One of my favourite things to do while actively unemployed (as I am now) is smugly recommend people read various self-help books. I don’t know what it is – perhaps the heady combo of unbridled amounts of time and the navel-gazing myopia that can only come from spending hours on end organizing one’s outfits by how much joy they bring.
My most favourite self-help, “woo-woo” book of all time is the 90s classic The Artist’s Way. For one thing, I think that most people with day jobs are artistically blocked, and this book shows how to open up to the inner creative workings you’ve been shutting off in exchange for the time to work on project reports.
The Artist’s Way is essential reading, whether you consider yourself an artist or not. I always tell people that the author, Julia Cameron, is 100% “hippy aunt wearing many scarves,” a term my wonderful friend Ali coined some time ago to describe that special sort of white lady who lives in New Mexico and drapes herself in hand-painted silk and culturally appropriated Native textiles.
You do have to silence your inner cynic to do “the artist’s way” – you may even have to tie them up and stuff them in a meat locker for a few weeks. There’s a lot of talk about “the creator” and being a conduit for the creative energies in the universe, but if you can get past these terms (or vape your way through them, as I do), you will find a lot of solid, gentle steps towards reawakening the artist inside of you. A big part of the book is doing morning writing every day, and giving yourself the opportunity to try new things outside of your preferred artistic milieu.
Along with being a hippy aunt with scarves, Cameron is also the most magical pixie queen you’ve ever dreamed of. Her memoir is a must-read. She talks about everything, including falling in love with Martin Scorscese and marrying him after she was sent to interview him for an article (they instead spent three days straight in his hotel room)!
She also talks about being a drunk, coked-out wife, abandoned in the Hollywood Hills, living off of her credit account at the liquor store. She talks about her struggles with mental illness, her bonkers creative projects she’s managed to launch, following her dreams, her failures – everything. It’s the kind of memoir you wish everyone would write; it’s so raw and unflinching.
It’s one thing to be honest about your flaws, but it’s another to make strangers see how valuable your failings have been in your journey as an artist.
Do yourself a favour – pick up a copy of The Artist’s Way and commit yourself (and maybe a pal or two) to following the exercises within for a few weeks. It’s a valuable tool in waking up the sleeping artist you’ve been carrying along with you all this time.