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The Artist’s Way Week 1: Recovering a Sense of Safety

Julia Cameron: The Artist's Way Week 1

Happy Tuesday, friends, I hope all is well in your world … and that you’re not too buried in snow! My world is blanketed with white, so I’m taking some time this morning to chat about my Artist’s Way Week 1: Recovering a Sense of Safety experience!

Catch up with my intro post by clicking here!

What is The Artist’s Way?

The Artist’s Way (affiliate link) is an amazing book by Julia Cameron, first published in 1992 that has sparked creative recovery for countless readers! It guides readers on a twelve-week program full of exercises and thought-provoking activities to help trapped artists find their creative courage.

I first purchased my copy back in 2012, and although I’ve been a major fan of writing morning pages since then, I’ve yet to tackle the full program … until now!

Week One

The first week is about recovering a sense of safety by confronting negative thoughts and mind monsters, both past and present. It’s these mental demons that often keep artists from pursuing their true passion and becoming “shadow artists.”

Very often audacity, not talent, makes one person an artist and another a shadow artist – hiding in the shadows, afraid to step out and expose the dream to the light, fearful that it will disintegrate to the touch.

~Julia Cameron

Through morning pages and a series of deep-diving exercises, readers confront these mind monsters – both external influences such as a critical parent, bully, or Debbie Downer friend and internal limiting believes. Anything that has discouraged or cast shadows of doubt is brought up, confronted, and then replaced with positive affirmations.

Which isn’t easy. Not at all.

There are lots of mind monsters running rampage in my head, whispering negative thoughts and filling me with doubt. Some are from negative influences as a child, some are from past relationships, and some are of my own creation.

I wrote about them all.

Here comes the deep dive….

One painful moment had me in tears. It’s from when I was around eight or so, sitting at my white vanity, and applying pink blusher and blue eyeshadow to my Super Star Barbie Fashion Face.

Please tell me in the comments below if you remember her!

Anyway, after gussying Barbie up for a big evening out on the town … maybe it was for the prom, I can’t remember … I turned her toward the mirror for the big reveal.

She smiled, of course, but I froze from our comparison in the reflection. There was me, the fat girl with frizzy brunette hair and there was Barbie with her pretty blond perfection. Everything I wasn’t. Everything I never would be.

The realization made me lay my head down in my arms and cry.

While writing out the painful story, I …. pardon the Sex and the City ripoff, here … but I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if someone came up behind me and wrapped their arms around my shaking shoulder, telling me I was beautiful. That I wasn’t just a dumb, ugly farm girl. That any dream was possible for me and I could do anything.

Even be a writer.

But after going deeper, I started to realize that what I really needed was for someone to also tell me that Barbie was the one with the sucky life.

I mean, yeah, she’s pretty and all, but she’s plastic … just a decapitated head forced to wear tacky pink and blue makeup put on by an amateur child’s hand. She couldn’t go outside to play in the woods, she couldn’t ride horses, and she certainly wasn’t going to prom.

I was able to do all those things and I went to several proms, which now makes my inner child feel sorry for poor Barbie.

Fun fact: I was almost kicked out of my boyfriend’s senior prom because my bosoms were showing too much. That prom director would have a heart attack from what the kids are wearing today!

Anyway, back to week one.

These are the kinds of memories and realizations that are dredged up and dealt with while doing this program as a way to begin the healing process. I have other things I could share, but I better move on.

Week One Tasks

  1. Write morning pages daily.
  2. Take yourself on an Artist Date.
  3. Select from six different deep dive questions and exercises to reflect upon, such as listing out three of your old enemies of your self-worth, aka, your Monster Hall of Fame.
  4. Write affirmations and blurts … which I still need to work on because I don’t quite yet understand blurts.
  5. Take your inner artist for a walk, just the two of you!

For the deep dive questions, I completed four of the six activities … some of which took a long time as mentioned above, some were quick and fun, all were beyond helpful.

And then we get to the most helpful aspect of them all:

Morning Pages

I’ve shared my thoughts about morning pages in a previous blog post, but in short, they are three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness writing that is recommended to do first thing in the morning. A brain dump, if you will, and a way to purge out all the crazy thoughts in your head onto paper.

They are also non-negotiable in this process.

“The bedrock tool of a creative recovery is a daily practice called Morning Pages.”

~Julia Cameron

So far this year, I’ve written morning pages for each and every day and it has been GAME CHANGER. They do take a long time, yes, especially since I write them in a journal that the same size as a spiral notebook, what she recommends. And sometimes my ramblings are so beyond nonsensical, but that’s the point … to get all the nonsense out of my head so I can go on with my day a little less burdened.

Many of my daily entries are about what I need to accomplish that day in order to keep my head above the water. As I mentioned in my intro post, I have a lot going on between our business, rental property management, tasks, weekly chores, my writing goals, this blog, Joyful Miles, fitness goals, trying to get Covid vaccinations for my over-75 parents – Lawd, have mercy, and getting ready for an upcoming trip.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed. When I get overwhelmed, I become mentally paralyzed, hiding from responsibility by spending too much time on social media or watching the news as a way to escape.

Purging all this onto paper each morning is a way for me to make sense of my chaotic world, to transfer those feelings of overwhelm onto paper and concentrate on my most important tasks. Sure, sometimes my pages look as though they were written by a deranged serial killer … all scribbles that are barely legible. And I often am extremely self-critical, writing about my doubts, fears, regrets, failures, and negative self-beliefs.

But with time, this awareness and purging of emotional clutter will allow the positive ones the chance to finally breathe, and your inner artist to come back to life.

“It is very difficult to complain about a situation morning after morning, month after month, without being moved to constructive action. The pages lead us out of despair and into undreamed-of solutions.”

~Julia Cameron

So I am continuing with my daily practice of writing morning pages … which reminds me. I need to order more pens!

Artist’s Date

Another equally important component is the Artist’s Date:

“The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic”– think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play.”

~Julia Cameron

Now, with Covid restrictions and me being house-bound except for trips to the grocery store, I had to be creative for my week’s artist date.

I chose to spend a lovely Sunday morning setting up my 2021 Story Journal, for tracking movies, documentaries, and TV shows I’ve watched, and books I’ve read. This is something I’ve done for the past three years and it’s been so helpful to keep me more intentional!

Affirmations and Blurbs

For this part of the program, I decided to bring in some Rachel Hollis. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of hers anymore, but I do still love her Start Today daily practice, where you write out five things you’re grateful for and ten big dreams you made happen, aka positive affirmations. (I use my own journal, though.)

I was pretty regular in 2020, but 2021 has been hit or miss. By the time I’m done writing morning pages, I’m pretty much journaled out so I’m going to see if doing these at night before bed would be better. We’ll see!

Oh, and while I didn’t go for a walk outside … this gal does not like cold weather, I did take several spin classes and ran on the treadmill a few times so I’m considering that one checked off the list, too!

Well, I better wrap this up. For those who have read this far, thanks you so much! And if you have any experience with The Artist’s Way or morning pages, please share your thoughts in the comments! I’d love to hear them!

Take care and happy writing!

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Debra L Bowman February 13, 2021, 7:40 am

    Morning pages been doing it for years. The only way I could dump the clutter to be productive. Morning is my me time and includes prayer, meditation, word of the day and my wake up lesson. Its when I remind myself life is good. After I am done the trash is gone and ready for the day.

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