Priming the pump

A few years ago I joined a weekly group with several other artists. There were painters, photographers, writers, and actors. Few made a living through their chosen form of expression, but all were drawn to try and comprehend this compulsion we seemed to share: Creativity. To help our conversations along, we chose the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Little did I know what kind of impact this book would have in my life.

As I talk to more & more artists, I am comforted to know that few are eternal wellsprings of constant inspired creativity. Frankly, some days it feels like I’ll never write another thing again, and worse, can convince myself that perhaps it doesn’t even matter. Fears, irrationality, irritability can trick me into long periods of inactivity. If it’s not ‘inspired’, I don’t want it. I stop writing, when what I should be doing is anything I can to get the pump working again.

Generally, I know I need to take some purpose to my creativity when I start pacing around the house, eating cookies for breakfast and muttering to myself: “You should be writing. You haven’t written anything in while. What’s your problem?”  I avoid. I mope.

But the jig is up. Now that I’ve been through this a few times, I realize I can sit there and atrophy, or get up and start moving. Everything I create doesn’t have to be gold, nor does it have to be shared, but I do have to keep the muscles moving. Knit a sweater, draw a bowl of fruit, listen to music, write a letter to an inspiring person…

The Artist’s Way has been a good tool for me to grease the wheels of my creativity. It keeps me moving and mindful. I’ve been revisiting this book lately and it has been a great reminder to me that I needn’t fall over in a heap when I’ve nothing inspired rattling around in my head. The exercises get me writing and thinking. I hate to admit it, but sometimes the structure does me good.

Sometimes, Cameron reaches a little far into the realms of self-help for my liking, but at the very least, this series has equipped me with the notion that a moving mind is more likely to create than an idle one. What I like is that she doesn’t teach you how to write or paint or sculpt, that’s not the point. It’s not about launching oneself into an explosion of productivity so that we can be world-renown songwriters or the next Picasso. It’s about the need for expression that we all have and getting onto the business of exploring just how creative we all can be.