The Artist’s Way vs. The War of Art

It’s January, so it is my annual time to reread The Artist’s Way.  However, this summer I discovered the genius that is The War of Art, so I will be simultaneously listening to it as well.

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For those who don’t know, The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, is the iconic 12-step/12-week guide to creativity.  Each week has its own chapter and (mostly written) exercises, as well as the expectation that you wake up early each morning to write 3 pages of stream-of-consciousness in the form of Morning Pages.

Now, while my attention span makes it unlikely that I will complete the entire 3 month course, a tool I keep coming back to is the Morning Pages.  Whether I sit down to write feeling confused, overwhelmed, ungrounded, unfocused or just plain depressed, the Morning Pages help me to feel better.  Every time. Ev. Er. Y. Time.  Like clockwork, I regurgitate my litany of stresses and goals and complaints for 2 pages, then the third page is spent coming up with actual solutions and effective self-encouragement.  Every time.

I’ve been through some hard times in the decade since I discovered The Artist’s Way, and each time I resume the Morning Pages, my life improves in every area, as does my creative output.  So I highly recommend The Artist’s Way, and even if you don’t finish the course at once (like many of us. Google it.), add the Morning Pages to your mental health/self-care arsenal, and keep it.

That said, Julia’s voice in The Artist’s Way is conjoling, gentle and maternal.  Depending on your personality, your current relationship with your creativity or your mood at the moment, you may find The Artist’s Way to be patronizing, cloying or coddling.  The Artist’s Way resonates with the part of me that has been traumatized by  verbal abuse, or the part of me that feels guilty for needing more than housework and child-rearing to fulfill me.  When I’m weak or vulnerable, The Artist’s Way is the kind friend I can always turn to for compassionate advice.

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(See, even Esquire agrees about this book’s kick-assedness.)

On the other hand, when I need a kick in the rear, The War of Art is perfect.  What the book lacks in exercises and activities, it makes up for in poignant one-liners that cut to the heart of internal Resistance.  The biggest take-away for me was that the part of me that creates is not the part of me that’s broken.  Whoa.  You mean I don’t need some grand epiphany, closure or a change in personality to create?  Like I can drown in mediocrity and disappointment, and still bring my ideas to fruition?

You mean my creativity can exist independent of my personal failings?

Steven enumerates the difference between the amateur and the professional so clearly and succinctly that I was able to immediately rearrange both my attitude and schedule to reach my goals… For a few weeks.

Apparently I need a constant influx of wisdom, insight and encouragement in order to stay on-track.  My internal programming, like my old habits, die hard.  Dammit.

Why can’t my soul be great?  Is this why we can’t have nice things?

In other words, I must always be a student of creativity, in order to live creatively.(Just like I must always be studying nutrition and fitness in order to keep making healthy decisions).  I haven’t been consistent enough to rest on my laurels.

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