A Skeptic’s Guide to The Artist’s Way: Core Principles

The Artist’s Way

Julia Cameron’s classic guide to re-orienting toward creativity, The Artist’s Way, is a gem. The book is broken out into twelve chapters, each chapter containing a week’s worth of exercises to break through barriers, get unblocked, and get back to writing, painting, or whatever it is that you do. But for those of us with atheist leanings, it can be trying. The book contains a lot of language that externalizes creative energy, attributing it to a divine force rather than putting the locus of control and agency where it belongs: on the reader.

For that reason, I got stuck during week two, when Cameron asks readers to work twice daily through a list of “ten principles,” and try to let go of their own skeptical reactions. I found the task impossible, since I kept getting hung up on words like “creator” and “divine.” I couldn’t force myself to respond un-skeptically to things I don’t believe in. It was totally inauthentic.

There was only one thing to do: re-write the principles to fit an atheist worldview. This is my humble attempt at bringing the locus of control and creativity back to the individual rather than some god-thing.

Original

Modified

1. Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative energy. 1. Life is a manifestation of creative energy that includes cycles of building and destruction.
2. There is an underlying, in-dwelling creative force infusing all of life – including ourselves. 2. The innate urge to create is a healthy part of being human.
3. When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the creator’s creativity within us and our lives. 3. When we open ourselves to creativity, we embrace vulnerability, intuition, spontaneity and uncertainty. This leads us to greater happiness and peace.
4. We are, ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves. 4. Our lives are a manifestation of creative energy; it benefits us to align our own efforts with that energy for as long as we are able.
5. Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God. 5. Creativity is a precious component of our whole selves. Valuing it is a gift to ourselves and leads to greater self worth.
6. The refusal to be creative is self-will and is counter to our true nature. 6. It is our choice which parts of our nature to feed. The refusal to feed our creative nature runs counter to our well being.
7. When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to God: good orderly direction. 7. When we open ourselves to being creative, we become aware of our ephemerality and yearn to use our time here well.
8. As we open our creative channel to the creator, many gentle but powerful changes are to be expected. 8. As we open ourselves to creativity, we will see powerful but subtle adjustments that lead to personal and artistic growth.
9. It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity. 9. It is safe to open ourselves up to creativity, insofar as anything in life is truly ‘safe.’
10. Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward our dreams, we move toward our divinity. 10. Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a part of ourselves that we must listen to in order to value all that we are.

These modifications might seem arrogant, or downright unnecessary to you if you are a believer. But for me, making these changes was essential to continuing the practice in The Artist’s Way, which has already done me a great deal of good.

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