For several months now, I’ve had a dearth of creative reading. Oh, I’ve been reading a lot, mostly fiction novels. I just haven’t been able to find a book I like for my daily creative reading since I finished Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach at the end of last year. This morning I sat down to read and I find myself with three inspiring books in progress at the moment. It was hard to choose! Times ebb and flow, interests come and go. It’s clearly time for me to focus on creativity again, bring balance to my personal equation, after several months of focusing on primarily on photography.
As I mentioned in my Claim your Artist post the other day, one of the books I’ve started is Julia Cameron’s Vein of Gold, a sequel to The Artist’s Way. She starts out similarly to the The Artist’s Way, introducing her fundamental tools of the Morning Pages, Artist Dates and a few other things. While I have loved her writing and ideas, there is one thing I don’t love about her books: How adamant that she is that you use the tools she gives, in a specific way, on a specific frequency. She’s the teacher, she’s taught this to thousands (maybe millions of people, through her books), she knows it works and that’s the end of the discussion.
But here’s the thing: She doesn’t know me. She doesn’t know what works for me, how I think, what I’ve tried in the past. She has a lot to teach me, but it won’t work if it doesn’t fit my style. I know me and I know this: Requiring a task be done on a rigid schedule with rigid guidelines flips me right over into the obsessive achiever part of my personality. The part of me that tracks everything as a number and berates myself when I don’t follow it as instructed. The part of me that will kill the emerging artist at every opportunity.
Through my creative journey I’ve learned I need to try out the tools a teacher provides, and then fit them to me. I’ve made journaling part of my regular practice, but I journal probably 4 to 6 times per week and don’t require a certain length. The requirements of “Morning Pages” never worked for me. I’ve learned the value of creative excursions and explorations on my own, of filling the well, but on my own schedule. I may not be following the instructions of the “Artist Dates” but I get the same benefits. I follow the spirit of the teachings, not necessarily the absolute.
I will confess as well, I didn’t fill out one worksheet, one questionnaire, answer one “recall a time when xxxx happened” exercise in The Artist’s Way as proscribed. I didn’t follow the recommend schedule for reading. I would move quicker or slower as the material worked for me. I’ve done the same with many, many creative books now. I never read Simple Abundance daily, I would pick it up as it inspired me and read chunks of it at a time. I skipped all of the fill-in-the-blank exercises of Martha Beck’s Finding your own North Star but the material has stuck with me nonetheless.
I read, absorb, journal, write about the most important pieces to me here. The ideas go into the “swirl” I’ve talked about before, become the fuel that keeps my creativity burning bright. I gain an enormous amount from the books I read and the classes I take. There is so much to learn from great teachers. I believe in trying on ideas and methods, and then trimming them, nipping and tucking them to make them fit me. We have to believe in our inner wisdom and intuition. We have to rely on our own experience and awareness of ourselves, of how we learn and integrate knowledge. We have to make the teachings ours if they are going to be useful.
Have you ever started a book or a class, something that comes highly recommended like The Artist’s Way, only to quit because you didn’t like the methods or didn’t want to follow the procedure? If so, I don’t think you’re alone. Here’s something new to try, if you find yourself in that situation: Just read the material. See what resonates with you, inspires you. Who knows, you might end up liking some of the suggestions and incorporating them in your own way, in your own time. Or maybe not, but you’ll have gained something more through the reading.
Today’s picture is inside the amazing Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona, by architect Antoni Gaudí. Here’s an artist who found his inspiration in novel sources. I’m sure he learned valuable information from his teachers, but I am glad he didn’t follow their proscribed methods exactly. He integrated and applied the knowledge in his own way, developing new methods. The world of architecture is more beautiful for his unique and creative interpretations.
Take that to heart today.