Artists Way Week 2: The God Problem

Mar 23, 2023 | Blog

The good news is I am still managing to get up in the morning. Even this week, while my partner is away, which means a whole new level of commitment. The other good news is that my daughter is getting on board. She knows that mummy has to scribble furiously for twenty minutes in the morning, although she’s not sure why (what stories are you writing, mummy? I’m not writing stories. What are you doing then?). This fits nicely with her other lines of enquiry this week – what did the big bang sound like? where did fruit trees come from? Who is God and why did she make caves?

Which also leads us into the bad news. One thing I’ve always struggled with while reading The Artist’s Way is how often Julia Cameron uses the word ‘God.’ Even though she clearly acknowledges the issues people might have with it and is very keen to tackle them head on, something inside me cringes every time I see that word on the page.

For me, brought up as a Christian, the word signifies silly robes, swinging incense, lots of fancy carvings and words repeated off-by-heart every Sunday. Also some great tunes. I very much enjoyed being in the church choir. But it speaks to me of order, of duty, and of guilt. Not something I associate with the free play of creating stuff.

I also find myself cringing at the idea of any sort of higher power, fate, great big magical creative force in the universe. I love Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, and Bird by Bird by Anne Lammott, but they all hark back to the same idea – there is an overall force that is very keen for me to be a successful writer. I just have to turn up and do the work, and everything will fall into place. And I just find that incredibly hard to believe.

I find it easier to be mindful in spring, with so many changes happening

Perhaps this is why, in previous years, it was around Week 2 and 3 that I started pushing back. A day here, a couple of days there, and before I knew it I was so far behind the ‘plan’ that I gave up. While I will do the pages, believe in the idea of self-care to nurture the artist within, I come up against all sorts of barriers when I’m asked to believe that there’s something out there that wants to nurture me too.

In the reading for Week Two, there’s a whole section on ‘Skepticism.’ Clearly, she’s familiar with this issue. Julia Cameron equates our lack of belief in a creator/creative force with lack of belief in ourselves. The idea that we find it so hard to allow ourselves to create anything in the first place (it’s selfish, it’s a waste of time, I’m not good enough, etc.) is linked to the idea of us turning down serendipitous opportunities, stepping back from the possibility of our own success. This feels a little more palatable.

And, as she points out, ‘it’s not necessary that we change any of our beliefs. It is necessary that we examine them.’ This I can definitely get on board with. Just last month I went on a Buddhist meditation retreat, as much to get some peace and quiet as anything. I found myself incredibly moved by the experience. In fact, I now have a little meditation spot just next to my writing desk.

Speaking of what she calls ‘synchronicity,’ which is where things start to fit into place, there have definitely been some overlaps for me lately. In The Artist’s Way she talks about paying attention, and how staying in the moment is possibly the best thing you can do for your creative self. In the same way, the book I’ve got on meditation from a Buddhist point of view talks about breathing and being in your body, staying in the moment, just as a lot of mindfulness is.

Sometimes you just have to have faith…

What I’m saying is, perhaps my mind is just a little more open than it was last time I read this book. Even though it might be for underlying unpleasant reasons, I find myself far more willing to shrug my shoulders and say, ‘yeah, why not?’ After all, if there is an overall creative force that rewards me for putting efforts into my writing, well, that just makes it easier, right? As the buddhists say, intention is everything. If I intend to put my trust into a higher power, then that’s more important than actually believing in it. This is why, just to say, it’s a good start to intend to believe in your creative pursuits, that you are good enough, even if you’re not there yet.

So, I’m going to have a go at ‘nudging the door open a bit more.’ Intending to be more open-minded and see what happens. If nothing else, I hope it means I can stick to this creative course and have that to celebrate, if nothing else.

My favourite activity in Week 2 was listing a whole load of things that you enjoy doing. It resulted in me donning my roller blades (which I bought and used once the last time I read this book) and wobbling around a skate park with my daughter. I was surrounded by teens on skateboards and scooters, whizzing up and down ramps and flicking tricks, while my fearless five-year-old zoomed around in between them. As I wavered at the top of a tiny ramp, clutching the side for support, she shouted words of encouragement. ‘It’s ok, mummy,’ she said. ‘Be brave. Let go.’ And I did.

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