Go Buy This Book: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
I’m writing this blog and I haven’t even finished (fully started) this damn book yet.
I started this book at the behest of a fellow writer whose experiences with the bad boy were positive. I had a second novel sitting quietly in my laptop, waiting to be finished and no real plan to get crackalackin any time soon. Sure, I had good intentions. I also had procrastination, distraction, and excuses on my side. I also had several friends threatening to lock me in a room to make me write, so clearly I wasn’t the only one with complaint.
I bought this tome sight unseen, and cracked into the first chapter.
And now my second novel is done.
Let me explain. Before the book (which is technically almost the equivalent of a 12 step program for the creative types, or a 12 week intensive if you prefer) even kicks off, there is a chapter of introduction where she pretty much (as you know, I like to paraphrase with sentence enhancers) explains the book to be a mind fuck waiting to happen and when you open its pages and delve in, it’s going to ravage your brain like a freshly turned sprinter in Zombie Apocalypse. I didn’t get to the brain eating part of the book, yet it had a profound impact on me. This can be blamed on the two rules she sets forth in the first pages.
1) The Morning Pages
2) The Artist’s Date
The Morning Pages are the equivalent of journaling to many of us, but to some, the notion is out of control. Three hand written pages? Are you out of your mind? But I have things to do!
Hey, if you can’t find time to write three longland pages in a notebook, or type them willy nilly on a laptop at lunch break, then how the hell do you expect me to believe you’re gonna write a novel? Just sayin.
The Morning Pages are a brain drain. You literally just scribble whatever comes to mind in those pages until you’ve hit the three mark, then you go your merry way. Some will write nonsense, some will write high school caliber drivel, some will write “Shit, Shit, Shit” a thousand times until the pages are full – doesn’t matter, the pages make their mark.
They may sound frivolous, but they do something truly necessary. They get all the shit out of the way. You might not know you HAVE shit, but I assure you, you do. The Pages give you an outlet to clear a space, a path if you will, for something better than shit to come through. As Andre Dubus III once told me some random writer I can’t currently remember said, “Sometimes you have to clear your throat before you can sing.”
Two days after starting the morning pages, I decided to go on my first Artist’s Date.
The Artist’s Date is simply going somewhere, alone, for at least two hours and allowing yourself to be. No company, no wingmen, just you and your thoughts, maybe a notebook, whatever you need to do to pass the time alone and not go ape nuts bat shit crazy because you don’t have someone with you. The Artist’s Date can be anything from hitting a local museum with your headphones, to going to see a movie, the premise is as long as you’re alone for at least two hours and you are somewhere outside the house, it’s kosher.
I chose the pub. My pub – The Old Court in Lowell, Mass. I brought my laptop and my headphones and my journal in which I write my morning pages. I ordered a Reuben, hit to scribbling, finished my pages, ate a couple divine bites, and then something magical happened.
I started working on my novel.
The waitress kept my drink full and let me be, and I worked. For three hours. 3364 words in one very comfortable, very easy sitting. This wasn’t just magical, this was a revelation. That Reuben is a fucking miracle, I’ll tell you what.
As a result of this book, I started a new habit, a trend that keeps me honest and forward moving. Every week, as is demanded in The Artist’s Way, I go to the pub by myself with intention to spend at least two hours completely alone with my laptop. It’s become so habitual that I am no longer considering it my Artist’s Date and am planning to add a second outing (or third to be truthful, I hit the pub at least twice if I can) to my lineup.
This book kickstarted something that had stalled long ago. I don’t even want to admit how much time I spent twiddling my thumbs with good intentions.
Yeah, go buy this book.