Posts Tagged :

Julia Cameron

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What To do When Doubt Creeps In

When in doubt, don’t stop.

A Realization

I usually start my days by journaling morning pages (lately it’s seemed like I have no time!) but I also keep other journals about life milestones or specific journeys I’m on. I have two journals, one for Screenwriting and one for Acting that I like to write in every now and then documenting big goals I’ve accomplished in those areas, breakthroughs, things I’ve learned along the way, etc. and I recently started flipping through my acting journal. It’s crazy to read everything I’ve written in there since 2014! I wasn’t pursuing it as seriously as I am now but even then it’s so funny to read my thoughts back then.

I read the Jenna Fischer book The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide a couple months ago and ever since then it clicked in my mind just how long the actor’s journey can be. I think the same goes for any creative industry though. It can take years and years and years of hard work and breaks to finally “make it.” I had this funny feeling happen recently. I told myself that there was no other option right now but to go after my dreams wholeheartedly and with so much hustle. I don’t recommend the days where it feels so exhausting you might need 10 cups of coffee to finish the day BUT it certainly felt forward moving.

Hustle Hard, Hustle with a Purpose

Why else do we hustle and work so hard for something non-stop other than for the idea that we will get a break one day to get to do something we love? I think “breaks” come in all shapes and sizes but it’s that feeling of: okay this is all for something bigger and this is a stepping stone.

But recently I booked a part that I wanted SO bad and I was so happy, so excited, so ready to take on this challenge and yet…doubt creeped in.

“Doubt is a signal of the creative process. It is a signal that you are doing something right—not that you are doing something wrong or crazy or stupid. The sickening chasm of fear that doubt triggers to yawn open beneath you is not a huge abyss into which you are going to tumble, spiraling downward like you are falling through the circles of hell. No, doubt is most often a signal you are doing something and doing it right.” – Julia Cameron, The Artists Way

That reminder is probably the biggest gift any of creatives can give ourselves. A reminder to recognize the doubt and then keep plowing through to the other side, because on that other side is a wonderful experience that could very much change our life in both big and small ways.

“For an artist, the first doubt is like the first drink for a sober alcoholic: We cannot afford to romance it. The first doubt leads to the second. The second leads to the third, and in no time you are staggering , hurting yourself on the sharp edges of the furniture…When doubt moves at an artist, the artist must learn how to step aside and let the charge pass by.”

Whatever you’re hustling towards and whatever opportunity has landed in your lap, don’t let doubt deter your confidence or your passion. We can do this. When in doubt, don’t stop.

 

What’s something you’ve been doubting lately that you could use a little encouragement with?

How Finishing Mundane Tasks Can Lead to Creative Productivity
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Finishing Mundane Tasks Can Lead to Creative Productivity

Sometimes the path to creative productivity is a road less traveled when you’re willing to go out of the norm. Today I wanted to talk about the idea that digging into your daily chore list or completing an otherwise mundane task can lead you to become unblocked creatively on the project you desperately need to gain momentum on. Whether it’s a plot line for your novel, a color scheme for your latest painting, or even a blog post that you just can’t seem to sit down and let the words flow, the answer to your problems might just be the laundry you’ve been dreading to fold.

Cooperating with the Creative Process

One of the biggest challenges for me as a writer is sitting down to do the work. Often times, I feel like I will do everything else BUT sit down to finish my scripts. I’ve come to know my habits however, and part of the reason I do that is because I am a type-A perfectionist and I want my story lines and my dialogue to be perfect before I even sit down to write. I also get impatient. I just want it to be finished already, especially because I can see it so clear in my head! I’m not asking too much am I? For it to be all perfect before I even start?! I know, I know. I thought so.

“Mystery is at the heart of creativity,” says Julia Cameron of The Artist’s Way. “That, and surprise. All too often, when we say we want to be creative, we mean that we want to be able to be productive. Now, to be creative is to be productive—but by cooperating with the creative process, not forcing it.”

So what I’ve learned to do is to trust the creative process, not force it.

Treat Your Work Like a Cupcake

Yes, like a cupcake. Your story, your painting, your blog post…whatever your project is that you’re feeling blocked with, it needs time to bake. And sometimes when you sit down to delve deep into your project, you’re just creatively blocked because the right ideas haven’t come along yet. No one knows how frustrating that is more than me. But treat your project like a cupcake. Give it time to blend together and rise!

To Begin, Begin. Or…Finish Something Else

Often times the best way to get through that gray period where you’re feeling blocked, frustrated, and unproductive is to go do a nagging chore. Yes, I’m actually telling you to go do the laundry which you hate, the dishes that you despise, or drag yourself to the gym that you’ve been avoiding. How in the world does this relate back to finishing that creative project? Because sometimes completing a mundane task has a funny way of leading us into the perfect idea for our story or hitting us smack in the face with a blog post title that will make your fingers fly across the keyboard to get it out. That “dark period” where you feel like a complete failure because you just can’t get into that productive creative flow can be a tricky state. But in a weird reverse psychology way, the art of finishing something seems to be a nice remedy to your beginning.

A Mundane Task: Part of Creative Discovery

As Julia Cameron puts it in The Artist’s Way, “We are an ambitious society, and it is often difficult for us to cultivate forms of creativity that do not directly serve us and our career goals.”

So while you may think that going for a dreaded run or doing laundry will do nothing to unblock you or push you along in the creative project that you just can’t seem to be productive with, it actually can very much do the opposite.

“Many hobbies involve a form of artist-brain mulling that leads to enormous creative breakthroughs. When I have a screenwriting student stuck at the midpoint of act two, I ask them to please go do their household mending. They usually balk, offended by such a mundane task, but sewing has a nice way of mending up plots,” says Cameron.

It’s hard to do things that at first seem like they won’t further our goals or our career. I don’t think any of us are exactly thinking, “Okay, first vacuum and then I’ll be straight on my way to being a New York Times Best Seller!” But creating order in our life can suddenly put in us the need to create order in our creative project, which then turns to productivity. The routine of doing another task can often jump start our creativity and even the sense of accomplishment that we feel when finishing a nagging task. Suddenly you go from 0 to 100 with a newfound sense of energy and purpose with your work.

The Answers to Your Creative Productivity Questions

When unfinished work presents itself, a million questions can run through your mind. I know when I’m stuck on a specific scene I’m working on, I’m usually asking myself a thousand “what if” questions. “What if this character does this instead of that?” “What if my plot goes this way instead of that?” Completing a mundane task can sometimes provide the answers to those questions.

Cameron gives a great example of this in The Artist’s Way (last quote I promise). She talks about a woman, a designer, who bicycles home from work every day. The rhythmic and repetitive motion provides solutions to her most nagging creative questions that block her from being productive and coming up with simple design solutions. When bicycling, “Solutions just come. Somehow, I am freed to free-associate, and things begin to fall into place.”

Takeaways

So, go clean your room, take a shower, put the dishes away, or take a run. These everyday mundane tasks are itching to get your creative juices flowing, whether or not you think they are. These chores just might be the needed step towards unblocking yourself/your creativity. How else do you think I got this blog post done 😉

Morning Pages for Creatives: How They Can Help You Gain Clarity in Your Life & Business
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Morning Pages for Creatives: How They Can Help You Gain Clarity in Your Life & Business

The Importance of Morning Pages & How It Changed My Life

Five years ago, I was told about Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, a 12 week step-by-step guide to uncovering your “inner artist” and becoming unblocked creatively.  What I thought I would discover is a cult-followed book that spouts a bunch of non-sense about how to overcome self-doubt or the “secret” that would fall short of my expectations like so many other books. What I never thought I would find is a book that changed my life.

I know—that’s a heavy statement, but I mean that even in the lightest of terms too. At the heart of The Artist’s Way is a ritual called morning pages. At the very least incorporating this ritual changed my morning routine and in the greatest sense, it made me acutely more aware of what I want out of life, in my career, and to sort through things/thoughts/people that might be weighing me down. You might’ve heard of “morning pages” described in a different way. I had heard of stream of consciousness writing or free-writing, where in both instances you write about whatever comes to mind. Morning Pages are similar, but Cameron refers to morning pages as 3 pages written in longhand form (preferably on 8 1/2 x 10 paper) every morning. The idea behind this ritual is that you will start to free yourself creatively, write away the self-doubt that burdens your creative dreams, discover things about yourself you may not have realized, and get to the core of what might be blocking you from creative success.

What’s the Difference Between Journaling and Morning Pages?

Mornings pages aren’t addressed to anyone, as in “Dear diary…” and unlike a journal or diary, they aren’t meant to look back on and read. Think of them more as a write them and let ‘em go type of thing. But, it’s up to you to decide where you want to take your morning pages. Similar to a diary though, they are meant for your eyes only. What I love about morning pages, as Julia Cameron puts it, “There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages.” This takes away so much pressure because you can rest assured that you’re free to write whatever comes to mind. If you want to complain about the dentist yesterday, that’s fine! If a new character pops into your head for your novel, go with it! At first, the task of writing 3 pages every single morning is daunting. I’ll admit that I even dreaded it at first because it felt like I had to think of things to write. If you have to, you can write over and over again “I don’t know what to write” until something pops up. But don’t feel like a fraud if you struggle with this at first because it becomes easier. That I promise you!

The best thing you can do is explore how morning pages best fits you. There’s no wrong way to go about it, so try different things! For example, I usually feel like I need to spend the first page writing down things that are bugging me or stressing me out or weighing negatively on my mind. Then the other pages are usually more positive, filled with things I want to do or I’m working on or excited about. I’ve also heard of some people using their morning pages to map out their day or to do a handwritten meditation, so there’s a lot of possibility for something that’s “stream of consciousness.”

Moving Through Morning Pages

A lot of thoughts will pop into your head as you move through the weeks of The Artist’s Way and morning pages. So even when you think you want to quit or don’t want to get up 30 minutes earlier to write your pages, here are some advantages that come from them:

  • You start to look forward to it. You move from struggling to find things to write, to struggling to keep up with all the thoughts that are popping into your head. Seriously—you should see some of my pages. They start out so nice and then towards the end of the 2nd page it’s completely chicken scratch because I have so many things that are coming to mind that I want to write down before they vanish! Chicken scratch or not, you start to find a peace of mind not just about your creative pursuits, but about your life, relationships, things you stress over, things you have anxiety over… the list never ends. You end up recording your thoughts about things you didn’t even realize you had an opinion on, or a feeling about, or an idea of. That’s pretty powerful, isn’t it?
  • You gain more confidence and hear that voice A LOT less that says, “Are you crazy? You can’t do that.” As Julia Cameron likes to call it, your “inner critic” shuts up a lot more.
  • The greatest thing that happens though, is the clarity you get from doing these morning pages. Essentially what we’re doing is starting our day with a thought dump. You write down everything that comes to mind (good and bad). I found that when I did this brain-dump in the morning, I was able to move through my day with such a freeing feeling. A lot of the thoughts that seemed to cloud my mind or give me anxiety over were all dumped into this notebook that I left behind as I went about my day each morning. And then came the flood of creative ideas.
  • It was as if I had to push aside the worries and self-doubt that clouded my brain to make room for confidence and ideas that were just waiting to pop into my mind. I have no doubt that’s what will also happen for you and THIS is why Julia Cameron created “morning pages.” But it’s not just meant for creative people that need to make room for more ideas or who are feeling creatively blocked.

What If I am Not A Creative?

Morning Pages is one of the most helpful rituals/tools for people that don’t even know they are creative. Everyone is creative on some level, but what “creativity” looks like is completely different for each person. I know, I know—maybe you’re sitting there on the other side of this screen saying: “Sam, I am not creative. I work out of an office in a cubicle from 9-5 and the thought of writing or drawing or taking a picture sounds like the most boring thing in the world to me.” That’s fine! But if you don’t think re-decorating your room or sanding a coffee table down to be re-painted or baking a pie is creative…then I’m real excited for the things you’ll discover after making morning pages part of your ritual.

The discovery that comes through writing down everything that passes through your mind is amazing. You may be that “suit” that works in the office, but when you start to do morning pages you start to uncover dreams you buried 30 years ago and suddenly that idea you had of opening your own restaurant doesn’t seem so crazy anymore. So yeah, I’d say that morning pages are pretty dang life-changing!

Give It A Go

Here are some of my tips for starting morning pages:

  • Have an open mind. Like I said, even if you don’t consider yourself creative or don’t think you have any thoughts or feelings buried within you—just try it!
  • Take it one day at a time. Don’t think about week 12 when you’re on week 1. It will make it easier on yourself when you think of the day’s ritual of writing those 3 morning pages as opposed to stressing about how many you’ll need to write by the end of week 12. Don’t stress because more than likely your mindset will shift by the end of it all.
  • If you find 8 ½ x 10 page papers too daunting, choose a smaller notebook. This is something that I’m not sure would be recommended straight from Julia Cameron herself, but I’ve found that I feel accomplished after writing these pages no matter how big the pages are. I wouldn’t sell yourself short, but don’t stress on page size either.
  • Don’t write your pages on your laptop. This is a big no-no because it’s defeating many of the purposes of morning pages. Writing longhand means you have time to process your thoughts and ideas. You have time to sit with your thoughts whereas on a laptop, you’re more likely to rush through your pages and focus more on grammar errors than being aware of what’s going on in your head and heart. Plus, is it just me or is there something a little romantic and nostalgic about writing in a notebook with a good cup of coffee at hand?
  • Put your phone on silent. Your thoughts will get interrupted right when you’re on the verge of something great and your brain will start thinking ahead about your to-do or the Instagram you need to post. For the 20-30 min. that you need for your pages, that cute puppy video can wait!
  • Just start. Morning pages are really such a simple idea that it’s almost unbelievable to people that they can have this much of an impact. So with that, I leave you to go try morning pages for yourself!

Leave a comment below and let me know how you feel about incorporating this exercise into your routine! I’d love to know if you plan on giving Morning Pages a go and your thoughts throughout the process. Reach out if you’ve read the Artist’s Way and currently write morning pages yourself, too!

Ready to give it a try? As silly as this sounds, sometimes I was more apt to write my mornings pages when the paper or notebook was cute. Feel free to check out my Etsy shop and the cute notebooks I’ve added!

xosamantha

Pin the below image to Pinterest so you can easily refer back to this guide on Morning Pages!

Morning Pages for Creatives: How To Transform Your Life and Business from The Artist's Way Tool of Morning Pages

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