The Artist’s Way: Resolving to Be Me

Whether we’re talking about resolutions of initiating new behaviors like working out or extinguishing old behaviors like food indulgences, there is a curious “third self” whose job is to think of clever ways to resolve conflicts between the first and second selves.

The third self employs all kinds of logic, rewards, and punishments to get compliance of the second self to the first self’s supposed “good” intentions.

I would think that the whole matter requires a fourth (higher) self who looks at the whole drama and says, my only intention is to be unapologetically who I am. It is the resolution to favor authenticity over manipulation.

Jack/Zen

This morning I realized that I’ve owned my copy of The Artist’s Way for nine years. Nine years. Where did they go? Anyhow, I’ve made two attempts at following the book, and each time my efforts petered out just after the first chapter. On January 1, a group of bloggers loosely joined will embark on this journey, and I am among them. (Anyone is welcome to join in, too!)

I’ve skimmed the other chapters and was intrigued by the tasks assigned in each. As I pondered why I never progressed further than chapter one, the answer emerged: I loath the morning pages, where each morning one is supposed to handwrite three pages in stream-of-conscious style. I rarely write longhand anymore; when I do, it is uncomfortable for me. I am also not a morning person, and getting up early for my new job will be enough of a feat. Furthermore, there is in me a rebellious streak. When something is conveyed as non-negotiable, as Julia Cameron’s “morning pages rule” is, I resist. I think, “Excuse me? I am voluntarily doing this. I paid for the book. Do not position anything as mandatory to me.” My failed attempts at traveling the Artist’s Way were rooted in this response. My “artist self” was overcome by my “lazy/rebellious/critical/fill-in-the-blank-with-a-negative self” and gave up.

So now I must ask myself if I resolve to do it the author’s way in this third attempt and risk getting bogged down in morning page resistance again. I used to think that my failure to complete the work was because I felt lonely and wanted to do it with other people, but I know myself better than I did in 1997 or 2002. Certainly I will enjoy the journey with other people, but the barrier to my success is this resistance to the rule of morning pages.

Julia Cameron would probably call me “blocked” and insist this is exactly why I should write the morning pages. My response to this is to listen to my own wisdom. She may be a guide to creativity, but she is not the Final Authority on Creative Truth. I am willing to participate and make serious effort to explore my creativity. If one autocratic rule will hinder this, then I will dispense with it. Why rob myself of other worthwhile exploration (the spirit of the law) for one rule (the letter of the law)? Her book is a guide, not an artist’s catechism.

So I hereby declare power over my own creative process and dare to fashion it to my needs. I am not split into “selves” that are pitted against each other. I have faith in self-knowledge; I rely on my wisdom that says there is more to be gained by making an exception to her rule than in being leashed to it. I resolve, as Jack wrote, “to favor authenticity over manipulation” and unapologetically be myself. And who knows? Perhaps by freeing myself of the illusion that I must do as the author says, I will find myself genuinely writing morning pages. Or not.

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18 Comments on “The Artist’s Way: Resolving to Be Me”

  1. Lynn Says:

    … lunch break pages? afternoon pages? evening pages? all of the above?

  2. Kathryn Says:

    Well, nope. Her prescription is three handwritten pages in the morning. Period. I tried to do it at lunch, afternoons, evenings, and still I didn’t keep at it. I tried typing them. No go. I simply don’t want to write the mandatory three pages.

  3. jack Says:

    What a great narrative on the dilemma none of us can take personally because it’s so universal. My experience is that the less we fight with ourselves to be creative, the more the juices flow naturally. Freedom to be who we are is the beginning of any creative process because uniqueness is common to both creativity and being who we are. thanks …

  4. donna Says:

    Yup, I have the same problem with Artist’s Way, or anything else that tries to dictate how things must be done.

  5. nickie Says:

    Ever consider using a rather small notebook to create the three written pages? Or would that be compromising the intent? ;-D

  6. Kathryn Says:

    Heh. I’ve considered it, but from my understanding she intends for them to be regular sized pages. Although I do have a small moleskine that might be a compromise. We shall see!

  7. Fran Says:

    I’ve never gotten 100% through the Artists Way myself, though I do admire Julia Cameron’s work. I did do morning pages for a time–and think it is a great concept, but, like you, I don’t do it regularly.

    Good luck with the group endeavor!

  8. Jennifer Says:

    I’m like you, Kathryn, not exactly a morning person. I, too, was really bothered by the “morning pages” edict (hate to be told to do something!!) I finally compromised in two ways – using a very small notebook and I did them at night right before bed. I got the junk out of my head so I could sleep peacefully!

  9. Jennifer Says:

    P.S.

    Good luck with the goup AW and have a good New Year.

  10. Shirl Says:

    Happy New Year, You!

    And thank you for the wonderful book. I was so surprised to get an Amazon package. Hmmm, I thought. I thought all my orders had come. Didn’t think about a birthday gift. Yummy!

    {{{hugs}}}

    All the best to you in the coming year!

  11. reallynotimportant Says:

    If you are in conflict with yourself then it will impact on your art. When you are in harmony with yourself, your art will be better. If you don’t want to do something (like the 3 pages) then simply don’t do it. Don’t fight over it or wrap it up in guilt or anything. Just don’t do it.

  12. Teri Says:

    Thank you for this. I feel the same way. There is much good that can and will come of doing the exercises you feel moved to do and the artist’s dates. That said, I am going to TRY to do the morning pages. Again. 😉

  13. Marilyn Says:

    This is a very thoughtful post, Kathryn. Although I’ve done morning pages at various times over the years, I heard myself saying YES! to Kat (weeks ago) before I reminded myself about the morning pages…which I’ve grown to dread in the past. Part of it is that I don’t hand-journal anymore…my handwriting can’t keep up with my thoughts. Part of it is that I lose patience with it…I’ll start off a morning pages session with a bang, but then lose steam a page or so into it…”Now what do I write?” That said, I’ve reminded myself in recent days that Cameron considers them ‘non-negotiable’ to the process…and figure there must be a reason why. (Granted, it’s HER reason, not mine.) So I’m going to give it my best shot to do them daily. Not because I think I ‘should,’ but because I know that in my life I struggle with a lack of discipline…and it’s a ‘skill’ I want to hone. I agree with you that you should do the process however it feels right for you. I have a feeling that there will be others ‘playing along at home’ with us who simply don’t want the commitment of being an ‘official’ participant. It’s all good–no matter how we do it. 🙂

  14. Rebekah Says:

    Morning pages were a problem to me in the past, not because it was an edict, but because I edit myself. Writing stream of consciousness is almost impossible. Which is something I don’t like about myself and want to rectify. I want to learn what is behind the voices that stop me from saying what gurgles up from the depths of my depths. I think each of us is probably drawn to this process for our own reasons, our own heart tugs. So, go with yours and I’ll go with mine and we’ll all come out better for the experience. BTW, I never finished 30 full projects for November. But the ones I did finish stretched me. That was the point. You’re right, Julia Cameron is a coach, a guide. If she was the holder of the ultimate key to artistic personhood, she would be so revered and everyone would be required to complete her prescribed path before being declared an artist. Not so. She’s a helper. This is a vehicle and we’re all jumping on and go, go, going.

  15. MJ Says:

    You’ve made some points that I really relate to. I have kept a journal for years but have never written in it on a daily basis. Why not? Because I don’t feel like it/have nothing to say at that time/have found other outlets to express myself on that day/didn’t have time etc etc. I’m going to give the morning pages a go but in the spirit of being true to myself, I’m using a notebook and have given myself permission to complete this first thing in the morning or last thing at night. In the end, I figure it’s better for me to modify than not attempt it at all. Do what’s best for you.

  16. m Says:

    Katherine I used to facilitate AW groups what helps is an unlined notebook A4 or A5 (if A5 just turn around and write across the page) lined is too much like school work. Secondly go and get a cheeepo ink cartridge pen. (Tip from Natalie Goldberg’s writings) this is much much easier ont he hand than a biro as it needs much less phyiscal effort to write upon the page. Never re-read until the 8th week – give up on being ‘literary’ and finally if you dont’ do them just dispassionately notice the difference between days when you do do them and the ones you don’t.

  17. Christine Says:

    It’s funny…I usually feel rebellious and a little resistive in the face of this kind of thing, too. However, in the past, I have felt kind of liberated when writing the morning pages -no rules of grammar, no censorship, no need to relay any specific information or force any pithy remarks. By just letting it flow more loosely than I do with my journal, I have found that I am often very surprised by the things that I say to myself when no one is looking.

  18. Jana Says:

    Morning pages? *gulp* What have I gotten myself into?!

    *sigh* Well if nothing else, I can guarantee that I’ll accomplish one thing… bigger handwriting!! Haha