The Artist’s Way: Electric Boogaloo.

I wanted to write about another two chapters in one go, but I have too much to say about this one alone. Cameron moves from vague spiritual woo into the realm of cult leader, and that, frankly, is a little scary. But here goes.

SPIRITUAL ELECTRICITY
THE BASIC PRINCIPLES

For most of us, the idea that the creator encourages creativity is a radical thought.

What religion did you grow up in? While overbearing religions have existed forever, art has been prevalent throughout human history, and religious art has been a huge part of that. Western Theatre, for example, would not exist in its current form if not for the Miracle and Mystery Plays, based on Bible verses, and often performed at Easter.

Here’s a few examples of the incredible creativity displayed by three of the major religious traditions:



Now, you can argue that the morality of these traditions imposed strict limits on art. Medieval Christians, for example, were pretty much limited to artistic expression around the Bible and the Catholic Church’s doctrines. Muslim art cannot directly depict human beings (sometimes you can’t even directly depict animals). The philosophy of impermanence has put pressure on Buddhists for centuries.

However, human creativity shines through. Dedication to perfection of form led to more and more intricate, and sometimes even realistic, depictions of the Virgin Mary and Jesus and the Disciples. Limitations on subject matter led the Islamic world to develop the most beautiful abstract art, most notably in the form of calligraphy. Sand Mandalas, created by Tibetan Buddhist monks, give us great pleasure for a short time, then are discarded to wind or water, because it is a representation of the fleeting nature of happiness, and life.

While it may be true that many of us grew up in repressive households or with weird repressive religions, to use religion as an excuse for stymied creativity is to wildly underestimate the power of the human mind and its creative impulse. Yes, I agree, we need to learn to harness this power better. However, stop laying blame on your past, and look to the future, to the person you want to become.

After all, our creative artist is an inner youngster and prone to childish thinking.

This phrase came out of nowhere. Why is it an inner child? What proof do you have?

While Cameron proposes that we use a god concept to help us, she just throws this “inner child” thing at us for no reason, stating it like an obvious fact. What if my creative mind is not a child? What if this image does not serve me, and only leads me to excuse irresponsible or selfish behavior as my “creativity”? To state something like this as blatant fact is irresponsible.

If our mom or dad expressed doubt or disapproval for our creative dreams, we may project that same attitude onto a parental god. This thinking must be undone.

Ah, this is an interesting peek into Cameron’s psyche. While I think most of us can say we have an awkward relationship with our parents to one extent or another, in my case, my parents – especially my mom – always encouraged my creativity. I grew up surrounded by an unlimited supply of paper, crayons, colored pencils, and watercolors. I had building blocks, and I made scenes out of fabric scraps and toys so I could have “dollhouses” for my dolls wherever I pleased. I took art classes, dance classes, theatre classes, all sponsored by my folks.

If I were to imagine a god, there might be some disapproval there, but it is not for artistic pursuits. So this is not a universal problem, and again, it is irresponsible pop psychology for Cameron to assume we all have this issue.

Also, if your god hates part of what you are, why keep god at all? I’m an atheist, so I really don’t get it.

What we are talking about is an induced – or invited – spiritual experience. I refer to this process as spiritual chiropractic. We undertake certain spiritual exercises to achieve alignment with the creative energy of the universe.

Using a word like “chiropractic” is a good indication of the audience Cameron is writing for. I think chiropractic work is bunk, and could potentially do more harm to your joints than good. I think a lot of the effect of alternative medicine comes from 1) the practitioners showing a greater amount of personal concern for their patients (which I think is why it is becoming so hugely popular – medical doctors can be too impersonal, and nurses can be too brusk), and 2) the patients, through subtle cues from their friends and the alt med doctors, are very willing to believe the practice is working. Tests with placebos repeatedly show that human psychology has a huge influence on our ability to heal.

That does not mean we should use placebos as medicine.

Anyway, so to use words like “spiritual” and “chiropractic,” Cameron is, frankly, playing to an audience of people who do not question authority. Anyone with a big enough advertising budget or big enough cult can pretend to be an authority on something.

Also, from my understanding of chiropractic work, the practitioner puts the patient’s body into a certain position, then (to quote Eddie Izzard), cracks your bones. This is not a practice or a process that the patient goes through, it is something being done to them. Is Cameron suggesting we should sit back and let her crack our creativity back into place? This is taking agency away from the reader, which is not conducive to a long-term creative practice.

Now, if the second part of what Cameron says is what she’s actually after, that is not chiropractic work. It would be more accurate to say something like “spiritual stretching,” “spiritual yoga,” “spiritual calisthenics,” “spiritual long-distance running.” Anything that involves the reader taking charge and doing something that involves alignment.

If you think of the universe as a vast electrical sea in which you are immersed and from which you are formed, opening to your creativity changes you from something bobbing in that sea to a more fully functioning, more conscious, more cooperative part of that ecosystem.

If this was the entire metaphor for the book, that would be fine. Becoming part of the electrical ocean –as silly as it sounds – is a good outline to use to write about a process. Problem is, Cameron never touches on this metaphor again. Her book is not about “becoming a cooperative part of an ecosystem,” but about making the reader dependent on her “wisdom,” even though it is scattered and contradictory.

Those who speak in spiritual terms routinely refer to God as the creator but seldom see creator as the literal term for artist. I am suggesting you take the term creator quite literally.

This is insulting to all non-artists who also create things, like engineers, software coders, home crafters, or chefs, among many I’m sure I’m forgetting.

I would argue that the modern fundamentalist evangelical Christian god is not an artist but an engineer – maybe a “watchmaker” – but again, this is not everyone’s view of god. And it is a peek into Cameron’s pathology, rather than a step toward developing a solid creative process.

As you work with the tools in this book, as you undertake the weekly tasks, many changes will be set in motion. Chief among these changes will be the triggering of synchronicity: we change and the universe furthers and expands that change.

Cameron is blatantly encouraging selection bias. Not that humans need any help with this but again, it’s not really conducive developing a repeatable creative process that produces results you like. If you can’t see where things are going wrong – for example, if you believe you are cursed because you didn’t do your morning pages (something Cameron talks about later) – then you’re going to see evidence of that curse everywhere and it will prevent you from working, and then you’ll end up on a downward spiral.

It does not matter which way you think of it: creativity leading to spirituality or spirituality leading to creativity.

What if I don’t think of spirituality at all?

There’s a list of 10 Basic Principles on page 3 that are … not worth going into. They’re reiterations of the bunk she espouses in the rest of her writing.

HOW TO USE THIS BOOK FOR YOUR CREATIVE RECOVERY

You will circle through some of the issues over and over[…]

Yes, it’s called an Extinction Burst.

Many of us sense that we are more creative, but unable to effectively tap that creativity.

Yes, you’re a beautiful and unique snowflake. Like everyone else.

I think that the Western World is not set up properly to support creative people. Creativity is devalued, especially in the United States. There’s lots of talk about improving math and science curricula in schools, but there’s very little talk about beefing up art programs, writing programs, or theatre. There’s some focus on music but that seems to only be because it is tied into math. There’s no concern for students who need a creative outlet, or for properly training all students to use their creativity from an early age so they can eventually apply it to their chosen career field – even if that career field is astrophysics or molecular biology or materials engineering. Creativity is necessary for problem-solving. It can also be a stress reliever. It’s good for a lot of things.

But sensing that we need to be more creative does not mean that we’re special. It DOES mean you should, absolutely, 100% pursue that feeling down whatever amazing path it takes you, because that path is what will make you special. But just “sensing” that you are “creative” does not mean a damn thing.

Cameron goes on to talk about the extinction burst that readers will experience as they go through the process, which is fair. It’s a change in habit, and your brain will not want to change easily. However, there was this …

Recommitment to the process next triggers the free fall of a major ego surrender.

This is cult speak. Surrender your ego? Since I don’t use terms like that, I really don’t know what that means, but it sounds like you just … surrender yourself to someone else’s will, and that can be dangerous.

[…] we enter a withdrawal process from life as we know it.

More cult speak. She’s encouraging the reader, subliminally, to go with their instincts to withdraw from friends and family – existing support systems – and rely solely on Cameron’s book for guidance. NOPE.

Withdrawal is another way of saying detachment or nonattachment, which is emblematic of consistent work with any meditation practice.

Again, she’s subliminally encouraging the reader to rely on her alone, this time through a false equation between some signs of depression, and a spiritual practice.

Many of us find that we have squandered our own creative energies by investing disproportionately in the lives, hopes, dreams, and plans of others.

If you care about these people, or cared about them at the time, then I do not think you should see this investment at a waste. Learn from it, certainly. Learn to balance your needs and the needs of the people you love. But loving someone is NEVER a waste of time or energy. To promote that sense of regret is immature and irresponsible. It insinuates the reader should be angry, and take that out on the people they love.

This might be another way of separating the reader from their current support system. So this is another cult tactic that Cameron employs.

In dealing with the suicide of the “nice” self we have been making do with, we find a certain amount of grief to be essential. Our tears prepare the ground for our future growth. Without this creative moistening, we may remain barren. We must allow the bolt of pain to strike us. Remember, this is useful pain; lightning illuminates.

I hate Cameron’s metaphors. They are scattered all over the place, jumping from one bad analogy to another. In this span of 4 sentences, we’ve jumped from water, to fertile ground, to lightning. These are all loaded images, and if you let them just wash over you without thinking about them, I can see how it would be kind of, sort of, inspiring. But because they’re loaded images, it is again irresponsible of Cameron to fling them around without being clear about what she means when she uses them. Of course, I don’t think even she knows what she means with most of this stuff. She’s trying to capture a sense of something and I think it’s eluding her. But at the same time, she still wants to be in charge of the reader’s creative “healing.”

You can’t be a good teacher if you don’t know what you’re talking about.

How do you know if you are creatively blocked? Jealousy is an excellent clue.

Actually, I agree with this advice.

Jealous is a great indicator of what you need, what you feel you’re missing. If you are insecure about something, it will most likely come out in the form of jealousy. The best way to take care of that problem is to find a way to be awesome yourself.

Ok. Moving onto the “Basic Tools” chapter next time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *