The Artist’s Way Program: Week 11, Recovering a Sense of Autonomy
This is a series of blog posts following my experiences doing Julia Cameron’s 12-week Artist’s Way program. If this series is new to you, feel free to read the original book review first.
Week 11 helps us with “recovering a sense of autonomy.” It’s the second-to-last week and I feel sad that it’s almost over, like at the end of a great vacation or summer camp. This week’s chapter is all about accepting ourselves. While one can argue that’s what we’ve been working on through the whole program, I think we’ve been more steadily building towards this week’s true, full acceptance.
Cameron discusses the importance of separating creativity from success. Our creative value shouldn’t be measured by such external factors. She also hypes up the importance of exercise and, as a bit of a fitness addict myself, I avidly agree. Yes, it’s good for health, but there’s also more carryover benefits than one might think. Exercise is all about steady, slow self-improvement. It’s proof that small, manageable steps lead to great outcomes. Running a marathon may not seem to have anything to do with writing a book, but it proves to yourself that you can finish something. All it required was steady effort.
I skipped Cameron’s assignment of creating an “artist’s altar,” but I feel that it’s very similar to what I’ve already started doing with my inspirational poster (see my Week 1 post). This week also asked us to do one nurturing thing for ourselves every day. I found that excessive, but it just demonstrates how contrary it is to my nature. I think I nurture myself plenty…but every day? My “nurturing” included working on said inspirational poster, baking a cake, and finally buying a cookbook I’ve been talking about wanting almost every week for six months.
I liked meditating to my own recorded voice reading the Basic Principles. Honestly, I liked them better that way, though I don’t know what that says about my ego! Perhaps I just like my own tonal emphasis on phrases that make me work for the meaning. I also enjoyed listing ten wishes for the following categories: health, possessions, leisure, relationships, creativity, career, and spirituality. It was especially freeing that these wishes don’t need to be realistic. I wrote down a few things I want but know will never happen, another rather therapeutic exercise. I expected to find writing a letter to my Inner Artist silly, but to my surprise I not only loved it but loved it enough to add my letter to my inspirational poster. Mine is more like an apology, for neglecting and dismissing my “Inner Artist” all these years, trying to push with guilt rather than love, as well as a promise to treat myself differently moving forward.
Inspired by the Basic Principles meditation assignment, I did more meditating for my artist date this week and really liked it. Not an easy thing for someone who is all about productivity, but that’s also why I think I could gain a lot from meditation. I’m going to try to make it a regular habit, maybe starting with a mere ten minutes once a week. Slow, steady steps.
I skipped three of my seven morning pages this week. Cameron warns that most people avoid these pages when they’re processing a lot of negative emotions and that proved the case for me. I hit a major personal bump this week and, my apologies, but I’m going to be vague in what I share. Throughout this program, Cameron discusses how some relationships are built on sharing each other’s insecurities; when one person moves from insecure to confident, the other might behave more sabotaging than supportive. I rolled my eyes at and laughed off her repeated warnings about how other blocked creatives don't like watching their friends becoming unblocked. I felt convinced that all my prominent relationships are entirely healthy and supportive, and some silly self-therapy program is hardly going to trigger any major changes. Now I feel Cameron predicted something I didn’t see coming. This may sound superstitious, but I believe it's basic psychology: misery loves company. If you're lucky enough to find this program helps you replace stress and anxiety with peace and contentment, well, you may be surprised by who's not happy to see you happy.
This was a hard week for me personally, but only further convinced me of the value of this program. Some relationships I thought were strong suddenly crumbled, but the timing speaks volumes about the noticeable change in my attitude. I'm happier, more content and relaxed, less stressed and anxious, more optimistic and mindful. I don't think this program created problems in my relationships; I think a healthier outlook allowed me to see problems I overlooked before. Also, as depressed as these incidents made me, I feel Cameron’s program provided me with an excellent tool chest for taking care of myself during a hard time.