As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve started my creativity workshops at the library, using Julia Cameron’s THE ARTIST’S WAY, and Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC as inspiration and guidance. I’ll do a short post each week after the sessions to talk about what we learned, how it went, and what I can take from this if I decide to do another series like this at the library.
I should start out by saying that I know about half of the participants from my library writer’s group, and a few of the others simply as patrons from the library, although I haven’t had a lot of interaction with them other than signing out books. The last few people are strangers to me, but everyone seems lovely. I asked everyone to sign a sheet with their name, and what their creative obsession was, in order that I had a better sense of who I was looking at during the session. We have mostly writers, but a few painters, a floral artist and a knitter! WOW!
I decided that each week, I will decorate the room in a creative or inspiring way, to give everyone a feeling that not only can they accomplish something creative that week, but that creativity isn’t about being perfect or experienced. It is simply about doing. And so I attempted my first large-scale chalk drawing on paper for week 1. Here is how it worked out:
I thought the red paper would be interesting and bright (okay, we only had red paper at the library), and I chose a drawing of magnolias based on a photo I found online. I’m pretty good at drawing what I see, and often do posters or artwork at the library based on something I’ve found that will work for a particular event. So, I felt pretty confident going in. However, I soon learned that drawing with chalk is VERY unforgiving, and not at all easy. The end result was far from perfect, but I promised myself I’d put it up no matter what.
I want to have a “Creativity Activity” for each week, to allow all of the participants a chance to do something creative that maybe they’ve never tried before. Believe me, I have some crazy things coming down the pipe in the next few weeks. I can only imagine what we’ll be creating! For the first week, I chose a “simple” activity, with a “drawer”, and a “talker”. I’ve done this with my teen book club, and it was quite fun, so I knew it wouldn’t be difficult. But it was. Were we too creative?
Each group was given a simple picture (a car, a house, a cat etc.), and the talker told the drawer what to do on the page, without letting them see the picture. This was a lot tougher than it should have been, and due to all of the work that lay ahead, we didn’t have time to do more than one round with the participants. I think that was sort of disappointing to the people who really didn’t get a chance to try it out, even though everyone else acted as the “guessers”. Next week, and from here on in, everyone gets to do our activity at the same time.
Each week is based on Cameron’s chapters, with a handout I’ve made up from the readings and ideas of that week. We’ll have time to talk about ideas in the chapter, and then move on to some exercises based on that theme.
Week #1 was tough, though. Using THE ARTIST’S WAY, I followed Cameron’s well laid out series of creative goals, beginning with “Recovering a Sense of Safety”. The ideas are simple and straight-forward, with a lot of it being about trusting yourself, not being too hard on yourself, and working toward finding that confidence to admit you can do creative things without listening to the negative comments from others.
After reading through our handouts, and talking somewhat about the ideas and how to figure out where we all get our negative beliefs from, there wasn’t a lot of discussion. I think this is where people were either not comfortable enough to speak in the group yet, or they weren’t all on board. More about that later.
A big part of Cameron’s teachings come from doing Morning Pages. These are to be three hand-written pages done first thing every morning. Every. Single. Morning. They aren’t meant to be like a journal, where you ponder the day’s happenings and reflect on how things went. These are stream-of-consciousness ramblings, without a need for purpose or meaning. Cameron even suggests that if you can’t think of anything to write, simply to write “I can’t think of anything to write” over and over at first. Eventually, she claims we’ll all start working through issues in our morning pages, either creative blocks, or personal blocks, which should amount to us being able to find out creative spark again.
These pages are supposed to be mandatory to the program, and I wrote on the homework pages that they are non-negotiable. Let me say, there were a few people there who immediately wanted to make them negotiable (possibly me included?). The struggle with finding extra time to do them, having them interfere with their only creative time to begin with, and also with having to write when someone is a painter, for example….were all real dissensions on this. I was a little surprised, and yet, not, even after several of the group members claimed they’ve been doing them religiously for years, and that they act as a kind of therapy session.
THE ARTIST DATE:
The last part of Cameron’s program is The Artist Date. Simply put, everyone must find at least an hour to themselves each week to do something inspirational to them. It might be a coffee date alone, just to sit and people watch, or it might be a concert they’ve wanted to attend. Whatever it is, it must be done at least once each week, and always alone.
This was also a bone of contention, although more because of the area we live in. It’s not exactly the hotspot of artistic happenings, and several members of the group were worried they wouldn’t be able to find anything to do. (Not one person mentioned that they didn’t think they could find time for themselves this week, which I thought was oddly fascinating. Good for them!)
I went away from Week 1 not knowing if this was a good session, or a bad one. We didn’t talk much, and the times we did were mostly to discuss the difficulties of the program, not to talk about creativity. It was only after doing my second set of Morning Pages (ironically), that I realized what was wrong.
- I need to have a discussion with people about why they are there. Are they doing this to boost their creativity? Are they creatively blocked? Or do they not have a creative outlet at all, and are searching for some ideas. I think this needs to become a BIG part of our work next week. I want people to be able to talk about why they’re there, and how the group can support them. I don’t want to just sit and lecture everyone each week on “how to do this”.
- I also realized that I was not the least bit inspired by THE ARTIST’S WAY, and yet, here I am basing the whole course around that idea. It is very rigid, very spirituality-based, and also very uninspiring. Sure, we might learn a lot by figuring out that a teacher from 2nd grade made us give up our love of drawing, but will that finally inspire us to draw again? I’m not so sure.
- However, out of that, the one thing I did realize, was that I was super inspired by BIG MAGIC. Maybe it was the more contemporary tone, but Gilbert’s idea of creativity revolves around the promotion of positive thinking, and I feel that Cameron’s is the opposite: identifying all that negativity only seems to be draining, not inspiring.
- I want things to be negotiable. I want participants to feel like they can come to the group and get help with issues like not having enough time in the day, or finding a new creative outlet by trying out different things. I also want the homework and morning pages to be negotiable. If someone doesn’t want to do them, why should they be forced to do so?
Will all of these changes make a difference for next week? I hope so. I plan on trying to instill more creative challenges and thoughts into the homework, that seek to inspire and let everyone have fun. I also want this to be whatever works best for each person, and so we might have to all learn to be a bit flexible. I’m definitely going to go into this thinking more from a BIG MAGIC angle, than an ARTIST’S WAY angle. That’s me, it’s what inspired me to do my work, and what I hope can give even seasoned AW followers some new ideas to work with.
Wish me luck! And check back next week for the Week #2 roundup.