What I Learned from The Artist’s Way

RulesoftheRoadBack in October, I began my third journey with The Artists Way.

My previous attempts at completing the book surrounded times in my life where I was seeking major change in relationship to my identity as an artist. The first time, I had just completed my undergraduate dance degree at Smith College and was venturing into the real world and trying to reconcile what that would mean. The second time, I had already been living in New York City for quite some time. My identity was shifting from dancer only … to potentially more. I was beginning to act and at a crucial juncture doing my first gig as a choreographer for someone else (specifically Theatre Rats’ production of the play Agrippina).

The reason I call them attempts is that I never got very far in the process. Committing to writing “Morning Pages” – the daily ritual whereby you write stream of consciousness for 20 minutes or about 3 pages when you first wake each morning – was actually pretty easy. And I often kept up with them for weeks or months, but had never made it past the exercises or reading past Week 3 or 4.

So what was it that caused me to decide to attempt the book once more?

Last fall, I made a huge leap of faith to forever change my relationship to being an artist. While I had always called myself an actor, it had become a very long time since I had made decisions about my life invoking my life as an actor, singer, dancer first. I had strayed quite far into creating and growing my fitness business, hopeful that it might eventually grow into more of a flexible residual income model. I realized that I was spending the majority of my time growing a business when I would far rather have that time on developing myself as an artist and finding out what would grow from planting all my seeds in a single trough.

Fortunately, for me, this realization was coupled with an amazing and unexpected outpouring of support from my husband. I was finally free to do what I always wanted to do. Pursue acting full time! The thought was daunting and required a great deal of faith. As I began my journey, I knew that it would be important to staying the course that I find something to ground myself.

That thing I decided would be The Artist’s Way. As I write this, I am still am in process, but as anyone who has done  The Artist’s Way knows, that is how we should be. I learn new things about myself as an artist and as a person on a daily basis.

Here are some of the most poignant things I discovered and re-discovered on my journey.

In the case of doing , this routine consisted of writing my Morning Pages. Routines clear our head and help us find focus on a daily basis to keep doing our work. And for those of us whose lives are very unstructured, having a simple structure can really help us keep us glued together.

  1. Having a morning routine is invaluable. In the case of doing The Artist’s Way, this routine consisted of writing my Morning Pages. Routines clear our head and help us find focus on a daily basis to keep doing our work. And for those of us whose lives are very unstructured, having a simple structure can really help us keep us glued together.
  2. Keep showing up. It is pretty impossible to know when and if a specific result will be achieved. But you need look no farther than Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, to be reminded that it takes about 10,000 hours to become proficient in anything, art or not. So it is your job as an artist to put in the time.
  3. Even artists need to take time for rest and relaxation. Most of my life I’ve had a “survival” job – that thing that you do to pay your bills – in addition to the work I’ve done to pursue my art, and then there are my personal relationships. It can often feel like there just isn’t enough time in the day to do everything that I want, or worse, need to do. So I’ve foolishly tried to take on the “Superwoman” persona: working every second, depriving myself of sleep, doing everything necessary to assure my own success. I was reminded during The Artist’s Way process that we often achieve the most growth and progress when we give ourselves space to rest.
  4. We accomplish more when we have a community of people supporting us. The reason I got so much farther with The Artist’s Way this time was the sheer fact that I had a group of folks that I was checking in with weekly or bi-weekly. We all had different levels with which we were keeping up with the book, but I don’t think any one of us would have gotten nearly as much of it done without each other.
  5. The things that block our progress may be simpler than we think. I found myself hitting up on a lot of resistance and somewhat unexpected blocks. One of them was the fact that I have this huge aversion to highlighting and marking on any physical book. I treat books like something sacred that shouldn’t be blemished. When I allowed myself to actually start highlighting the book, however, I found myself getting more out of each and every lesson.
  6. Being an artist/actor is a journey not a destination. There is so much emphasis in our world about experience and achieving tangible results. However, it isn’t the things we can check off our list that actually create the most interesting or profound art. It is the things that happen in the doing and in the moment. If you’re focused on booking a job or finishing a painting, you limit your experience and the opportunity for the muse to speak through you.

For more wisdom from The Artist’s Way, follow me on Twitter or Facebook for #24nuggets of #wisdom from #theartistsway.

Have you done The Artist’s Way? What was your favorite part of the process? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.



2 Responses to What I Learned from The Artist’s Way

  1. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for writing this post. I realize it’s from almost 3 years ago, but I found (and really enjoyed reading it) today. I did The Artist’s Way eight years ago and loved the process and journey. I started diving into photography, took an oil painting class, and continued doing morning pages for quite awhile. This morning, somehow random thoughts led me to thinking that I should do the Artist’s Way again, as many things have changed and I’m feeling a bit lost/stuck. This post helped convince me to find my copy of The Artist’s Way and get started ASAP. Thank you for sharing!

    • natalie@neckyfarow.com says:

      Jennifer, I’m so glad that you found this useful. How is your Artist’s Way journey going?

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