At the suggestion of my friend Billie, a couple of days ago I began plowing through "The Artist's Way," by Julia Cameron. "Plowing" is not used loosely. What I got from Amazon.com is an anthology of her three books about creativity, a tome which looks and feels as formidable as the Koran.
In fact, the first 100 pages or so of it may lead some readers to quietly walk over to the bookshelf and put Cameron in their New Age or Wu-Wu collection, next to the "Road Less Traveled," "Buddhism in Three Easy Steps" and the Dalai Lama's greatest bumper stickers.
Except I'm neither an atheist nor allergic to 12-step programs or Wu-Wu-ism in general, and after the good money I paid for the book, by G-d, I'm going to read it. Too early to guarantee I'll finish it, but so far so interesting.
Cameron's plan is to release the bottled-up or blocked creativity that's in our heads, specifically the right side of our brain, or for that matter all around us. A myriad factors block our creativity, particularly a chorus of finger-wagging Censors telling us to remain on the safe, logical, left side of our brain, because our creative impulses are for some reason impermissible, impractical, foolish.
Law and medical schools are full of people who may have been better off--certainly happier--if they'd stuck with playing the flute or becoming a chef. The Censors may include parents, cousins, siblings, partners, one's own trail of bad experiences or failures, fear or what-have-you.
My own chorus is not quite the Mormon Tabernacle Choir but large and loud enough to stifle many of my ideas and ready to strike up a tune at any time. By the sound of Cameron's book, I'm not alone.
The first step in her book is to write a three-page "morning paper"--long-hand and unedited--of anything that comes to mind. Every morning. Gripes, stories, observations, wishes and whatever, that you just file away unread in an envelope. As a career writer, one thing I'm told to avoid is "writing" the morning paper by noodling or pre-editing what goes down on the page.
It's easier read than done. The Censor wakes up bright and early, I think earlier than the rest of me. The first day it took ten minutes before a word landed on the page. Ballpoint or fountain pen? Why doesn't the fountain pen work? I should unclog it before I start no? Let me find a notebook. Nope, don't have one, need to get a special notebook at Office Depot. Maybe I should put out my new dog first before he poops somewhere. All this and other mental detours before I started.
As I understand it, the purpose of the morning papers is to help you jot down all the "logical" stuff in the mind and with that out of the way start tip-toeing to the right side of head, the creative, subconscious side, presumably a storage bin or stifled or censored notions. Indeed, from what I recall, my first morning paper had a lot of should's rather than I will try this or that, or just plain W.T.F.'s.
But hey, one mustn't massage this too much, lest logic and censors and choke spontaneity and creativity.
By the way, I did unclog the fountain pen after the first morning paper, and went for a yellow pad.