“My creative mojo is gone, scattered like autumn leaves. I am bare and exposed.”
“The pandemic has eaten all I had to offer in my creative life .”
How many of you creatives felt, still feel, or have had friends express this sentiment? Are you, as a friend recently confessed, “I’m stuck in quicksand and can’t find a way out.”
In the last year, every morning when I open my email there are several offers for classes or get togethers via zoom to connect with fellow artists/writers. Normally I would have signed up for them all. Yet during this past year and into the new year I couldn’t manage to commit to any of them. The uncertainty of our world had left me feeling so claustrophobic, any class, weekly meeting, etc. seemed too overwhelming to consider.
Then a writing acquaintance offered up weekly meetings with an old friend (a book)—The Artist’s Way, A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron. The book is a 12-chapter course in discovering and recovering your creative self. I read the book when it was published back in 1992. Since that initial reading it has traveled with me from home to home, but never again did I crack its spine. My acquaintance’s plan was each week we’d read a chapter and on Sunday she would facilitate a zoom meeting lasting no more than an hour. She gathered creatives from all across the US and as far away as the Netherlands. It felt like a good start to getting my writing mojo back, but I also allowed myself the grace of bowing out if I felt it too restrictive.
So I began my Sunday zoom meetings and to my surprise I missed only one of the thirteen sessions, and was sad to see it coming to an end. I’m not going to attempt to incapsulate the many pearls of wisdom I garnered from rereading the book, but I will attempt to explain a few of the practices I recognized I’d subconsciously continued years after my first reading.
Before I begin I should address the use of the word God throughout the book. If the word God carries for you a negative connotation, as it did for a few in our Sunday group—they explained the word immediately gave them a picture of an angry male figure passing down judgement on their every move–Cameron provides an acronym of her intent in using the word—”GOD equals Good, Orderly, Direction. The word is useful shorthand, but so is Goddess, Mind, Universe, Source and Higher Power.”
Let’s begin with positive affirmations or quotes as the book is riddle with them. My favorite quote is: Affirmations are like prescriptions for certain aspects of yourself you want to change—Jerry Frankhauser.
Positive affirmations or Quotes—I’ve collected positive affirmations/quotes for longer than I can remember and had no recollection of when I began this practice. They hang like jewels from fairy lights in my artist studio, they’re on my bathroom mirror, I give them as gifts, there is always a deck of cards with inspirational quotes on my bedside table. I’m now certain my love of these small tidbits of positive energy came from my first read of The Artist’s Way.
Personalizing affirmations is also used in many of the tasks Cameron gives the reader to do at the end of each chapter. In one such task we were to write: Treating Myself Like a Precious Object Will Make Me Strong. We were then instructed to place the personal affirmation in a place where we’d see it daily. This particular task, I affirmations, elicited much discussion and proved to be one of the major catalysts on the road to creative recovery in our group. Here are a few more Cameron listed:
I am a talented person.
I have a right to be an artist.
I now accept hope.
I now share my creativity more openly.
I created my own I affirmation: I Will Live with Intention in All that I Do
Morning Pages—Another practice I’d forgotten I began with my first read of this book. You put pen or pencil to paper and write. No keyboards please. There is a kinetic benefit to this daily stream-of-consciousness writing. I may not accomplish this on a daily basis, and have even stopped writing these pages off and on over the years. But when I do I find the time for morning pages I’ve found my creative mind is more easily activated. Many paintings have been born while writing morning pages, as well as story lines and interesting characters.
“Show up at the page. Use the page to rest, to dream, to try.”
The Artist’s Date—The artist’s date is a weekly practice that ties nicely with my above-mentioned affirmation involving intention. You’re to take yourself on a date with the intention of quietly observing. Think of it as a sacred space, a time for healing solitude meant just for you. It can be as simple as taking a brief walk, or cooking a favorite or new recipe, visiting a museum, or embracing silence while staring up at a starry night sky. Many of my artist’s dates have been simply sitting in quiet meditation.
Another of my own affirmations: Life itself is Meant to be an Artist’s Date
Collage/Vision Board—Since I’m a visual artist as well as a writer I’ve found this exercise beneficial in many areas. Collect at least ten magazines. Then working within a ten-to-twenty-minute time frame tear out anything that speaks to you—words, pictures, etc., or if no magazines are available for you to rip up, print off similar things you’ve kept in files on your computer. You then glue, staple or tape the images onto a canvas or board creating your own unique visual collage. Look at it through the eyes of your past, present, future, and beyond to your dreams. Display your collage in a place where you can see it daily. I’ve created these vision boards not just for my own life’s vision, but also for characters in my stories, or for the actual stories themselves.
“If you want to work on your art, work on your life.”—Chekhov
Through the thirteen weeks of meeting and discussing The Artist’s Way, did I recover my mojo? Of course I did. But I also found so much more. As one participant said, “It feels so good to be able to talk to people who really get what I’m feeling.”
In closing, many in the Sunday Artist’s Way meetings have decided to perhaps begin again. This time we’re thinking of meeting and reading a chapter a month as opposed to weekly. This will allow us to delve more deeply into each chapter and tasks. For myself, I know I will not let years pass before I once again pick up The Artist’s Way. I wonder in a year or two how many daily/weekly practices I’ll be continuing from this second reading?
Do you have something you can go to, a book, a daily routine, to recover your creative mojo?