After going through Cameron’s “Basic Principles,” and signing your contract to yourself (ensuring that you will take care of yourself and do your best) comes her first lesson: Recovering a Sense of Safety.
Firstly, I’ll lay out a few of the Basic Principles that Cameron has created, to help you get the gist:
“#1: Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative energy. #2: There is an underlying, in-dwelling creative force infusing all of life- including ourselves. #5: Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God. #9: It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity” – Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
What I want to discuss first is #9. What Cameron teaches her students in this first week is that we need to learn to nurture our inner artist. Often, we grow up and are told that we should keep our creative interest as a hobby, or may be encouraged by our parents to take a different route. When this happens, our inner artist suffers as we move farther and farther away from the creativity that resides within us, which Cameron refers to as “blocking our inner artist.” The first step laid out by her is very important, and that is that we need to learn to safeguard that artist that is within us.
Firstly, Cameron discusses the idea of “Shadow Artists.” My understanding of this is that there are people who did not have support or encouragement when they were pursuing creative routes or desires- or perhaps, they did have support but were told to only pursue it as a hobby. These individuals, who are blocked, then go out and find subtle ways to pursue their interest in art, without actually being artists. You’ll probably find these shadow artists shadowing artists, or encouraging their friends to become one, or even marrying artists because they do not have the self-esteem to become one themselves, as Cameron states. They try to gravitate towards their artistic desires without actually being an artist. How do we fix this though? I’ll get to that in the next paragraphs.
What Cameron discusses next is the idea of “Protecting the Artist Child Within.” Honestly, I love the way Cameron helps us slowly understand that the inner artist is just a child within us and that “learning to let yourself create is like learning to walk… Baby steps will follow and there will be falls- yechhy first paintings, beginning films that look like unedited home movies, first poems that would shame a greeting card” (Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way)– the last one really gets me aha! Perhaps it’s because I can relate to it. But here, I learned a very important lesson: I have to let my ego go, and with it the idea that my first piece of writing has to be perfect. It’s not about perfection, it is about having the courage and desire to progress without wanting to reach perfection right away. We often have what Cameron calls “your enemy within: core negative beliefs.” This is the blocked artists’ method of self sabotage, allowing other people to read our work too early, or not believing in ourselves- which stems from these negative beliefs we may not even know we had in the first place. Recognizing them is the first obstacle. The next is actually knowing how to stop them. And Julia Cameron gives us some “Creative Affirmations” to counteract the negative thoughts we have, allowing us to “neutralize” them.
So, this week was a particularly interesting week for me because I could sense that perhaps the reason I felt blocked or like I shouldn’t be a creative writer was because of my long held core negative beliefs. And without knowing it, I realized that I subtly voiced my concerns about these in my Morning Pages Journal. Cameron says this of the Morning Pages and why it’s so necessary to complete them all, especially in this first week: “Creativity flourishes in an atmosphere of safety and acceptance. That is the atmosphere you will be building for yourself through the morning pages.” Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way.
I stopped believing that I should show people my work before it was ready, and stopped focusing on perfection. I focused more on my mindset than the work I was doing, because I finally, FINALLY realized that it is not about perfection, it is about progression. I stopped allowing myself to self-sabotage myself in ways I couldn’t recognize (telling myself that I don’t know enough to write about a certain topic, etc.). Instead, I allowed my inner artist to at least start crawling. Let’s see where it goes from here.