I am a huge fan of Julia Cameron. I had known about her book, The Artist’s Way, for a decade before I finally bought it when living in Sydney. After a time on my shelf I began to use it. It was always going to work for me. The way she weaves the experiences of her life, metaphors of human experience and the creative process into an illustrative and educative force for the budding creative had me hooked from page one. Being a collector of quotes and aphorisms from way back, I appreciated the signposts these lent to her essays. It was with a knowing anticipation that I skipped along on a day each weekend from my little art deco apartment in Summer Hill to the patient arms of the staff at Sideways Cafe to discover what pearls she had for me. It became my retreat from the week to immerse myself in her words. I grew so much in the two years I did this in Sydney.
I progressed with great determination and a quiet confidence that if I just followed her well-thought through writing exercises and activities each week, I might just free something inside me waiting for liberation. Well, three and a half years later, and three and half of her books later (I’ve completed the twelve week programs of The Artist’s Way, Walking in this World, Finding Water and am part way through The Vein of Gold). My life is continuing to change.
I was looking over my old morning pages notes that include my weekly activities this week and at the point where I began working through the Vein of Gold in September last year, I made this commitment as Julia suggests:
I, Bronwen, realise that I am entering a rigorous inner process which will both test and liberate me. I commit myself to the three pivotal tools of creative self-care:
Looking back, this point coincided with a few turning points for me in a new commitment to self-care. I had just received my long service leave pro-rata from my long time job (a provision I had already decided was going to facilitate the leaving of that job). I had just begun going to sessions at the School of Philosophy and I had enrolled for a Vipassana retreat over the new year. Pretty epic decisions as it turns out. I must have had a real sense that there was certainly much more creativity on it’s way, if I could just put myself in the right frame of mind to receive it.
So, what does this have to do with walking for weeks on end in France? Well as Dr Deane Hutton of the Curiosity Show was fond of saying, “I’m glad you asked”. Well, after getting to the Narrative Timeline in the Vein of Gold, I got stuck in my early twenties and have found it difficult to get through this time. I think this time holds great learnings for me. But I also realise I need to make that commitment to creativity again in order to work through this. I can see how each of the aspects of this commitment are present in my upcoming trip.
Morning Pages: There is a debate going on in my head about whether I do morning pages on this trip. I use special spiral bound A4 notebook to write these pages. This will add extra pack weight. It takes half an hour to write the three pages – on a quick day. I’ll either have to get up earlier in the morning, or it will delay me in the morning when I’ll probably be keen to get going. It also may hamper opportunities to leave with other walkers if that becomes a possibility. Julia recommends to do them as the cornerstone of your writing practice. All other writing sits atop morning pages. Can I commit to writing these as well as my handwritten journal and this blog? Will I even have the capacity for pages as well? This is in addition to walking up to 6-7 hours a day. It is starting to sound like a new job (wink). I have two days to decide whether I pack them for the whole trip, and another week to decide if I take them walking.
Daily walks: that’s taken care of.
Artist’s dates: It dawned on me when I was working through the original Artist’s Way, in which Julia was extolling the virtues of an intentional date with one’s artist, that I had always dated my artist. In 1986, I took a ten week around the world trip – the first of my long dates with myself. Even at home, I would take myself to theatre, film, op shops, art shops, art galleries, libraries, walks, rides, train trips, ferry rides and most importantly, trips to France. My trips to France have always been my giant artist dates. The freedom, awe and wonder I experience when I’m travelling there cannot be compared to any other part of my life. My capacity to visit cathedral after museum after cafe after flea market is limitless, such that I feel at my creative peak en Francais. When I am travelling I am so fully experiencing life in the now.
So to return to combine these three activities to fulfill a creative contract is to me, quite simply, just the way it should be.
St Jacques shell in Fitzroy, Melbourne