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Four Practices for Bringing Artistry to Your Work

Artists_way A few years ago, as part of my recovery from depression and divorce, I began to explore my artistic side. As things got better and I became more engulfed in work, my creativity dried up. I miss it because not only was it personally satisfying, art also fed my creativity in other facets of my life.

As an antidote to my current dried up state, I'm now working with a friend on Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, a sort of 12-step recovery program for finding your creative center. Interestingly, I'm seeing how some of the practices can be applied to our professional lives.

Morning Pages--I've written about these before, but the idea bears repeating. Morning Pages work like this. Every morning when you get up, you write--in long hand--3 pages of whatever comes to mind. The goal is to empty your head of all of your concerns, what's on your mind, etc. It's a practice that can clear the space for more creative thinking. It's really a sort of writing meditation.

I've been doing Morning Pages off and on for several years. When I stick with them, they help. When I don't, I start to dry up. Note to self--keep it up. If you want to try out the idea,  check out this link for tips on how to start your own practice. Also check out this video of a discussion with Tom Tierney of The Bridgespan Group where he discusses how he's used a personal journal to drive his own professional practice. 

An Artist's Date--Julia describes it this way:

"An artist's date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist. In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion, a play date that you preplan and defend against all interlopers. You do not take anyone on this artist date but you and your inner artist, a.k.a., your inner child."

You will be tempted to put off or re-schedule or to bring a companion. You should resist these temptations and give your Artist's Date the same respect you would give to a business appointment--maybe more.

A Week of Reading Deprivation--As someone who can finish a few books in a week and who is constantly online reading blog posts, articles, etc. this one scares the crap out of me. A week without reading will, for me, be like a week without food. But Julia's premise is that depriving ourselves of reading "casts us into our inner silence." She argues that for most blocked people, reading is an addiction. "We gobble the words of others," she says, "rather than digest our own thoughts and feelings, rather than cook up something of our own." I suspect this is true and I also suspect that this will be one of the worst weeks of my life. At least at the beginning.But I can also see how listening to our own voice could be a great key to re-claiming our own creativity. It helps us get clearer about what we want and need so we can return refreshed.

Take a Risk a Day--It's easy to get locked into our comfort zones. I know that if I'm not vigilant with myself, I lapse back into routine and focusing on what I know I can do well. But as we've discussed before, risk-taking is a form of learning. It's also something we have to get in the habit of doing. Thinking each day "Where did I take a risk" could be a small but powerful practice.

One of the most important things I'm finding in going through this process (which is just starting, by the way) is that what we resist is what we most need. That is, I'm reading some of these exercises and thinking "that sounds stupid" or "I don't have time for that." But then I realize that the fact of my resistance is actually a clue that this is the activity I most need to do. My resistance is simply my brain's way of trying to keep me locked in my comfort zone. So when I hear that little voice saying "You don't need that," I know that it means that I DO need that. Which means, friends, that in a few weeks I will be going without reading for 7 days. It's a good thing you don't live with me, because I suspect that I'll be extremely crabby then.


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This is a great book! It was also recommended to my by my cousin - a very creative and successful serial entrepeneur. I read it years ago (I won't say how many). After almost 15 years slogging away in corporate america, I too am missing my creative self. I'm going to pick up a copy!

I’ve definitely fallen into the reading trap you describe. I find myself reading, tagging, researching and aggregating information rather than creating my own. While I do analyze and reflect on what I learn, lately I’ve been so discourage by the depth and insights of others that I’ve given up on updating my blog and portfolio. Sometimes it’s hard to stay inspired when it feels like you can’t really come up with an original thought and so many others are able to say what you think much more eloquently.

I’m going to try the Morning Pages. Writing longhand is a practice I replaced with my laptop and it has undoubtedly hindered me as I tend to stress over punctuation and typos. I have great handwriting too so it will be nice to rediscover it!

Kia ora Michele!

Giving up reading for a week? Hmmm.

I've found that there's nothing like a holiday for inspiring creativity, even if it's just for a day. It has to be something different, not a working holiday for instance, and it may even take one away from reading, at least for a day :-)

That, and diversity of what one does. Art, music (that's art) where one actually participates. I'm not referring to visiting an art exhibition or an orchestral recital (though these can also help) but actually doing the art or playing the music, singing, dancing. Go for a walk in the woods. Smell the flowers, look for the butterflies, pick the strawberries.

From time to time I pass on this advice to my older offspring, together with a helping of advice on alcohol moderation, checking sleep depravation and working overtime. Sound familiar?

Ngā mihi nui
from Middle-earth

Dana and Gladys, I'm so glad that these activities inspire you as they did me. Gladys, I do understand that sense of seeing other people's work and then thinking that what you do isn't as good, so why bother. That's actually one of the creativity traps that Julia identifies in her book. It's part of how we block ourselves sometimes.

And Ken, you're right that diversity is a big key. Julia is actually a writer herself and over the years she's worked with creatives of all stripes. I'm seeing this as an opportunity to open up avenues of creativity in myself that may or may not end up being tied to the visual arts. At least I hope so. :-)

I've used that book to help create agendas for small group meetings, such as staff retreats or leadership retreats. Great resource.

Robin, that's a great idea--I'd love to learn more about how you've done that!

Michelle, I have so missed reading your blog!

Gladys, I am so, so with you! My blog, new one, is also halted, but oddly enough I wrote several blog entries in long hand based on some reading I was doing and on someone else's blogging, but never posted.

I am going to try to do the morning write tomorrow, before school starts for the year and see how it works.

Not able to stop reading for a week as I am a new teacher-librarian. Will read something for you Michelle. I wonder if they have bookorette - you know - like nicorette gum? (Did I spell that correctly?) :)

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