I finished The Artist’s Way program the other week! As I mentioned in a previous letter, I had started it the same week that I launched Black Cardigan Edit, after reading a funny, persuasive article about it by Meaghan O’Connell. When I talk about the book in person with friends, I do all sorts of twitchy things with my face—expressive of embarrassment mixed with defiant cathexis—that I’m trying to avoid in this letter. I will just say that I did not foresee becoming a Julia Cameron propagandist, and yet here we are! The Artist’s Way was great and super helpful, and I’m very, very grateful that I did it. For one thing, I don’t think I’d have started this letter without it, and writing these each week has been a big joy for me.
There are parts of The Artist’s Way I bristle at. It was written in 1992—fourteen years before The Secret came out, and I wonder if I’d have seen it differently then. If you don’t remember 2006, The Secret was everywhere and it was the book most likely to make an otherwise perfectly fine person in your life begin talking like an Ayn Randian who’d watched too much ‘Oprah’: If I want a beautiful house, I should think about the beautiful house a lot and I will attract it to me. It sounds harmless until you extrapolate it out and land in a place where people who are poor, in bad health, or suffering ill fortune are “bad magnets” and to be avoided, and next thing you know Bob’s your uncle and Ayn’s your aunt.
Cameron also is a proponent of positive thinking; namely, that when you begin to act in your own interests the universe will mirror that movement and act in a magical, benevolent way to further your goals. I… well! I still have enough bristle left over from The Secret to be resistant to that sort of message. I can also look to my left and to my right and have doubts about the universe’s benevolence. Still, I’d like to believe it, I admit. And I did have a few nice things happen when I was doing the program, happy little synchronicities. Note: these were more along the lines of “small cosmic encouragements” then “CAAF, congrats on doing your morning pages every day, here’s a million-dollar inheritance from your great-great aunt Ephigenia.” I’ll give you one: I was out for a long walk as part of that week’s Artist’s Date; it’d been a difficult week, I was getting over some strep throat and feeling blue and was listing all my grievances to myself as I walked (why, what do you do on your walks?). I’d ended up on a logging road that was going up and up the mountainside in a tiresome way. The scenery was monotonous. I was thirsty. I stopped to look at a sign to find out where I was and it said “Hard Times Road.” I thought that was pretty funny—like a friendly nudge from the universe to cut it out. Other things happened on Artist’s Dates too: I saw a wolf pee at the Nature Center (my book has a lot of wolves in it). I learned the word “swivet.” I found a research book I couldn’t afford to buy new on the Just In shelf at a used bookstore for under ten bucks. All nice things, and I’m glad that because I was doing The Artist’s Way I was out and about and on the lookout for them.
This week I started another book by Cameron called Walking in This World. It’s the same program, basically: twelve weeks, during which you do your morning pages and your weekly Artist’s Date, but you also add in a long weekly walk. The Artist’s Date is scaled back to an hour, presumably so your entire week isn’t blocked out with “Artist’s Activities.” The “long walk” can be as short as twenty minutes. The advice, at least in the first week’s chapter, was similar to what you’d find in The Artist’s Way but that’s fine: I need reminding of what my goals are—apparently again and again and again—and I appreciate having “focus up” laid out in a fresh word order. The other day I was at the library and saw a third book in the series on a shelf there, and I had a vision of myself doing these 12-week blocks of Cameron books in perpetuity. “Well, with this one, you do Morning Pages, the weekly Artist’s Date, and you raise bees in your yard!”
One Other Self-Help Recommendation
One other great resource that I wanted to mention if you’re feeling anxious and blocked and/or are trying to cultivate new habits is Pema Chödrön’s audiobook Getting Unstuck. So, so, so, so, so helpful! I like listening to half-hour chunks when I’m out walking—it’s great.
Yours until Thursday,
wishing to alert you that someone is staring at you in Personal Growth,
p.s. If you haven’t subscribed to this newsletter and would like to, go here.
Black Cardigan Edit