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: www.freeholdtheatre.org or call us (206) 323-7499.
For more information about Freehold, www.freeholdtheatre.org. To read all of Jenness’ story, go to: