A lot of people think that creative genius just … happens. You’re born a genius, like Madame Curie, outshining all the men in the lab, or you’re struck with a bolt of inspiration, like Georgia O’Keeffe in the southwestern desert, or you just see the world so differently that you can’t help but be creative, like shy Emily Dickinson in her little room in Massachusetts.
Genius is hard work. Creativity requires dedication. Success requires a belief in yourself, as well as a willingness to tell naysayers to go to hell.
I’m learning this as I started reading “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron this week as a self-improvement project. I find myself frustrated by my inability to do what I really want to do and instead I keep going on with jobs that don’t satisfy me. I throw up roadblocks to success. I allow self-doubt to creep in. I just don’t put in the work.
The book has a spiritual component that does not appeal to me, but the advice so far has provoked thought and action. I started with two central activities:
- Morning Pages – Every morning, first thing, write three pages of longhand stream-of-consciousness prose. This discipline is meant to remove cobwebs from your brain and get creative juices flowing.
- Artist’s Date – Once a week, take a small, solo adventure somewhere for a couple of hours. This is meant to open your eyes to new experiences and unexpected connections.
Morning Pages has been interesting. Since I am comfortable with writing already, I’m not challenged to fill the three pages most mornings. After a few days of doing this, I noted how themes repeated themselves – my various aches and pains, my husband’s various actions and inactions, and the little things that set me off or please me, plus (as always) diet and food. I’m interested to see where this goes.
Yesterday I went on an Artist’s Date. For a mid-afternoon break from work, I walked from my office in Times Square down to Columbus Circle and back. I have done this a couple of times before, but I took a different route this time. I didn’t bring money or a cell phone or anything but my badge to get back into the office. I made note of anything that surprised me, such as:
- Aggressive peddlers of bicycle rentals, including one guy who was using his job to harass women.
- A coffee truck promoting the new “Twin Peaks” TV show. (“Damn good coffee.”)
- A tall young man dressed all in black except for hot pink high-top sneakers.
- A group of young people drawing some promotional thing on the sidewalk with chalk.
- The startling green of Central Park in early spring.
- An older man dressed in what looked like a cricket uniform.
- So much “French” food – little bistros and quick-serve places with French names.
I didn’t immerse myself into this experience as much as I wanted to. It was my first try, OK? But I noted a few things that attracted my attention – bright colors, fattening food, and the somewhat puzzling activities of people young enough to be my children.
I am already thinking of where I want to go on next week’s “date.”