06 September 2012

Following the Artist's Way: an open letter to Julia Cameron

"I'm going to open Doors for you. Doors you never dreamed existed"
-Auntie Mame (1958), portrayed by Rosalind Russell 

 Dear Julia,

 I have reached Week 8, of The Artist's Way. I thought this might be a good point in my journey to pause and turn around to look at the path behind me. Your course has been a godsend--truly Divine inspiration when I most needed it. I started the course just two months ago, but I was already steering my life towards this. I knew I'd made the leap of faith to focus on my art more seriously about a year ago.

What I had lacked then, though, was a combination of forward momentum (discipline) and a sense of direction.
I have found that in your course. Your book had been "incubating on my shelf" for ten years -- well, that's what my friend Lee Ann called it when I explained that I'd finally undertaken the course. She was the one who told me about The Artist's Way and how it helped her to be confident in her own art. I had rushed out to by a copy, but the first chapter was so intimidating that I put it down. I did not feel ready.

A decade ago, I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do for a career. I had decided I needed some financial security. It's taken me all that time but, at last, I have the stable career to support my enrollment in mixed media art classes. The training feels like just what I need to help me achieve my vision. My ability to handle different media helps to achieve art that looks like it does in my head. The explorations I once did tentatively, now permit me the pleasure of choosing which medium and when it best serves my artist's voice. It is liberating.

I took a handmade canvas binder made by an Etsy artisan and invented a collage-go-kit that I can bring with me to work or wherever I go. When I can, I grab a quick lunch so that I can spend most of my lunch hour piecing together a small collage. When I was on a trip during Labor Day weekend, I packed up a tote bag with supplies and made my studio on the table at the mountain cottage where we stayed.
Runningwave's Collage-Go-Kit I created with a canvas binder by downstairsDesigns
My portable art studio set up at the cottage

But the work goes beyond my approach to my art, into more deeply spiritual realms. I have been using your course to confront and name my Deamons of Doubt and Dispair which followed me like lead weights ever since I graduated from art school in 1990. I took up the academic career because I was all too personally familiar with how hard it is to make a living as an artist. My parents chose that route, but I always knew my way would be necessarily different.

Yet, in finding the autonomy of a steady paycheck, I had lost sight of the Why. Lost sight of the whole reason for my quest. I sought personal stability within the Ivory Tower of Academia, but I had forgotten that I rather do belong in Bohemia.

 The Artist's Way has indeed returned my strengths of vision and perspective. These days I labor up a steep path like a hiker who has an opportunity to pause, to stop and look down at the panorama of landscape before her. It's breathtaking from up here on the mountaintop. It makes me want to lift wings and take flight.

So thank you, Julia Cameron, from the bottom of my heart. Not only for myself but also for all of the other creative people who have used your method to face their own circumstances and to find their unique ways to express themselves, their voice, their vision.
By giving your gift to other visual and performing artists, you've held open the door for many whose lives might be very different.

To pay the future forward, I, too, have sharing The Artist's Way with others, talking about what I am learning. I've found that creative thinkers everywhere lean in to listen when I speak about my experiences with the course.

A friend of mine went to find your book out from the library and has begun to work with it. It is helping her to focus on a deeply meaningful project that is a memorial to a loved one she lost.

I bought a copy for an artist friend who is struggling to get used to a big life change and discern where her art fits into her new life.

 Another woman I know has a dream that she finds difficult to focus on between grad school, her job, and her son.

I could list others who I've talked with about the course, but I know that you are quite aware of the power of your words on others when they choose to listen.

I am relieved that I finally had the courage to read what you've written. Sometimes it feels like Boot Camp, but I know that your advice is practical and rock solid. It is a tried and true pathway that many other creative people have followed. It is changing me and giving me a different outlook. I am squeezing my creative minutes and hours out of every day, imbuing my life with purpose.

Like a hawk, my artist's voice has lifted off the mountain and tested the air currents.

And it feels great to be here.  Watch me soar.
                                                               Watch me soar!

be Extraordinary tag art by ~runningwave~
"Yes! Live! Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!"
-Auntie Mame (1958), portrayed by Rosalind Russell 

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful post, Maria. I'm still in Week 1, and as is typical for me, I have put off all the homework til the end... heh. Tomorrow I'll be dedicating a chunk of time to doing the exercises and fitting in my artist date. I'm looking forward to trying to work at it a little more regularly in the coming weeks.