“Do not call procrastination laziness. Call it fear. Fear is what blocks an artist. The fear of not being good enough. The fear of not finishing. The fear of failure and of success. The fear of beginning at all. There is only one cure for fear. That cure is love. Use love for your artist to cure its fear. Stop yelling at yourself. Be nice. Call fear by its right name.” —Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity (Tarcher, 1995).
When I suggest to friends that they should consider writing as a spiritual practice, most respond that they don’t know how to start, or they have no talent as a writer. It is not their gift. The best antidote to this fear of writing or fear of inadequacy as a writer is Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. Cameron suggests starting to write by rising in the morning and writing “morning pages,” which she calls the “primary tool of creative recovery.” These are three longhand pages of whatever comes into our mind. These reflections do not have to make “sense.” Writing them is intended to be a listening exercise in the morning: imagining that it is the hand of God moving through our hand as we write.
I have also experienced this exercise as a clearing or cleaning out of the garbage in my head. Fearful thoughts stay powerful when they remain in my head; but when I put them on paper, some of their power over me goes away. Perhaps in some way I am turning them over, releasing them to God, so that the creative process can begin.
Cameron recommends that every night we pray for guidance, and ask for answers. The morning pages are a process of listening for the answers as the day begins.
I often write down on the inside covers of books the date when I started reading them. As I reread Cameron’s book, I pull back her cover and see a date twenty years ago. Memories flood in of the book group at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church with which I read The Artist’s Way over one summer. I especially remember Lee Nix, who had been the chair of my discernment committee, who was a mentor to me, an encourager of creativity.
I believe it enhances the experience to read, write, and work through a book like The Artist’s Way with a book study group—to go together through the book’s many suggested activities and exercises. Today I am reminded also of how powerful just writing down a date can be in the context of spiritual writing.
Just in time for the holidays
A Spiritual Rx for Advent Christmas, and Epiphany
The Sequel to A Spiritual Rx for Lent and Easter
Both are $18
All Money from sale of the books goes either to Camp Mitchel Camp and Conference Center in Arkansas or Hurricane Relief in the Diocese of Central Gulf Coast