Tools To Dig Up Your Creative Treasure

In order to dig up our creative treasure, first, we need to find it. But we can’t find it if our vision is blocked from seeing it. One of the tools used to remove blocks in our creativity is what Julia Cameron, the author of The Artist’s Way, calls ‘morning pages.’

Morning Pages (Journaling)

The ‘morning pages’ is an exercise to write down your thoughts every morning for the twelve weeks of the course, which is the format of the book. There is no right or wrong way to do morning pages. They are meant to be, simply, the act of moving your hand across the page and writing down whatever comes to mind. Nothing is too silly, stupid or negative to be included. Nobody but you is allowed to read the pages. You do not even go back over and read the pages once they are written. 

When I read this I thought that there is nothing new about that concept. I was hesitant to start journaling again, after having spent years writing out my thoughts in journals. I had moved away from that practice, sick and tired of my own boring thoughts that were stuck on rewind, continually going back over my past mishaps and mistakes. Endlessly filling journals with roller coaster rides of ‘woe is me’ and ‘rocky balboa‘ moments of victory.

But I agreed to do it again, only because this time it promised to help unblock my creativity, which is what I desperately wanted to achieve. For years I had felt stuck in no man’s land, writing poems but not sharing them with anyone. The thought of sharing them would overwhelm me with fear of rejection and criticism, that other people would think of me as a silly, off-with-the-fairies ‘poet.’

I didn’t buy fancy journals to write in as I did not intend to keep them. My morning pages filled up with fragmented sentences full of negative, positive, whiny, praising, self-pitying, cheerful, repetitive thoughts playing cat and mouse across my pages. But the author encourages her readers with the comment “That’s good! Because all this stuff stands between you and your creativity.”

I soon fell into a rhythm of scribbling down everything that came to mind. All the stuff that was cluttering up my mind. I was horrified at how many of my thoughts were about old past crap and negative thoughts. It reminds me of the final scene in the movie Bridget Jones Diary when Mark reads the awful comments Bridget had written about him in her diary. Bridget replies “It’s only a diary. Everyone knows diaries are just full of crap.”

The author shares stories throughout the book about how the morning pages have worked for all kinds of creative people – painters, sculptors, poets, writers, photographers, craftworkers, even stay-at-home mums and dads, workers, professionals, business owners, tradies. Creative people are everywhere. Most of us don’t wear neon lights on our heads flashing ‘Look at what I create.’ Our neon lights flash inside our brains all the time, with creative ideas. The difficulty is switching off the flashing thoughts to go to sleep at night.

The Logic Brain

Why write morning pages? The author says “To get to the other side. The other side of your fear, our negativity and our moods.” Above all, they get us beyond what she calls our Logic Brain. She explains that the Logic Brain works on what we already know. It likes things to be neat and tidy, old and known. It is the brain we usually hear screaming at us when it tells us to “be reasonable, be sensible.” The Logic Brian says to us in a panicked voice “If it’s new, if it’s original, forget it! It’s not good for you, it’s bad and potentially DANGEROUS.” Creative blocks must be acknowledged and dislodged before we can free up our creativity.

The Artist Brain

Then Julia offers us hope by introducing the Artist Brian, as our inventor, our child, our very own personal absent-minded professor. It is our creative brain. It thinks in patterns and shadings. It makes new connections, joining images to meaning. The language of creativity is in images and symbols. It is a wordless language of experiences we see, hear, smell and touch. When we are working on our creativity, we dip into the well of our experiences and scoop out ideas. So we need to learn how to replenish the well of our creativity, with new fresh images and inspiration.

She explains that the Artist Brain cannot be reached or triggered by words alone. It is a sensory brain – sight, sound, smell, taste, touch. It doesn’t want to hear about what you should be doing, or what you should learn more knowledge about, it wants to hear about what you want to create. It is reached through rhythm and rhyme, not through reason.

While we cook or garden or wash the car, our mind is cooking up creative thoughts, digging up and watering new ideas. While we sing in the shower or shave, we sing a song to help shave away our hairy uncreative memories.  While we drive home, we drive home creative ideas and plans. Regular repetitive activities can switch our minds over from our Logic Brain into our Artist Brain. Solutions to sticky creative problems may bubble up while washing the dishes, emerge as we merge lanes on the freeway. So keep a notebook or recorder on you at all times. I use my phone recorder app as many times I can’t read my own scribble and of cause, you don’t want to be writing in your notebook while you’re driving.

Your Artist Brain wants to do activities that intrigue you. Explore what interests you, think mystery, not mastery. Drive a different way home, catch a bus that goes a different route home. Stop to smell the fresh bread baking or homemade soup cooking, listen to the sounds of nature around you. All these can feed the hungry creative mind within you. Take note of what new things you experience? Focus on the now, on what your senses are experiencing at the moment. Sight leads to creative insight.

Our focused attention is critical to fill our creative well. We need to be attentive to our life experiences, not ignore or miss them. I used to read compulsively. As soon as I finished one book, I began another one. The author points out that when we read too much, we screen out our awareness of the current moment. While I’m on the bus I used to check Facebook, skim articles, like a friend’s post, flick over to Twitter and LinkedIn to check how many people have liked the latest poem I had shared. My Logic Brain was in control, blocking new creativity. So now, I follow the author’s advice to stop reading and instead look around me and hear, see, smell and touch my immediate surroundings. These are all images to fill our creative well.”

There is a time and place for the Logic Brain to be in control. Without allowing my Logic Brain to take control at set times, I would not be able to focus on my other work, I would not have been able to learn how to build my website or learn about the other online platforms that I utilize. I still check my social media and my website stats, but not at the expense of missing out on experiencing my surroundings. I’m learning how to control when my Logic Brain can be in control and when it is time for it to sit back and let my Artist Brain play for a while. I have found that it is when I am not ‘doing’ that new creative ideas come to mind or a solution to a problem flashes into my head.

The Artist Date

Another tool the author introduces is to take yourself on an Artist Date. The Artist Date is an excursion, or in other words a play date. You do not take anyone on this date with you. Just you and your artist self, your creative child. During the week, your artist self sits to the side as your routine work-a-day adult self takes charge of your daily tasks in a responsible and practical way, which is what we need to do. 

Yet, we need to spend quality time with our artist-self to pamper and listen to it. The Artist’s Date does not have to be expensive. It can be as simple as a visit to a second-hand or antique store, an art gallery, a museum, a walk on the beach, going and seeing a movie, going for a walk in the country or a city garden, watching a sunrise or sunset, taste foreign food, kick a ball, shoot hoops and swing at the local playground, skip, run, swim or dance. Whatever makes you feel playful. Fun things that children do that adults stop doing.

The author stresses to commit yourself to a weekly Artist Date, no excuses, you can’t wiggle out of it. Your creative self needs more playful input. In order to have a close relationship with our creativity, we need to take the time and care to cultivate it.

A bonus of going on Artist’s Dates is that a little fun can go a long way toward making your weekday work feel more like play. This was a wonderful discovery that I gained from going on Artist’s Dates. My attitude became playful and light toward everyday humdrum tasks because I approached them with the attitude that every task can feed my creativity. So now while I hand wash the dishes, instead of mumbling about what I should or should not have said or done in this or that situation, I think about what word I will change in a line of my poem or what type of picture I will choose as a featured image. I wash those dishes with vigour, excitedly thinking about something creative. Along with the author, I now understand that imagination-at-play is at the heart of all good work and increasing our capacity for good creative work and that is what The Artist’s Way book is designed to achieve.

What To Do Now?

So, take yourself on an Artist Date to buy yourself a notebook for your morning pages and buy a copy of The Artist’s Way. Why not go to a different shopping centre than where you usually shop? Why not travel there using a different type of transport, like catch a bus or a train or get some exercise and walk or ride a bicycle there? Why not allow yourself time to sit in a new cafe and absorb your new surroundings before heading home?

Beverley Joy © 2022 of Simply Create 2 Share

Why not read or listen to my first article reflecting on my journey through The Artist’s Way Get Out of The Way of Your Creative Flow

Beverley Joy © 2022 of Simply Create 2 Share

You may also enjoy My Story Poems inspired by Simply Create 2 Share articles.

3 thoughts on “Tools To Dig Up Your Creative Treasure

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  1. Great article. Thank you for sharing. I bought the set “The Complete Artist’s Way’ but am only partway through the first book. I bought it sometime ago and have tried to to the Morning Pages exercise twice. The first time I did 55 days in a row and the second time, 80 pages in a row before stopping. Given that I am nor a full-time artist, I found it very difficult to keep it up. I co-run a business and also have a mentoring role for other businesses plus additional projects.

    After awhile, I read about instituting a ‘daily art practice’ and I started do thing this on 26 January 2019 and haven’t missed a day since. I do a ‘Watercolour Sketch a Day (A5) and on weekends I sometimes get to to an A5 and an A4 Watercolour painting.

    I miss (at times) doing Morning pages however, given my schedule it is challenging to fit in. I do recommend buying the book though as it truly is packed with information, tips and inspiration.

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    1. Thank you David for encouraging my readers and myself. I did Morning Pages intensely when I first worked through The Artist’s Way. I am posting a poem next week about my love-hate relationship with journaling. From looking through your website, I see that you have found your own style of journaling, which has got me thinking outside the square…. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

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