Unblocking My Creativity: Starting The Artist’s Way

Last September, I was in London, staying with a connection from Remote Year. We hadn’t traveled together or met before, but mutual friends encouraged me to contact him about renting a room for my week in the city before I flew down to Cape Town. (I work remotely & travel full-time.)

He worked from home with his employee, and another RY friend (an Irish screenwriter that I had met while in Phnom Penh, Cambodia) often came in to work there in the afternoons. One day, the four of us sat at his table, eating lunch — a spicy slow roasted chicken he’d made that morning — when they told me about The Artist’s Way.

The Artist’s Way is a book that outlines a 12 week program for recovering your creativity: a chapter each week with written exercises, a daily journal called morning pages, and a weekly artist date.

I read the introduction in his copy and then bought it on Amazon Kindle. Not sure if I wanted to commit to the whole program, I decided to read a few chapters & see if it resonated with me. I mentioned it to my therapist & asked if she knew it (she’s done art and wilderness therapy in the past, so it seemed up her alley), and she enthusiastically endorsed it.

With multiple people encouraging me to try it, reading pages that described both some of my creative problems & dreams, and being in a bit of a creative rut, I decided to commit to the 12 weeks when I was next somewhat settled.

Cut to this February, as I was preparing to move down to Medellín, Colombia, for two months (the longest I’ve been anywhere in almost 4 years).

8 weeks in one place sounded like the best chance for me to establish a routine for myself & do The Artist’s Way.

So I did what I do as a project manager: I made a spreadsheet with a schedule. I scoped out the time required & decided when I would do the work. I determined my accountability partners / support team (one friend, who ghosted; my mom; my therapist). I gathered my supplies (notebook and pens). And then I began.

Update: I wrote the following questions in my Facebook post when I shared the link, and I realized why I feel compelled to work through this program is worth including here.

By no means is this list exhaustive (because I do overthink everything, and it is exhausting), but it covers some of my primary frustrations aka motivations.

I can finally say with a straight face that I am a writer, but I don’t always feel like I’m writing — not real writing, not really.

I want to be creative — to be A creative, but what exactly do I want to create?

And do I deserve to create it?

Do I deserve to be paid for it?

Could I ever be considered an artist? Even though I can think in numbers and haven’t been painting and drawing since forever?

What if I could actually have the life and work I’ve dreamed of — which isn’t exactly what I’m doing now — this is the version that felt attainable to me, the small bits of it that I could incorporate, the way I could afford to do something different.

What if — in spite of everything terrible in the world, in spite of the great inequalities out there, in spite of the fact that I am already so privileged — what if I could do and be be even more than I am now, if I could make something that mattered?

These are a few of the questions that I am working on answering, some of the hurdles I am trying to overcome by doing The Artist’s Way.

I’m now in Week 1… follow me here on Medium to keep up with my weekly recaps — how I’ve done with my morning pages, artist date, reading, and exercises, and what I think of the program & its effect on me as I work through the 12 weeks.

Katherine works remotely while she travels the world — on the road since June 2014. Want more? Follow along on Medium and sign up for the mailing list.

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writer. traveler. storyteller. art nerd. digital nomad. remote year alum. @williamscollege alum. texan. new yorker. katherineconaway.com & modernworkpodcast.com