...or Everything I Learned and Where We Go from Here
"What we really want to do is what we are really meant to do. When we do what we are meant to do, money comes to us, doors open for us, we feel useful, and the work we do feels like play to us." - Julia Cameron
Most of the people who showed up to my Artist's Way SLC MeetUp group (which ran from January to March) were either unemployed and looking or employed and looking for something better.
I was in the same boat. After 9 months of trying to make the artist/photographer/traveler /freelancer thing work, I was losing steam (and honestly, money and self-confidence too). I decided to do the Artist's Way because I knew I was blocked - stagnating like water in a fishpond - and I needed something to change.
I started looking for a regular full-time job again, despite my fears that whatever I found would inevitably destroy my soul. I relied on books like The Artist's Way (of course!) and Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Big Magic (otherwise known as "the best book ever" in our group) to reassure me that going back to a day job doesn't mean I'm a failure or that I'm not serious about my art.
Before the end of the program, I was hired as a customer service rep for a big company, something I never ever thought I would do, but honestly, I am happy there. It's the perfect job for me right now - the company is awesome, the people are nice, the benefits are incredible, there's room to grow, and at the end of the day, I can clock out and leave work at work. And bonus: I am no longer putting the burden of making money on my art!
I wasn't the only one to grow and change. Group members found new jobs, bought new houses, started new projects, healed old wounds, challenged false beliefs, stepped out of their comfort zones, and expanded their self-definitions. We started being more open to the infinite possibilites of life, figuring out what we really wanted, and practicing self-compassion when we failed or u-turned.
When I started this blog, I intended on posting about the Artist's Way once a week every week for 12 weeks. Obviously that didn't happen: I got overwhelmed and discouraged and I let those negative thoughts and feelings stop me. However, as I've learned from this program, the most important thing to remember about creative u-turns is be compassionate with yourself, count your progress, and keep moving forward.
There's so much more I could say about the experience of this program with this group, but for brevity's sake, let's stick with these top 4 takeaways:
1) Creative Stimulation aka "The Firehose Effect"
Everyone in our group experienced it to some degree: a rush of inspiration and creativity that lasted for weeks. We ended up calling it "the firehose effect" because it felt like we were being blasted with creative energy. We had new ideas, tried new things, embraced life more, etc.
When you combine the morning pages, artist's dates, workbook exercises, and meetings, it's all very stimulating. So much so that it eventually led to a group burnout around Week 8 (exactly as Julia Cameron predicted). When so much is changing, sometimes you have to step back for a moment to reset. We stopped following the program as strictly, skipping morning pages and artist's dates. It was okay though, because nearly everyone kept showing up and we were always able to talk about what we were experiencing and why.
2) Synchronicities aka "Meaningful Coincidences"
It's hard to explain synchronicities to people, especially since everyone understands them differently. The point (at least to me and Julia Cameron) is to pay attention to the world around you, notice and be grateful for the ways in which God/Life/the Universe has got your back. #GodWinks
Every week in our group meetings, we shared our synchronicities. The little things like randomly running into your friend or seeing a raven at the right moment. And the big things like a dishwasher breaking and saving your house from burning down, or finding an amazing job with all of the perks you were looking for (and even some you weren't).
Many also said the group had been a synchronicity for them, something that brought them abundance and helped them feel seen and supported (and my heart grew two sizes that day).
3) Validation and The Power of a Safe Space
When I started the Artist's Way, I was not feeling great. I was lonely, depressed, right in the middle of an existential crisis, and rapidly losing confidence in all of my talents and abilities.
Leading this group helped build up my shredded self-esteem and reminded me that I have value and talent. It showed me that I know how to make it safe for others to be vulnerable, to screw up, to not do the work, or to succeed. Nearly every week someone brought something deeply personal and emotional to the table, and I was always proud of how compassionate, non-judgmental, and understanding everyone was.
At a time when I was feeling really low, I was able to help others feel valued, and realized that maybe, just maybe, this is something that I could develop further and build a life around.
4) Have Fun and Be Silly!
For our "Graduation Party," I handed out party favors: colorful bags filled with tiny rubic cubes, little soldiers with paper parachutes, bouncy balls, mini plastic animals, and stickers. We ate pizza and cake and talked about everything we had learned.
The reason why I turned our party into a kid's party is because of Julia Cameron's insistence, again and again and again, throughout The Artist's Way that our inner artist is a child, and that we shouldn't be afraid to let that child out to play. It doesn't matter how old or mature or professional you are - it's okay for you to be silly or frivolous. We don't always need to take everything so seriously. We need to let go of the gravitas we attach to what it means to be an artist/creator, and just create. Experiment, have fun, and be silly!
(And you know who excels at this? Rhett & Link on Youtube. That's why I've attached one of my favorite videos of theirs below.)
I am not going to wait until I am looking for my next job to do the Artist's Way again. I am planning on leading another group starting sometime this Fall, or perhaps I will make it an annual thing that I do every January to March. I have had a lot of continued interest, and I am confident that it will be even better my third time around the block.
So, if you've actually read this far, you've proven you have enough interest to benefit from doing the Artist's Way. If you're interested in doing it with me and a bunch of other amazing people, click here for more information. Remember, you don't have to be an artist! I am not going to lie, it does take some commitment, but if at a minimum, you do the reading and show up for the group, I promise you will benefit immensely.
If all else fails, you can keep reading my blog to keep up with my personal artist/writer/photographer/traveler/life journey.