Permission to Make Art

Seattle Tree

Our secret thoughts always feel complete and true. They remain precious possessions we keep close. But once out of their private domain and into the world, forced to undergo scrutiny, our ideas are often revealed as incomplete, inaccurate and maybe not so useful.

So getting those thoughts out but still private is a great way to straighten out those internal conversations.

Here’s a pretty strong claim from Oliver Berkeman at the Guardian about how to do just this: This column will change your life:. He describes how the practice of Morning Pages has affected him. I can confirm his claim. It will change your life.

I had heard about Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” several times over the years. I borrowed it from the library, but soon bought my own copy as I believe this is a book filled with important insights.

The book is structured as a 12 week journey to get unblocked as an artist. What’s “blocked”? I think she means to include any artist not satisfied with their process or feels capable of breaking through to a new level. Now the book is quite spiritual and is actually God centered, but Cameron allows the reader a lot of latitude in fitting those abstract concepts into their own frame of reference. For me personally, it’s easy.

And the central tool is described up front. Cameron requires you to write 3 unstructructed, handwritten pages every morning. It has to be the morning so that it’s forward looking. If you wait too long into the day, the writing reflects thoughts that rely on reflection. Doing them first thing is key to their power of liberation.

Those who have adopted the Morning Pages practice are right; it been a transformative experience. As far as I can tell after a month of the practice, the chief effect is promoting the practice of externalizing the inner conversation. It’s not quieting the noise that we all carry in our heads. The book puts it in the perspective of the inner voice that limits and constrains creative activity.

These morning pages are a way of beginning the day in a real mode. For me, I’ve become freed from a lot of my strategic concerns in what to write, what system to photograph with and what subject to choose. I’m more focused on making images and typing words, as many as I can, with as many hours as I can free up. So film (as in the image today) or digital, matters less than feeling the need to make images and tell stories. And then acting on that need becomes much easier. Unblocked.

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