“Many artists have never received early critical encouragement. As a result, they may not know they are artists at all. Artists love other artists. Shadow artists are gravitating to their rightful tribe, but cannot yet claim their birthright. I urge them to step forward out of the shadows and into the sunlight of creativity.” — Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

When Julia Cameron released The Artist’s Way, it was often described as a way “to encourage artists to believe in themselves … to help people unblock and channel their creativity. [1]

I read it sometime in the early 2000s, after almost giving up on the idea that I could someday write and release my own music. Since then, it has become the book I have most gifted to other artists, especially those who struggle with the challenges described therein.

The Artist’s Way helped me have the self-compassion I needed to become the artist I suspected I could become. I had denied myself this pursuit by burying the notion beneath years of careful navigation of other’s expectations, strategic presentation of a more palatable version of myself, and self-denial of my interests.

These three endeavors, the “careful navigation of other’s expectations, strategic presentation of a more palatable version of myself, and self-denial of my interests,” became the system I used to protect myself from drama, from having to explain myself, from being misunderstood, from receiving contempt and discouragement. Moreover, as long as it remained hidden, I could protect it from interference.

At its core, my need to protect and withhold the dormant creativity within was fueled by a fear that something so valuable would be diminished by others.

The problem with burying the art and the person you could become is that burying should be reserved for the dead, and when you keep something buried for a long time, even if your intention is to protect, it runs the risk of death.

I didn’t want it to die. Once I allowed my creative efforts to be known by others, it came alive in ways I never expected. New ideas, novel approaches, and unexpected connections emerged. I developed the fortitude to expose my creative efforts despite the fear of misunderstanding, contempt, and discouragement.

Perhaps we can’t always take away our fears, but can always develop ways to increase our courage.

I interrupted my notion that the artist within was destined to become a martyr, a necessary sacrifice to keep chaos and conflict at bay.

I realized it wasn’t about finding my authentic self as much as it was becoming my future self. It’s a process. Processes are a series of steps or actions to achieve, in this case, who you are in the future.  And as mentioned, it started with giving myself permission to engage in the processes (i.e., writing, recording and releasing) to become this artist.

When we were kids walking to and from school, we’d often see a squirrel or bird laying on the sidewalk. If it appeared dead, how would we verify if it was alive? “See if it’s moving!” someone would shout, excited at the unexpected find. Then inevitably, we’d find a stick and poke it, to see if it moved.

Becoming is about processes. And processes start with movement. To come alive inside, you have to give that which you could become some movement, some series of steps, some processes. To come alive inside, become alive inside.

Find The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron on Amazon