In this final chapter of The Artist’s Way, as her bon voyage gift to us, Julia offers a bouquet of ideas. When we begin to understand our creativity in terms of it being a sacred conversation between our Divinity and our human selves, she emphasizes the need for us to wait, and listen. This requires that we must strengthen our faith.
And faith is the knack of trusting Mystery. She writes, “Creativity – like human life itself – begins in darkness. We need to acknowledge this. All too often, we think only in terms of light: ‘And then the lightbulb went on and I got it!’ It is true that insights may come to us as flashes. It is true that some of these flashes may be blinding.
“It is, however, also true that such bright ideas are preceded by a gestation period that is interior, murky, and completely necessary.
“We speak often about ideas as brainchildren. What we do not realize is that brainchildren, like all babies, should not be dragged from the creative womb prematurely. Ideas, like stalactites and stalagmites, form in the dark inner cave of consciousness. They form in drips and drops, not by squared-off building blocks. We must learn to wait for an idea to hatch. Or, to use a gardening image, we must learn to not pull our ideas up by the roots to see if they are growing.”
This hearkens back to her caution about sharing our tender beginnings with well-meaning, but potentially wet blanket, or toxic friends. But it also is great direction itself, a theme that she repeats many times: to be an artist is to give oneself the spaciousness to make lots and lots of very bad art!
We have to allow ourselves to doodle, to dream, to be unsellable and unproductive by any commercial yardstick. It is in the fooling around and the mistakes and the goofs where real juiciness often makes itself known.
“All too often, we try to push, pull, outline, and control our ideas instead of letting them grow organically. The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.”
And then, if we haven’t gotten it yet, once and for all, let us recognize and celebrate this:
“Mystery is at the heart of creativity. That, and surprise.
“…As creative channels, we need to trust the darkness. We need to learn to gently mull instead of churning away like a little engine on a straight-ahead path.”
Once again, we can see the importance of artist’s dates and morning pages. In both cases, they are exercises for doodling, mulling, puttering on paper or wandering through experiences, with no goal, no judgment. They are both practices that create a habit of listening, opening and allowing.
But beyond them, in our actual creative process, we are invited to trust the dark and allow the fallow times. We can know in our bones that, like this time of year, below the frozen landscape, roots are stirring, and life will burst forth. All in Good time.