My 2023 creative deep dive | Writing for Life (Week 1)
At the start of 2023, I wrote in The Arienas Collective newsletter about the timely benefits of taking a creative deep dive, and committed to taking my own.
This is my first update on how it’s going so far with one of my key creative goals: to embed creative writing into my work, as well as personal, life.
On returning from a New Year break at our family home in France in mid-January, I took my first step: picking up a copy of Julia Cameron’s latest book, Write for Life: A Toolkit for Writers. That said, I guess ordering the book was actually the very first - and very big - step for me since it meant overcoming that inner imposter syndrome to consider myself a ‘writer’. I’m very glad I did because Julia's writings have already persuaded me that I am: that we all are.
“We have a mythology that tells us that writers - real writers - are an elite few...It’s my belief that all of us can write. It’s just that so many of us are afraid to put pen to page. Fearful of being judged, fearful of looking foolish, we hang back.” (Julia Cameron, Writing for Life, p15)
The book is referred to as a 6 week Artist's Way programme. It doesn’t say the weeks have to completed without a break, though perhaps she means for them to be. For me one of my biggest challenges is fitting in the time; or should I say making the time since this a more likely a barrier of my own making. So my next step was to timetable daily writing practice into my Karst planner: a system I introduced last year to help me organise my life in a better, more positive and more productive way. My Write for Life journey began in earnest on 14 January 2023, and in this first blog I share some of my key learnings from that first week.
Week 1 is called Priming the Pump. Essentially, this is about getting everything you need in place to begin a your writing journey. It starts with a daily writing practice, and for anyone familiar with her course ‘The Artist’s Way’, you won’t be surprised that Julia’s focus is on the role that Morning Pages play here.
Julia encourages us to start each day hand writing three sides of A4 - no more and no less - about whatever comes to mind: a kind of stream of consciousness if you like. I’ve never been a regular journal writer (is there such a word as a journaller…I feel like there is but autocorrect doesn’t like it) and I thought this could be a real challenge. I can’t claim - yet - to have managed to write every morning, but I've decided I'm not going to beat myself up about that, and instead congratulate myself for doing my Morning Pages most days.
Part of the challenge of Morning Pages for me is that I'm not a morning person (you will much more regularly find me still tapping away at my keyboard late at night.) So when I have workshops running, I haven't yet found a way to make myself get up earlier enough to fit in a Morning Pages slot. But, when I do manage, I can honestly say I have found it such a positive way to start the day. The things I write about may or may not be positive, but the practice of writing them down most certainly is. And, surprisingly, writing 3 pages while I sip my morning coffee has proved very easy to do.
Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else. [Gloria Steinem]
As instructed by Julia, I don’t plan what I write. I don’t read it back, and I don't correct it. I just put pen to paper and write down whatever comes into my mind, and see where it takes me. This practice has already led to new ideas for blogs, and has helped me see ways of incorporating writing into my daily schedule that won't add to my overlong 'to do' list, but rather become an integral part of what I already do. This is especially important right now since the past couple of years of covid lockdowns has meant my Arienas work has become much more admin focussed than creative, and that balance needs to change.
Julia’s second writing aid is the weekly Artist Date. The word ‘date’ suggests that these are about about spending time with another person. But, like Morning Pages, Artist Dates are meant to be enjoyed alone - though could take place in a space where there are others around. Artists Dates should be fun, and, at times, take us out of our comfort zone. If we ever feel our writing is in a rut, Julia promises that Artist Dates will help rescue us.
Perhaps ironically, my first Artist Date was one Monday evening when Eugenia Rosa was facilitating her 13-week Artist's Way Women's Circle at The Arienas Collective. I took myself off to Brambles bar on Broughton Street with my unfinished Everyman crossword from Sunday in hand. I wouldn't normally go to a bar on my own in the evening, and I was a little nervous: but when I asked myself why, I couldn't really find a reason other than what others might think of a woman alone in a bar at night. I chided myself on that thought. My writing - in this case my crossword - was my companion, and no-one paid the slightest attention to me, nor raised an eyebrow that I could see! It felt good to be there alone, and it gave me a sense of power. And however frustrated I was at still not finishing the crossword, I congratulated myself on a successful and enjoyable first Artist Date!
Walking is another daily habit Julia encourages as a writing tool. I've always found walking opens my mind to new thoughts and ideas, and many problems have resolved themselves - and new creative projects been born - while walking alone, or with close, like-minded friends. Sadly, due to a knee injury I can't walk much at all right now. Week 1 has taught me that I need to find a solution to that soon so that I can put this writing tool to full use.
If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write. [Martin Luther]
Most of all what I've taken from Week 1 is a strong dose of my own medicine. As I say to anyone who will listen, 'there is a creative within everyone just waiting to be released'. I need to trust that my inner creative writer will show its face, if I allow it to; and that I will help it on its way by establishing regular writing habits. In fact it already has in this blog!
How is your creative deep dive going?
How you can join me on my writing journey
1. Order yourself a copy of Julia Cameron's 'Write for Life: a toolkit for writers' - preferably from one of our fabulous independent bookshops such as Toppings Books, Golden Hare Books, Rare Birds or Edinburgh Bookshop.
2. Book yourself onto our mini writing retreat Write your story: letters of a lifetime with author and writing retreat specialist Kate Emmerson. Kate also offers retreats on the beautiful Island of Iona, as well as further afield, and you can find out more about these on her website here.
3. Sign up for How to turn your creative passion into a career with Career & Life Coach Laura Ogilvie-Jones. Whatever your creative passion, Laura can help you get over whatever is stopping you from turning it into a career. As well as our taster evening, check out Laura's website for her 1:1 coaching options.
4. Get a planner! - and block out time each day, week and month for your creative passion. As part of my drive to spend more time writing by hand and less by keyboard, I've moved away from electronic planners and treat myself each year to a beautiful Karst sustainable, tree-free planner and diary.