Monday, January 24, 2011

Let's Read: The Artist's Way # 1

John Jude Palencar in his latest post on the Muddy Colors blog recommends a book, which is supposedly very good for removing artist blocks.

This book is The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.

And voila, this book came out just last year translated into the Czech language!
(Czech readers may consider buying it, for example HERE.)
Let's read that for a while, I thought.

Disclaimer:  I do not wish to hurt anyone's feelings, I don't wish to say anyone's recommendation is not valid, I am merely writing down my impression.
This may become a longer series of posts, or not. We'll see. 

(I'll be quoting bits from the book and google tells me it's alright, under the Fair use thing. If someone (like the author, although I'd be surprised if she hunted every blogger writing about her book) thinks otherwise, just let me know!)

The foreword is promising. A bit new agey, throwing the words God and spirituality around a lot. Though the author admits it may be off-putting and that we should ignore them for our own benefit. That's fair I thought.
Lots of anecdotal evidence, which we may or may not choose to accept. (This copper pyramid totally cured my grandma's cousin's cancer!)

Minor sidenote - I found the Czech version of the book in a book shop focused on alternative medicine, shamanism, mysticism and similar nonsense. There is also a Czech version of the course, which sounds very suspicious and I wouldn't waste my money on it. Which says nothing about the book itself, perhaps rather about how people percieve it.

Ok, the first and main thing of this post are the

Basic Principles

(according to the author, one should read these every day and watch as his beliefs change. I'll comment on each principle separately.)
(English version of the principles copied from HERE.)

1) Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative energy.

Comment: How do you know? So that I don't repeat this question all the time, I'll just presume this is what you came to believe based on personal experience and somehow put it in these words. First off, I have a huge problem with the LOAD of terms which are not defined in any way.
  • What's creativity?  "Creativity refers to the phenomenon whereby a person creates something new (a product, a solution, a work of art etc.) that has some kind of value. What counts as "new" may be in reference to the individual creator, or to the society or domain within which the novelty occurs. What counts as "valuable" is similarly defined in a variety of ways." <-- says Wikipedia. Alright, one down.
  • What's natural? I think she means "how it's supposed to be (as nature/God/good flow intended)". We presume nature/whatever has intent and things are supposed to be somehow, but ok.
  • I can only assume you're not using the word "energy" in the scientific sense, because "life is energy" would not pass for an equation.
So, if I understand correctly, according to Julia Cameron, the process of living has a purpose and that is creativity.
OK, fair enough. I don't see any reason why it should be like that, but it's as good an answer as any. Also, 42.

2. There is an underlying, in-dwelling creative force infusing all of life—including ourselves.

Comment: Wait, I thought life was pure creative energy. Are you saying the exact same thing, only adding that it's in ourselves too? Oh. Considering that we're alive, I would've kinda expected that. Alrighty!

3. When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the creator’s creativity within us and our lives.

Comment: In the foreword it's kind of implied that there is a creator. Whatever you may think it is or isn't, voila! There is a creator. Let's call it the order of the universe - OOTU.
What this says - our creativity is creator's creativity, we're part of the Life. Alright.

4. We are, ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves.

Comment: Since it's previously implied there is a universal creator, this was expected. Still, I cringe at the thought. We're all creations? Eeeh, I don't think so. I wasn't sculpted, I grew from two joined cells. 
Again, we're told there is a purpose set for us and that is being creative. Since we were told that creativity is the purpose of all Life, it's hardly surprising.

5. Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.

Comment: God gives gifts? Why? If it's our sole purpose in life to be creative, why should we be thankful to be creative? It's what we've been supposedly created for. That's like saying animals should be thankful for the opportunity to be butchered and eaten, because it's the purpose for which they're bred.

6. The refusal to be creative is self-will and is counter to our true nature.

Comment: This implies an artist block is your own fault and as has been already established, is unnatural. Awesome. I'm sure self hatred and guilt are going to help.

7. When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to God: good orderly direction.

Comment:  This is principle #3. (a very minor addition suggests we can also explore creativity somehow)

8. As we open our creative channel to the creator, many gentle but powerful changes are to be expected.

Comment: This one is easing us into the idea of opening a channel (whatever it may be, again, we can only speculate. It's spiritual, I don't ask.) of creativity. Promises of many (positive word! Many good is good) gentle (gentle is good! especially if we're unsure of something) and powerful (this is no weak stuff, mate! powerful is good! Lose twenty pounds in three days!) changes. (change is scary, but if it's gentle yet powerful, I don't fear it)

9. It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity.

Comment: The same promise as in #8, only adding gradual increase of coolness and safety.

10. Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward our dreams, we move toward our divinity.

Comment: The big guns are out now! "divine" = "of or pertaining to a god, esp. the Supreme Being." You don't come up with ideas, they come from God! But that's cool, because we all also come from OOTU. The more we're creative (but we're using the word "dream" - it's very positive and people like it. That's why it's in commercials so often), the closer we are to God/OOTU. And the more we fullfill our purpose in life, which is creativity. So, by doing it more, we're doing more what we're supposed to do. I see.

Summary: The author felt it necessary to make 10 of these principles. I can only guess it was in order to make it similar to the Christian set of rules. But as I'm reading through them, they could be summed up in a few sentences pretty easily. 
"All life (yes, even us!) comes from god and its purpose and meaning is Creation. By being creative, you'll fullfill your natural God-intended purpose and thus get closer to God! So it's alright to be creative, do it more! You'll become more creative and overall much more awesome, throw away your fears and self imposed blocks!"

Do I need to say I don't agree? I find this "hypothesis" very artificial, based on nothing I could call evidence or reasoning. And so far, I don't think it's very helpful. "Be creative, it's ok! Srsly!" isn't exactly the groundbreaking advice I expected.

"How to use this book? There are a number of ways to use this book. Most of all, I invite you to use it creatively!" 
I'll end this superlong post with this delicious pun. Until next time! 

And be creative, 'cause it's OK! Really!


  1. well said my, friend, well said...

  2. Dario, to be fair to the author, later she presents quite useful rules and exercises. I will most likely do another post like this and explain it's not all bad. :)