While massive rainfall this past spring did wonders for my garden, it did nothing to grow imagination in my household. In fact, countless days spent indoors turned my tween-age boys into bug-eyed videogame deadbeats. And while I hate to admit it, I was getting as bored as they were, with little inspiration to do any of the projects I’d been saving for a “rainy day.”
So when a friend’s email came through suggesting we take a two-day workshop on tapping into “our personal artist” – led by best-selling author and creativity guru Julia Cameron – I jumped at the chance. Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, has sold more than four million copies worldwide and has spurred an entire creativity movement. It didn’t hurt that the workshop was taking place at Kripalu, a picturesque yoga and health centre located among the rolling hills of Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Once there, I found myself seated in a room with some 60 (mostly) women of all ages looking to find or reclaim their inner artist. There were healthcare professionals, writers, business owners, office administrators and even a minister. Cameron assured us that unleashing our inner artist was essential to finding fulfillment, no matter what our professions. She also insisted that there were no excuses (i.e., lack of time, financial constraints) to stop us from making it happen. When I cornered her during a break, she also told me being more creative would most definitely rub off on my kids. I was intrigued. (Cameron has also published The Artist’s Way for Parents: Raising Creative Children.)
What ensued were two long days of group activities – based on the 12-week program outlined in her book – that were at times entertaining and also draining. She encouraged us to use affirmations such as, “I am a talented person” or “I have a right to be an artist,” and showed us how our own inner critics and sensors can prevent us from being creative.
I left the session determined to use her tools at home too (all outlined in her book as well). Here are some highlights:
Do your morning pages: Hand-write three stream-of-consciousness, full pages (no computers) first thing in the morning to clear your mind of clutter so you can focus on more creative things. Admittedly this was extremely hard for me. I can barely read my own writing anymore, and coming up with three pages first thing is daunting. But Cameron says it doesn’t matter what you write, only that you do it with abandon. After four weeks of writing five out of seven days in the week, I started to really enjoy it. My mind felt less bogged down with daily worries as I got them out onto the page, and I found myself tapping into certain inspirations and ideas I’d pushed deep into my subconscious.
Make an artist date: Take two hours every week to do a solo excursion (eg., a walk in the forest, a visit to an art gallery, a trip to a new neighbourhood) as a way to open yourself up to new insights, inspirations and guidance. Once I got over feeling guilty about blocking the time for myself, I found these excursions wonderful. My senses were ablaze with the colours, smells and sounds of my surroundings. I came home with interesting decorating ideas, new concepts for work and inspiration for activities I could do with the kids.
Speed-write a wish list: Write 20 things you enjoy doing or things that make you happiest – and do it within minutes before your self-sensor kicks in. Get your kids to speed-write their happiest desires, too. Examine the list and see what you’ve been putting on the backburner. Find a way to make at least one of your items happen this week. Post these lists so you can continue to check off activities as you do them.
Collage your life: Grab a stack of magazines for you and your kids and give yourself 20 minutes to tear through them, collecting pictures that represent your dreams, past, present and future. Now take a sheet of paper each and arrange these pictures as you see fit. Display your ‘happy boards’ prominently in your household to give you ongoing inspiration.
Rosalind Stefanac is a Toronto-based writer and says she and her sons are now finding interesting things to do even on rainy days.