It is only necessary to behold the least fact or phenomenon, however familiar, from a point a hair’s breadth aside from our habitual path or routine, to be overcome, enchanted by its beauty and significance…. To perceive freshly, with fresh senses is to be inspired. — Thoreau
(My thanks today to Waverly FitzGerald for this quote, in an entirely different, yet maybe not that much different, context).
As we work through the last chapter of The Artists Way, Julia Cameron offers a number of parting gifts for us. Today, she warns us about the dangers of Art. That is, Art with a capital A.
“We are an ambitious society,” she writes, “and it is often difficult for us to cultivate forms of creativity that do not directly serve us and our career goals. Recovery urges our reexamining definitions of creativity and expanding them to include what in the past we called hobbies. The experience of creative living argues that hobbies are in fact essential to the joyful life.”
Hobbies are activities that we keep separate from our commercial goals. They are, supposedly, an end unto themselves, pursued strictly for pleasure. Yet as artists, they are bound to trigger inspiration that we can apply to our creative enterprises.
Julia notes, “When I have screenwriting students stuck at the midpoint of act two, I ask them to please go do their household mending. They usually balk, offended by such a mundane task, but sewing has a nice way of mending up plots. Gardening is another hobby often assigned to creativity students. When someone is panicked halfway across the bridge into a new life, repotting plants into larger and better containers quite literally grounds that person and gives him or her a sense of expansion.”
One of the most powerful, transformative teachers and Priestesses I have ever met, Sage Goode, often insists that, as part of her magical training retreats and workshops, her students bring along handicrafts like knitting, bead work, sewing, or other projects. As our hands are busily, repetitively occupied, something deep within our spirits opens and more readily absorbs the multilayered experiences of our training.
“As we serve our hobby,” Julia notes, “we are freed from our ego’s demands and allowed the experience of merging with a greater source. This conscious contact frequently affords us the perspectives needed to solve vexing personal or creative conundrums.
“It is a paradox of creative recovery that we must get serious about taking ourselves lightly. We must work at learning to play.”
The pursuit of Art with a capital A is a scene-stealer and a joy-killer that will stop actual creativity cold. In truth, it is a thinly veiled ego trip. And our authentic, playful artist self always knows the difference.