Updated: Dec 23, 2019
“What do you do when you're tired, or when you're bored?” I asked the fairy godmother of spiritual creativity process from the back row of a packed conference room at the New York Open Center in New York City.
With a floor to ceiling view of 30th Street’s shadowy grey and glass buildings behind her, my superstar goddess hero, Julia Cameron clarified “What do I do when I’m tired?”
Pausing for a moment, I asked myself if I got it right. Not exactly. I wanted to ask her what she did when she was bored with her creative pursuits when she needed inspiration. I wanted to know if she ever felt overworked and exhausted, like I did at that moment. I wanted confirmation that my teacher/idol was actually human. Yet, I felt an impulse to stick with the question the way she heard it.
“Yes” I clearly enunciated over the crowd of a hundred-something people, “What do you do when you're tired?”
With a smile and only the very start of a chuckle she answered “I go to bed”.
And there was a long pause.
I am polite so I probably thanked her, but I don’t really remember.
“I go to bed”. Got it.
Excited to have the opportunity to learn from one of my heroes and to get in touch with my creative side, I had arrived at the creativity workshop with the intention of soaking up all that I could, so I would never suffer the anguish of an artist block again. I had visualized chanting with yogis, meditating with gurus, and drinking transportive teas, all so that I’d feel more freedom in expressing myself. My experience wasn’t too far off from my expectation, I had spent the weekend diving deeply “into the well” uncovering all kinds of spiritual truths about myself. Julia Cameron taught from her wisdom as a accomplished author, playwright, and film director and largely from her masterpiece “The Artist’s Way”.
For those unfamiliar with the book, “The Artist’s Way” is written as a 12 week course teaching creative recovery to blocked artists. I bought the book years ago on the recommendation of a friend. And it sat in my pile of other books I’ve bought years ago based on the recommendations of other friends.
Until one day early last fall, another friend and I chortled together over the idea of starting a “personal development” book club (I have many very bookish friends, all known for recommending good reads and frequent chortling). How synchronistic that we both owned a yet unread “The Artist’s Way” chortle chortle… and like a power-suited Leslie Knope who doesn’t know when to stop, we took the joke to the next level and started a meet-up group. (For a good time go to www.meetup.com) Over the course of the last year, I have had the incredible pleasure of studying this marvelous book, and chortling with various beautifully bookish creative people.
Julia Cameron's teachings are based on two foundational practices, useful to anyone, not just the painters, sculptors, writers and musicians out there:
Morning pages is the practice of writing your stream of consciousness for 3 pages, first thing in the morning. Like before your eyes are even fully open.
The second tool she teaches is an artist's date; a weekly 2 hour date with yourself, alone, exploring or enjoying something that fascinates you. Practicing these two tools and using the various tasks and exercises in the book, unblocks an individual and establishes a strong connection to the universal powerful flow of creativity. That's so easy right?
Reading about creative recovery and doing it are two different things. When I read about any personal growth topic, just the act of reading makes me feel like I’ve grown. My ego attaches to the idea and I feel like I got myself pretty darn enlightened. Yet, the work of transformation comes full circle in the actions of changing our behaviors, thus getting different results.
Truthfully, reading “The Artist's Way” with my book club over a freaking year allowed me the space to practice the ideas of the book, bring them to my life and keep me accountable to my fellow readers. Powerful. Boom.
The weekend workshop with Julia Cameron felt like a graduation in a sense to me. The timing was perfect with wrapping up a year of personal growth and change. I’ve been intellectually and emotionally saturated and wrung out several times during my IPEC (www.ipeccoaching.com) Certified Professional Coach training. I've been cracked wide open, vulnerable, acknowledged and validated. I've held space countless times for my coaching peers to do the same. I’ve made actionable steps, been accountable, grown stronger than before. And I did it while managing and caring for my family, working, facilitating The Artist Way book club, learning to play the cello and taking care of myself. I’m ready for what’s next.
As is natural after a period of physical, mental and/or emotional exertion and expenditure, I've felt tired. Yet, I fall prey to the idea if I get off the treadmill of life for even a little break, I’ll miss something or maybe lose the ground that I've gained. This is never the case however, when I actually take the time to pause. In fact, what truly happens after a rest is that I return to the ordinary pace of my life with a renewed sense of purpose and energy.
Look around you today and you will surely encounter any number of people ferociously pursuing quite worthy endeavors at the expense of their own well being. How ironic that we often overextend ourselves in the effort of improving.
I went to the workshop over the weekend. I drank the tea, centered my soul and sang call and response with my heroine. I did the exercises and emoted with strangers. Got super inspired, learned lots. Yet perhaps the most profound lesson I took from the weekend of creative recovery was Julia’s simple advice, go to bed.
A simple reminder to rest and care for myself. To physically care for my body and give myself the break that I need to live my life purposefully and energetically.
December is a time to celebrate our accomplishments, in the good company of our nearest and dearest.
And then, for me at least, it's time to go to bed for a little while.
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