Books, Creativity, Miscellaneous

Week 02: Walking in This World by Julia Cameron | The Artist’s Way

Week 02 was about discovering a sense of proportion :

This week inaugurates an ongoing process of self-definition. As you redraw the boundaries and limits within which you have lived, you draw yourself to a fuller size. Coming into ourselves, we sometimes encounter resistance from those in our immediate environment. The readings and tasks of this week aim at bolstering the sense of a realistic self in the face of difficulty and even discounting.

Julia Cameron
© Sanchari Sen

Quotes from Julia Cameron’s Walking in This World – Week 02:

1. “As artists, we are often in the ugly-duckling position. We have been born into families that regard us as “odd”—and we come to regard ourselves that way. (Sometimes our families are supportive, but our culture, as a whole, is not.) Our desire to make things and to make something of ourselves in the arts is often reflected back to us as “Who do you think you are?” I call this “growing up in the fun house,” where our soul’s aspirations are mirrored back to us in a distorted and distorting fashion that makes them appear egotistical and unrealistic: “Don’t get too big for your britches,” “Who do you think you are?” We often don’t really know the answer to that. We know something along the lines of “I think I might be . . .” When we are surrounded by people who either cannot see us or cannot acknowledge what they see, our image blurs. We begin to feel both a certain self-doubt and a certain stubborn inner knowing that we may then dismiss as crazy. Part of us knows we’re more than they see; part of us fears we’re less than we hope. This inner friction is painful.As artists, when a shoe doesn’t fit us, we may try to walk in it anyway. If we are told that it fits, we may start to use our excellent creative imaginations to imagine that it fits. We may further tell ourselves that our own discomfort at the pinching and the pain of a wrong shoe—and a wrong personal and creative identity—is just our “ego.” And, we might add, just our “grandiosity.” For many of us, declaring ourselves an artist is a “coming-out” process. “I think I am, I think I might be, I really identify with . . . oh, dear God, I think I am.” Like any coming-out process, this is turbulent.”

2. “All of us need and require accurate Believing Mirrors. Believing Mirrors reflect us as large and competent creatively. They mirror possibility, not improbability. They ignore “the odds” against us. These mirrors are held by people large enough and expansive enough spiritually not to be threatened by the size and grandeur of another artist shaking out his sizable wings. When I was twenty-two and a fledgling artist, veteran literary agent Sterling Lord took me on. The same year, William McPherson, who later won a Pulitzer of his own, hired me to write for him at The Washington Post. These men saw something, and all artists tell stories like mine of older artists who “mysteriously” gambled on them.”

© Sanchari Sen

3. “Although as artists we make maps, we seldom find them. An artistic career does not resemble the linear step-by-step climb of a banker’s career trajectory. Art is not linear, and neither is the artist’s life. There are no certain routes. You do not become an novelist by moving from A to B to C. Novelists are made from schoolteachers, journalists, and grandmothers. You do not become a composer by attending music school. That might make you a splendid theoretician, an avid structuralist, a discerning critic, but a composer? That is something made by music itself.Sometimes, in the throes of an identity shift, we say in despair, “Sometimes I don’t know who I am,” and we are absolutely right. We are correctly sensing that some part or parts of our self are not yet spoken for—or perhaps not yet listened to. We are far more multiple and rich than most of us assume. We are far larger and more colorful, far more powerful and intricate, far more deep and far more high than we often concede.”

4. “Mystics hear voices. The question “Do you hear voices?” is used to sort the sane from the insane. And yet, as artists, we do hear voices and most insistently when we seek the guidance for our art. We are led. We are prompted. We are urged. We are called.We do experience synchronicity—the fortuitous intermeshing of an inner need with an unexpected and grace-filled outer circumstance. We are forced—and reinforced—to know our path, and the more willing we are to ask what our true creative identity is, the clearer and more unmistakable our guidance becomes.”

© Sanchari Sen

5. “I don’t know where I got the strength of character to believe in myself,” an artist will say. “It was just blind faith.” And yet, faith is not blind. It is farseeing and, even as we claim to stumble in believing darkness, we are led inch by inch and hunch by hunch into what we are becoming—and so is our art.As artists, we often speak of our creations as our “brain-children,” but we forget that our ideas and dreams impregnate us. We are inhabited by a larger life than we know. As we doubt our own identity, that identity is still guiding us, still nudging us to our rightful path. We may doubt our creative viability but, like children who will be born, our dreams and desires nudge us forward. Something larger and finer than we know calls us to be larger and finer than we dare. So we act on faith, descend into doubt, and watch in amazement as our dreams carry us forward with a knowing of their own. Sometimes our dreams feel born despite us.

6. “As artists, we are often in that elephant’s position—a large and complicated creature poorly known to itself and others. Like Alice after she ate the mushroom, we experience shifts in size as hallucinogenic events. One day we will feel very large and competent. The next day we will feel that yesterday’s grander size was just grandiosity and that we are really much smaller and more wobbly than we knew. Changing sizes, we go through growing pains, and many of those pains are the pangs of an identity crisis. We may pray about it only to discover prayer is no help: God himself seems to be forging our new identity. The more we pray for it to go away, the stronger it actually becomes……. When we change sizes creatively, we begin to wonder, Oh, dear. Now what kind of animal am I? And usually we begin to ask people to help us to know. This is where we often get in trouble. Many times our friends will know only the trunk part of us, or maybe even just the tail. In other words, what is mirrored back to us may be only the part of our artist a friend is comfortable with or can easily see.In this way, quite inadvertently we often get miniaturized. We often get fragmented. We often feel “shattered” as we go through change because we need people who can help us to hold a larger and clearer picture of the whole creative animal we are. And, yes, that animal just might be an elephant. Oh, dear!

© Sanchari Sen

7. Some of our friends might tend to want to downsize us again to what we were. They have our second, third, and fourth thoughts for us. Other times, we deliberately call those friends who we know will downsize us to who we were before. “You’re a perfectly good playwright. Why would you want to try writing a movie?” We want to be grounded by their negativity back into our formerly comfortable size and shape. The problem is, we aren’t that size, and we aren’t that shape. Not any longer.

8. It’s part of our cultural tradition to believe and act as if artists are crazy. Is it any wonder we sometimes feel that way ourselves? At our craziest-looking, we are sometimes our most sane. Michelangelo looked pretty strange, flat on his back, near the ceiling. With sweat, plaster, and paint stinging his eyes, not even he may always have enjoyed the comfortable certitude that he was painting a masterpiece. Strapped to a plank, with an arm tired from painting at a contortionist’s angle, he, too, may have wondered, What am I doing?What the hell are we doing? Who the hell are we, really? That is what we are trying to find out, and asking people is one way to do it. Often, older or more experienced artists can say, “Of course you’re an actor!” or “Of course you are a writer.” They can smell out our identity because it resonates with their own. They’ve seen baby elephants in the pupa stage before. We may not know what we are, but they do.

© Sanchari Sen

9. Art is not linear. Neither is the artist’s life, but we forget that. We try to “plan” our life and “plan” our career—as if we could. We also try to plan our growth. This means transformation catches us by surprise. The notion that we can control our path is pushed on us by advertisements and by books and by experts who promise us we can learn to control the uncontrollable. “Empower yourself,” magazine headlines trumpet. Seminars and whole expos promise the same illusory goal. And yet, experience teaches that life, and especially life in the arts, is as much about mystery as it is about mastery. To be successful we must learn to follow not the leader but our own inner leadings, the “inspiration” artists have acknowledged through the centuries. “Something” is telling us to make art. We must trust that something. Because we cannot see where we are really going, because we do not believe that the universe has any plan for us, any worthy plan we might like, our imagination begins to fly frantically around the cage of our circumstances like a cooped-up bird. We want freedom—and we will get it—but we need to get it gently and with grounding.

10. It is a spiritual law that when we are ready to transform, transformation will come to us. We are all conduits for a great creative energy that seeks expression in us and through us. When we yearn to be different, it is not just our restless ego. It is our accurate response to the creative energy within us that is seeking a new venue for expression. We are all creative and we are, in turn, creations. Just as we get restless to make something new, so, too, our creator may be restless to make something new from us. We are not experiencing a bout of hubris, we are actually experiencing a bout of humility. As we let go of our ego’s demands to be totally in charge, we slip gently and quietly into a series of changes that we may set in motion through our own hand but experience as the hand of the Great Creator working through us. As we do as inwardly directed, a direction emerges.

© Sanchari Sen

11. Call it “open-mindedness” or “the willingness to be always a beginner,” but receptivity and openness characterize the temperament of all great artists, and as we consciously foster these qualities in ourselves, we are given the chance to grow and transform—not perhaps by large and immediate strokes but by small. And each tiny shift can be accompanied by inner quaking. “What’s going on? Who am I? What am I doing?” we may inwardly howl as our known identity shifts.