After a long-ago false start with the 12-week "creative recovery program" in Julia Cameron's book, The Artist's Way ("TAW" for short), I have finished. Victory!!!!!! Lots of exclamation points feel appropriate. Having abandoned it once, and now having completed it once, I have three tips in case you're interested in tackling this for the first time and want to complete the 12-week program:
- Read through Week One before you begin, and first decide how "by the book" you want your experience to be.
Cameron suggests you commit to daily writing via the "morning pages," a weekly artist date, and completion of each week's tasks. (Explanations of all these things are in the book.)
It would have taken me a year just to do all the tasks, and my life has a satisfying number of events that qualify as artist dates. So I decided my main commitment to completing the program was to write those morning pages, 3 per day, every day, for 12 weeks.
- Find support from a peer group.
I was really lucky: As I considered jumping into the book again this spring, I received an email from a local craft studio (in fact, called CRAFT) that they were putting together a group to follow TAW for 12 weeks. About 10 people participated, and the idea was to meet each Monday, discuss progress from the previous week, and maybe complete a little craft together. Summer happened, and only 2 of us ended up finishing the entire program in the 12-week period, although some combination of at least 4 people seemed to meet each week anyway.
Even though everyone had different goals and a different approach to the program, it was really helpful to have cheerleaders and co-commiserators (writing three pages a day is a challenge for most everyone!) offer their support, ideas, and enthusiasm. I enjoyed getting to know these artists, who had different perspectives about creative challenges and solutions. One artist joined the group to get momentum finishing a small but highly emotional piece, and through group discussion, revealed an unrelated huge project that had been sitting, untouched, for six years. She finished her small piece, and after our meetings, she resurrected the huge project and is updating it for publication.
If you scour Craigslist and Meetup.com and don't see a group in your local area that you can join, consider starting your own, in person or virtually. The benefits of a peer group are enormous.
- Plan your weekly progress on your calendar, so you stay on track.
One of the best things I did to help me stay on track was to put an appointment in my calendar (iCal) each Monday with that week's chapter. So if you look at my calendar, on June 15, there is an appointment at 6am called "TAW: Week One." It was my prompt to read the chapter corresponding to Week One and start writing about some of the topics and tasks for the new week. On June 22, my 6am appointment was called "TAW: Week Two" to remind me to stay on track. And so on, for 12 consecutive weeks.
Maybe you'll prefer to start your week on a different day, which is fine. My point is that I never questioned where I was in the program because it was on my calendar.
I wrote a Goodreads review of The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, in case you'd like more detail both on what I thought of the book, as well as the overall experience of completing the program. I'll restate the final sentiment of my review here: This is a great book for everyone, not just "creative" folks, because when you think about it, we are all creating a life. Might as well make it one we love.