The Artist’s Way

The Artist’s Way

February 11, 2021 0 By Shannon McCaffery

All my life, I have been in a constant battle with the two sides of my brain.  Who’s going to win out, my left-brain or my right-brain?

When I was growing up,  I was incredibly right-brained, creative, was in art shows, played the piano, took photography courses, was a photographer, and had my own darkroom.  

As I got older, that side of myself just started falling away. I didn’t have “time” to do those things anymore. I needed to “work” to make money to feed myself and the family.

So the years kept rolling by, and my poor right brain became shriveled up like a little grape, and my left-brain had grown into the hulk…

And what really struck me when I stopped to notice this year, oddly enough, during the pandemic, I wasn’t all that happy with my hulk of a left-brain anymore.

How did I get here? (This question always makes me think of the Talking Heads song Once in a Lifetime, every time I say this to myself. 🙂

In 2019, I traveled a lot, at least once a month. And I was working like a crazy person, juggling lots of launches and marketing campaigns. (Oh and I got married too!)

Then with the pandemic, all that stopped, and things got real quiet. 

The quiet reminded me of the eerie silence that happened after Sept 11. I was in NJ working at the time and lived not far from Newark Airport. The day after Sept 11, the sky was incredibly still and silent. It was almost deafening quiet. I never noticed how much noise those planes made when they were in the sky, until there were none…

This was what it was like this year in March, then April and May for me. It wasn’t until I started working with a coach who pierced through my pandemic silence to make me realize it was time to shake things up.

It was time to make peace with my right brain.

So how did I do it? (Well in all honesty, I’m still chipping away at it.)

Several things started to help shake things up, like working with my coach again, going through the Self Realization Fellowship meditation course (Paramahansa Yogananda), reading, and walking A LOT!

Then I picked up Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way off my shelf and dusted it off. By far, this was one of the things that really helped me to find my right brain again.

I had had that book for at least fifteen years and never read it because it was “one of those books,” you know the kind that you have to actually write and do the work?!

Well, the interesting thing is working through the book it’s a 12-week process. The core of the work is writing every day in your journal, at least three pages.  

What I’ve learned is the more I do the tasks and exercises, the more my right brain opens up, the more my left brain work doesn’t feel like work anymore.  I’m even MORE productive just by balancing my brain.  

It’s a bit baffling to me. It was kind of like when my coach told me not to work as much, go on hikes, and “play” more by doing the things I most enjoy. It was so counterproductive to me and yet I was so much more productive.

I’d highly recommend shaking things up in your world. Here’s my book review of The Artist’s Way, with some examples from to inspire you:

  • What were your favorite foods as a child? Pick one or two. If it’s still available, buy it. Then eat and/or share it with family and friends. (My favorite food was Frosted Cinnamon Pop-Tarts.)
  • Pick up your pen/paper/journal and answer this question – What’s a topic that’s troubling me right now? And write down what comes to mind. You can also ask – what do I need to know? What do I need to do? The point is to start a conversation with yourself, a dialogue to access your right brain/higher self to help you.
  • When you were growing up – What were five careers you wanted to do or try? Take note of them and explore some aspects of them you can incorporate into your life today.
  • Take yourself on an artist’s date – If you can’t leave your house, maybe check out a virtual museum online, or watch some Ted Talks. Anything that inspires or gets you out of your usual habits. 
  • List twenty things you enjoy doing (rock climbing, hiking, cooking, baking, etc.) -When was the last time you let yourself do these things? Pick one or two and make a date to just do them!

The goal for me was to find a better balance and access that kid in me again who is curious, loves to solve puzzles, create things, draw, take photos, and help people.

I know I have much more to do. And I also feel like I’m happy right where I am. I’m working with some kickass marketing clients, writing more, reading more, and taking several classes right now. I’m a learnaholic, along with being a bookaholic.  

Don’t wait to do the things you love. It’s time to get back in touch with what you love about your work, play, family, and loved ones…

Some Inspiration to Entice You to Get and Read this Book!

Quick Summary: This is THE book to help jump start your right brain, especially if you’re stuck creatively, or like me and don’t think you are creative. If you can get a journal and hunker down and do her weekly exercises, it will help tremendously – promise. P.S. You DO NOT have to be an artist to read this book. I’m not. I’m a marketer, and my creativity is coming up with amazing ideas to help my clients market their courses, products, and services online.

WHO Ought to Read this Book: If you need a creative boost, or need to get back in touch with your right brain, need to be inspired – this THE book to get.

Why Read this Book? It’s soul purpose is to help you get back in touch with your creativity. Julia gives so many inspiring and amazing exercises to do each week that I promise, will open up anyone blocked creativity, writers block, or just if you’re down and depressed, this will help.

A Couple of Things You Will Discover: Why writing ANYTHING with a pen and a piece of paper can help you move mountains in your life. It’s about recognizing, being aware, being honest and making peace with yourself.

INSPIRING BOOK QUOTES:

Paying Attention to Right Now:
“In times of pain, when the future is too terrifying to contemplate and the past too painful to remember, I have learned to pay attention to right now. The precise moment I was in was always the only safe place for me.”

How Old Will You Be When…:
“But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really play the piano / act / paint / write a decent play?”
Yes . . . the same age you will be if you don’t.”

Pay Attention:
“Survival lies in sanity, and sanity lies in paying attention…the capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.”

No Matter Your Age:
“No matter what your age or your life path, whether making art is your career or your hobby or your dream, it is not too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity.”

The Trick to Dealing With Pain:
“The trick is to metabolize pain as energy. Learn, when hit by loss, to ask the right question: “What next?” instead of “Why me?”

If You’re Bored:
“Boredom is just “What’s the use?” in disguise. And “What’s the use?” is fear, and fear means you are secretly in despair. So put your fears on the page. Put anything on the page. Put three pages of it on the page.”

Think Magic and Delight:
“In filling the well, think magic. Think delight. Think fun. Do not think duty. Do not do what you should do—spiritual sit-ups like reading a dull but recommended critical text.”

About the Author: Julia Cameron is a novelist, playwright, songwriter, and poet, she has distinctive credits in theatre, film, and television. She has taught everywhere from The Smithsonian to Esalen, The New York Times to the Omega Institute. She also served as a writer in residence in film at Northwestern University.

She has been an active artist for more than three decades. She is the author of more than thirty books, including such bestselling works on the creative process as The Artist’s WayWalking in This World, and Finding Water. Also a novelist, playwright, songwriter, and poet, she has multiple credits in theater, film, and television. 

Where I Would Recommend to Get Your Copy:
The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

Here’s a link to Julia Cameron’s website and all her books and courses if you want to discover more about accessing your right brain. 

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