

Even with the proper signs and awareness, will the spaces be used? During my sunny afternoon tour of the POPOS around Belltown, the spaces were well kept and attractive, but without people. Belltown’s most talked about new space, the Bell St. Boulevard project, could raise the same question. Will it just be another vapid cosmetic feature that is fun to look at but passed up by the people it was created to serve? Is there anything about Bell St. that needs to be different, or are Belltowners just private space people? 


This week’s free Belltown wine tasting: Italy vs NW

From our friends at Seattle Cellars

Buongiorno and hello! Come join us this Thursday evening, September 3, from 5 – 7pm for a really fun and interesting comparison of three different Italian varietals. We will have pairs of wines comparing Italian versions to Northwest versions of the same varietal – they can be very different – which ones will you prefer? The six selections include:

  • Pinot Grigio: 2007 Pighin (Friuli) vs. 2008 Ponzi (Willamette Valley)
  • Barbera: 2006 Michele Chiarlo “Le Orme” (Asti) vs. 2007 Desert Wind (Columbia Valley)
  • Muscat: 2008 Michele Chiarlo “Nivole” (Asti) vs. 2007 Sylvan Ridge (Oregon)

Why not keep the mood going by having dinner at one of our neighborhood restaurants?