Baby steps to creative recovery

I know I’m going on and on about Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, but SHE IS AWESOME. Her wisdom on creativity and creative recovery has helped me feel and be more creative than I have in decades.

One of the thing that Julia talks about is the artistic tendency to be dramatic as they think about their creative life. A budding writer might think she needs to give up her job to write full time. A fledgling painter imagines he needs to move to Paris for creative inspiration. Julia says:

Blocked creatives like to think they are looking to change their whole life in one fell swoop. This form of grandiosity is its own undoing. By setting the jumps too high and making the price tags too great, the recovering artist sets defeat in motion. Who can concentrate on a first drawing class when he is obsessing about having to divorce his wife and leave town? Who can turn toe out in modern jazz form when she is busy reading the ads for a new apartment since she will have to break up with her lover to concentrate on her art?

Creative people are dramatic, and we use negative drama to scare ourselves out of our creativity with this notion of wholesale and often destructive change. Fantasizing about pursuing our art full-time, we fail to pursue it part-time–or at all.


Rather than take a scary baby step toward our dreams, we rush to the edge of the cliff and then stand there, quaking, saying, “I can’t leap. I can’t. I can’t. . . .”

No one is asking you to leap. That’s just drama, and for the purposes of a creative recovery, drama belongs on the page or on the canvas or in the clay or in the acting class or in the act of creativity, however small.

Julia’s advice?

Take on small action daily instead of indulging in the big questions. When we allow ourselves to wallow in the big questions, we fail to find our small answers. What we are talking about here is a concept of change grounded in respect–respect for where we are as well as where we wish to go. We are looking not to grand strokes of change–although they may come–but instead to the act of creatively husbanding all that is in the present: this job, this house, this relationship.

If you want to paint, you need to gather the tools and head over the park to paint the sunflowers you love so much. If you want to write, you need to pick up the pen which feels right and a journal that calls to you, and string one word after another.

sunflowerThis blog was on my mind forever. I thought about what I wanted to write about. I thought about what my voice should be. I thought about what my niche should be, and did I really know enough about anything to have a niche? I obsessed over themes. Somewhere in the middle, I read a lot of books about writing. But  I wasn’t writing. Until I was. One post at a time. Trying to find my voice, even as I tried to share it. Becoming comfortable sharing my less than perfect self with the world. Learning to follow my curiosities, wherever they took me, and believing that maybe one day they would lead me to my niche.

I don’t need to know how this ends, I don’t need to know where this takes me. I don’t need to find and fit all the pieces in the jigsaw – I just need to fit the next piece. All I need to do is write: one word at a time.

You May Also Like

Creative treats for the artist in us
Our inner artist is a child – A lesson by Julia Cameron
Writing advice from the wise and wonderful Brenda Ueland

9 thoughts on “Baby steps to creative recovery

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