One of the benefits of this pandemic we’re all in is that many live events have gone online. Because of this, I listened to a conversation between creative luminaries Julia Cameron and Elizabeth Gilbert. They have both written numerous novels and non-fiction books on creativity – way too many to mention but Julia is well known for The artist’s way and Liz for Eat pray love.
It was run by the How To Academy – I listened to the replay as even for Julia and Liz, I wouldn’t/couldn’t stay up until 3am!
Julia created the idea of morning pages for blocked artists – writers, actors, musicians, painters, sculptors, filmmakers and so on. Morning pages are almost the first thing to do when you wake up – three pages of longhand writing about anything that crosses your mind. You bring all the rubble to the surface – it’s not art, not real writing. The idea is to write from the petty to the profound. It’s important to keep your hand moving across the page – this trains you to expand, to make you larger than your current size. Julia calls pages the bridge – when people are ready to change sizes, from little you to big you.
In response, Liz said it was surprising the insights that ended up being the bridge. She quoted Einstein, who said that the same mind that created the problem cannot solve the problem. (I keep hearing this quote come up again and again!) Because you’re trying to draw the information out of a mind that won’t change, you become stuck. And when you’re stuck, the morning pages become your bridge. Liz described how first thing in the morning, you haven’t had time to become yourself so when you write your morning pages, the gatekeeper isn’t awake, so everything can slip in.
Julia also created the idea of artist dates, when you take yourself out weekly for a solo expedition. It could be a movie, a walk in a different part of your city, a class in a different medium, a visit to a gallery or museum. Creativity isn’t sensible, Julia reminded us. Serious art is born from serious play. Our lives of chores and work and obligations can drain our creative well, therefore we need artist dates to replenish ourselves.
Liz described artist dates as a disruption to the commuter mind, the mind that despairingly believes tomorrow will be exactly the same as today. A friend once told her that we should do something different until something better comes along. The artist date is a way to do just that, to break up the monotony of the same breakfast, parking spot, office meeting.
Liz spoke with gentle humour about the many times people have asked her – how can I stop the world and go on a spiritual journey? She laughed and said that the pandemic is similar to an Indian ashram – many of us are invited to do absolutely nothing now. And there are the same feelings of rage, frustration, anger, regardless of whether it’s trying to sit on a meditation cushion in an ashram or being cooped up at home now. Her advice was to stay with it. Stop filling in time with activities and finding replacements for shopping and catching up. Go to your room and think! She said we’re social animals but we’re also spiritual. It’s beneficial to stop and get very still.
Their conversation has inspired me to greatness in my writing. Anyone else feeling inspired to write or bake or garden or create something?