Excerpts from Walking in this World by Julia Cameron
The beginnings of all things are weak and tender. We must therefore be clear-sighted in beginnings.
- Michel de Montaigne
Despite our culture’s well-earned reputation for encouraging instant gratification, we are not encouraged to act decisively upon our creative desires. We are trained to think about them, doubt them, second-guess them. We are trained in short, to talk ourselves out of committing art or committing to art. (p. 18)
It is one of the ironies of the creative life that while drama is a part of what we make, it has almost no place in how we make it. Even those famous artists who suffered famously dramatic live were remarkably undramatic in their actual work habits. Hemingway wrote five hundred words a day, wife in and wife out. Composer Richard Rodgers wrote a composition every morning, nine to nine-thirty. Unseduced by glamour or by drama, their output was both steady and prodigious. This argues that we get a lot further creatively by staying put and doing something small and doable daily in the life we already have. (p. 20)
Whatever you think you can do, or believe you can do, begin it, because action has magic, grace and power in it?
Commit to make something you love and you will find the needed supplies come to hand. You must “catch” them when they do. A free studio for recording. Use of an editing bank. A windfall of costumes from your aunt’s attic. A church space newly renovated and looking for a worthy cause, like your embryonic theatre company. Our creative energy triggers a creative response. (p. 24)
Commit to playing the music you love, and the music of life becomes more lovely. Just as making love can quite literally make love, so, too, making art—a form of the verb “to be” —can quite literally make art of out of being. The art of creative living, like the actor’s art, is a moment-to-moment receptivity, a harmonious leaning into the unfolding melodic structure of existence such as a great string ensemble players use in cocreating chamber music. Those who create for love—like the devotees who practice their spiritual tradition with ardor—give off a certain indefinable something that is attractive, and it attracts to them their good. (p. 24)
Faith moves mountains, and when we see art as an act of faith, then we begin to see that when we commit to our art, mountains may indeed be moved as a path becomes clear. Committed to the "what," we trigger the "how"—needed money may appear in the form of an unexpected bonus, a timely and lucrative freelance job, a surprise inheritance, matching funds, or even a corportate scholarship. When we invest energy in our dreams, others often invest cash.(p. 25)
Guided by my heritage of a love of beauty and respect for strength—in search of my mother’s garden, I found my own.
When we begin to see that we can actually change our life, we often panic. Of course we do—prisoners often panic when they realize they can open the door of their cell and walk our “free.” “Free” is terrifying after confinement. That is why we panic. “I have no idea who I am!” we gasp.When we are changing sizes, we feel large, clear, and powerful one day, tiny and defenseless the next. We feel euphoric and then we feel enraged. This is good. This is healthy. It just doesn’t feel that way. Our identified self seems false. It is not “false” just incomplete. We have the reverse of the phantom-limb syndrome, where an amputated arm or leg still itches or pinches where there is no arm or leg. Our itching and pinching may presage the sudden appearance of a new creative limb—an arm or leg of a creative career we hadn’t anticipated. No wonder we panic! What are these weird sensations? What are we suddenly interested by performance poetry, Puccine, oil plants?
If you are panicked, tell yourself, “Ah! Good sign: I am getting unstuck.”
The proper use of imagination is to give beauty to the world… the gift of imagination is used to cast over the commonplace workaday world a veil of beauty and make it throb with our esthetic enjoyment.
< Most of us know the story of the three blind men who are asked to describe an elephant. One feels the trunk and says, “Ah, It is long and think and wriggly like a snake.”
Another feels the leg and says, “Ah. It is round and sturdy and a great deal like a tree.”
The third blind man feels the elephant’s side. He says, “Ah. An elephant is very like a wall…”
The joke, of course, is that the elephant was very like all of these things, and that its sum is something larger than any of its parts.
As artists, we are often in that elephant’s position—a large and complicated creature poorly known to itself and others. Like Alice after she ate the mushroom, we experience shifts in size as hallucinogenic events. One day we will feel very large and competent. The next day we will feel that yesterday’s grander size was just grandiosity and that we are really much smaller and more wobbly than we knew. Changing sizes, we go through growing pains, and many of those pains are the pangs of an identity crisis. We may pray about it only to discover prayer is no help: God himself seems to be forging our new identity. The more we pray for it to go away, the stronger it actually becomes…
.. .When we change sizes creatively, we begin to wonder, Oh dear. Now what kind of animal am I? And usually we begin to ask people to help us know. This is where we often get into trouble. Many times our friends will know only the trunk part of us, or maybe even just the tail. In other words, what is mirrored back to us may be only part of our artist a friend is comfortable with or can easily see.
In this way, quite inadvertently we often get miniaturized. We often get fragmented. We often feel “shattered” as we go through change because we need people who can help us to hold a larger and clearer picture of the whole creative animal we are. And, yes, that animal just might be an elephant. Oh dear!
Change everything except your loves.