The Artist’s Way Program: Week 7, Recovering a Sense of Connection
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 7’s theme of “recovering a sense of connection” is another title that seemed very arbitrary to me. However, what I related to most in this chapter are Cameron’s discussions of both perfectionism and jealousy.
Perfectionism is one of my biggest blocks, not just creatively. I’ve been aware of this for a long time, but it’s easier to label our flaws than to fix them. My unhealthy draw towards perfectionism is the reason I found myself interested in mindfulness in the first place; it seems like exactly the kind of self-reflection that could benefit me. I pretty much want to quote Cameron’s entire section on perfectionism because I related to it all so much, but instead I’ll pick out two favorites: “Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead.” and “Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough—that we should try again.” I read a psychology article a long while back that insisted people often have difficulty moving past their flaws when, on some level, they see those flaws as strengths. For me, this is definitely true. While I can logically, intellectually discuss how my perfectionism is harmful, deep down I think my conviction that I will never be good enough is what drives me so hard and I’m scared to let that go, scared accepting my present self means a decrease in output and/or quality.
Jealousy is also relatable to just about everyone. (If you can’t relate, I’m jealous of you.) I want to say jealousy is especially applicable in creative fields, but that might be an egocentric view; after all, jealousy is everywhere. I like Cameron’s quote: “jealousy is a map.” Figuring that out is what first drove me to writing. When I was seventeen, I read somewhere that you should listen closely to your jealousy, because it’s telling you what you want. I promptly realized I was more jealous of writers than any other human beings, and I wrote my first book within a year of that realization.
One of this week’s exercises also centers on jealousy: list people of whom you are jealous, then list why you are jealous of them, and last consider what actionable step you can take towards satisfying that jealousy. This will probably sound like bragging, but I am rarely jealous. I think my seventeen-year-old revelation showed me early on that this stigmatized emotion is actually a powerful key. I reroute any jealousy promptly into self-reflection on what I want and hard work towards it. Also I think jealousy is often a very misguided emotion. We look at others and see their reward but not the sacrifice. We want the good and not the bad. I believe everything in life is a trade-off and we each make trades that feel worthwhile to us.
This week also has you use the following phrase as a mantra: “treating myself like a precious object will make me strong.” I found that extremely valuable, because I don’t naturally agree with the statement. As Cameron discusses, I fall into the trap of believing I must be harsh with myself to achieve anything. She argues that nurturing is just as effective a motivator as guilt, with the added benefit of making you more happy than miserable! This week, and that mantra in particular, contributed to a significant shift in my mindset towards being kinder to myself.
I entirely skipped two assignments this week: going to a sacred space and doing the collage. I couldn’t think of any “sacred space” I had any interest in going to within my own town. I might well be making too much of the word “sacred,” but if I downplay it then my answer is “home,” anyway. So I guess I went there! As for the collage, I’ve done them before, way too many times in my opinion, and I never once gained anything from them. Especially since I don’t read magazines and I have zero interest in buying several I don’t want for the specific purpose of doing a collage I didn’t want to do in the first place.
I’m actually starting to enjoy my morning pages. Every week also features an “end-of-week check-in” with a few questions, the first always about these pages. I found this week’s check-in phrase of “coddling your artist child with childhood love” inane, but I know that’s my cynical skeptic speaking. And, more seriously, yes, I am definitely being kinder to myself.
I noticed a distinct mind shift this week. Cameron mentions that, while most of her students gain something from the program, for the majority change comes so gradually as to be imperceptible at first. This week, I felt like I really noticed my own changes. I’m happier as well as more relaxed and content. I feel like I’m finding balance in my life by pursuing the things I want in manageable moderation.