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The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
artist way
Written by Lisa Twombly

Morning Pages:
three pages, hand-written, purely stream of consciousness, zero rules, for your eyes only

Artist’s Date:
A couple of hours, all by yourself, engaging your creative spark – nature, music, dance, a movie – all can fuel your creative spirit.

One morning in March of 2016, my road to recovery began when I wrote Morning Pages, from The Artist’s Way, for the first time.

If the requirements had been anything more than a pen and paper, I would not have been willing or able to begin what grew and evolved into sobriety, healing and a newfound creativity.

Five years ago, I would not have identified alcohol as the problem, though it was, and I would not have identified myself as creative, though I do today. These joys and discoveries came to me through Morning Pages and The Artist’s Way.

Morning Pages and Artist Dates form the foundation of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, published in 1992, after she taught the program as creative recovery for blocked artists for a decade.

Cameron became known as a creativity teacher with many famous and not-so-famous artists, writers, film makers and ordinary people giving her credit for their unleashed, reignited or newfound connection
to creativity.

In the categories of small miracles, you’ll get there when you get there, and time takes time, I bought The Artist’s Way several years before I ever got further than the first few pages of the introduction, before life was upended by divorce from a 20 year marriage and several subsequent moves with two children in tow.

In each new place, this book found its place on the shelf or table nearest my bed, ever present and a part of my daily visual landscape—part of what it meant to be home—regardless of where we’d actually landed.

That day in March 2016, life had become unbearable, I became desperate, and my hands reached for The Artist’s Way. This time I made it to the section called The Basic Tools. Under the heading Morning Pages, Cameron clearly states, “There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages.”

My loose idea of some sense of God was thanked profusely, as any form of structure or managing a particular state of mind while writing felt too far a hill to climb.

But I could do what she suggested, especially when she said, “nobody is allowed to read your Morning Pages except you.” I felt invited to a safe, accepting, and no pressure space, where I could say anything (anything!) that crossed my mind, was in my heart, needed expressing, or was too tender or shameful to share with anyone else.

Cameron says of The Basic Tools: if the Morning Pages are the work, the Artist Date is the fun, yet most people will dutifully show up for the Morning Pages and miss all the fun by skipping the Artist’s Date.

I confess, I tend to skip the fun of the Artist’s Date, too. She says, “Doing your Morning Pages you are sending—notifying yourself and the universe of your dreams, dissatisfactions, hopes. Doing your Artist’s Date you are receiving—opening yourself to insight, inspiration, guidance.”

Artist’s Dates bring you to creativity; they’re intended to inspire, not produce. Maybe going to a museum lights your fire, or watching Bob Ross paint or listening to a much loved album from start to finish or walking silently in nature.

One Artist’s Date, I took myself out to research hooked rugs, as my grandmother designed and hooked rugs that lit the creative spark in me as a child. I felt connected to my grandmother’s creativity and our shared love of textiles, handwork, simple designs, and the warmth of home.

Three years into my sobriety, I came across an Artist’s Way group that met every week at the local recovery center. Yes! Originally created as a group workshop, The Artist’s Way easily translates to a group format, which Cameron outlines in the appendix Forming a Sacred Circle. The suggested format includes each member equally, with no leader, though facilitators may set up the group initially to get it started. I loved experiencing the book as a group program, discussing the exercises and tasks at the end of each week’s section and sharing our creative explorations and ideas.

Despite the title, you don’t need to be an artist or even think of yourself as creative to benefit from The Artist’s Way. As a non-artist, I agree. Over time and with practice, I’ve come to see myself as creative.

I’ve used the tools to see my world differently, and daily writing clarifies and grounds me in my truth and experiences. By putting down on paper the truth inside, in safety, without fear of judgment (even my own), trust in myself and faith in my Higher Power have deepened, matured, and shown me strength.

Along the way, I realized that the simple beginning of writing Morning Pages started me on the road to taking better care of myself, which led to feeling worthy and capable of getting sober, then taking those early and shaky steps of asking a counselor for help and going to meetings.

Morning Pages were my constant daily practice for the first four years of my sobriety, and The Artist’s Way showed me that recovery was possible and that life after stopping drinking gets so much better, one morning page at a time.

Lisa Twombly

Lisa Twombly