Rather than following the usual format of book reviews (if there is such a thing) I like sharing the personal journey of how reading a book affected my life. I read “The Artist’s Way” a long time ago – I believe it was over a decade ago when I had to face some deep personal issues. I didn’t read the book for writing purposes. It was recommended by a friend who, at the time, had no idea about my writing aspirations which dwelled in some slow-burning parts of mine since I was a child. But since I was happy to embrace and practice many different identities, they all helped me become the person I am now. Today, I like to call myself a writer.
Somewhere around the time this book got into my hands, I became vested in psychology, for reasons that were more or less obvious to me. However, I wasn’t quite so aware of the deeply rooted psychological causes of the writer’s block. Yet thanks to “The Artist’s Way” to a great extent, I managed to turn writing into a lucrative career. The greatest benefit for me was not just the financial reward. That followed years after I read the book. I am able to earn money from my writing for another reason, which will be more obvious to anyone who has been happily immersed in the flow of writing.
Writing Flow: The Most Desired Writer’s State
Csikszentmihalyi’s genius about what makes people happy is about this state of flow. Flow is a psychological state with which you are so fully enmeshed that you would do it for the sake of it, expecting no additional reward. Rather than expecting external incentives, flow gives intrinsic rewards by itself.
This certainly doesn’t mean writing for free unless that makes you happy. Ultimately, other needs will win the state of flow and you will have to go to grab something to eat, drink, or hug. But it does mean that if you are in the flow, you will write substantially easier, and better, to that matter, because the ability to surrender to the thoughts on paper will help you become best friends with your writer’s block rather than consider it an arch-nemesis.
The flow is something you can connect to the middle mode of the self in gestalt therapy. Middle mode is the space of creativity and spontaneity, one that emerges when you get rid of self-imposed restrictions, limiting beliefs, unfriendly internal voices, and literary critics that get to you.
The middle mode enables finding solutions to problems you may have never thought of. Being in the middle mode is calling upon the creative child within before it was submerged under layers of insecurity ignited by a second-grade teacher who told you your writing lacks something, whatever that something may be. Although it is mainly used in the therapeutic process, once you get the feel of it, you can access that sweet spot where your creativity bursts with more ease.
This doesn’t mean that the middle mode is always pleasant. It often involves hard work – those pages won’t fill out by themselves. But it does help you with understanding why and for whom you write, as well as to find your place in the global audience.
Working in the middle mode is possible only if you engage both your brain hemispheres and work with your emotions, your senses, and your ratio, so that you come up with a piece of yourself sculpted in a uniquely personal yet somehow so shareable and relatable at the same time.
Your Brain on Writing
If you haven’t looked at “The Artist’s Way” closer, here is a short description of the workbook: it is a set of exercises and accompanying guidance on how they work with the ultimate goal to befriend the writer in you.
The exercises ask for complete surrender, especially the one where you have to write the first gibberish that comes to the top of your mind first thing in the morning. You basically need to open your eyes and start filling out those pages with the noise in your head. And, if I remember correctly, you need to do it for a month or so, repeating the same exercise each morning without stopping yourself. There is a recollection finale to wrap up the exercise, but if you ever decide to delve in, you’d better go through it yourself.
Introducing the Healing Powers of Writing
If you think that my pages were full of incomprehensible blabber, you are right. I was also aware they incorporated a lot of the emotional stuff I was processing at the moment. But I didn’t really care. I was determined to follow through, possibly because the pages were doing their magic. You can call the magic writing therapy in conventional psychotherapeutic circles or writing workshops and retreats in shamanic, alternative, spiritual, or “whatever-you-like-to-call” circles that don’t carry the preliminary stamp of mainstream healing techniques.
Their common point is that writing heals. Writing heals because it makes you whole, helping you get in touch with less-known aspects of the self and connecting you to the whole of humanity.
Whether you believe in a strong ego concept or are more in favor of global unity, you won’t be able to deny the boundaries that connect us all on an archetypal and collective level.
As I went through the exercise, which was admittedly a painful process, I came up better equipped to dwell in the uncomfortable space of working together with the problematic self aspects and using them to the benefit of my writing. Thanks to “The Artist’s Way” I became capable of seating with hours at the desk and enjoying the process. I also learned how important wellbeing is and that nothing should be at the sacrifice of feeling safe. Whenever I get too safe, I challenge myself with a writing experiment. It is the best way for me at the moment to stretch out and connect.
Writing with honesty and integrity is what keeps readers awake with open books late into the night. There is plenty of travel to reach such a destination and it is not for everyone. Without a doubt, Julia Cameron got me closer to the natural feel of the writing flow and if this is where you want to be, I strongly recommend persisting with the exercises.
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