Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Shine a Light on the Shadow Artist

About 15 years ago, my brother gave me a book called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I browsed through it and thought, "Eh, not for me. Too woo-woo." I gave that copy away only to buy another one 10 years later. Flipped through the table of contents again, and thought, "Nah, too busy for those damn morning pages." Gave away that copy, too.

Then, about six weeks ago, my friend Mindy emailed and asked if I'd like to read The Artist's Way and meet weekly to discuss our challenges or insights. I was moved that she trusted me with this kind of process and I jumped at the chance for self-exploration. After all, I had taken other steps to get in touch with the creativity I thought I had lost (or misplaced). It seemed a natural fit.

I bought the book for a THIRD time. When I opened it up, I screamed, "She wrote this just for me!" I kept underlining and circling parts that resonated. After marking up the book considerably, I admitted that it ALL resonated.

Today, though, I want to share the powerful concept of the shadow artist because it can be applied to almost anyone. Shadow artists often choose shadow careers, those close to the art but not the art itself. Someone might open a gallery instead of painting, or become an agent instead of an actor. In my case, I chose to be a journalist and nonprofit writer/editor instead of a fiction writer. It's easier to sit on the periphery than to follow a dream. We stifle an inner voice that tries to remind us of those activities that make us most happy, most fulfilled.

Am I encouraging you to quit your job as a pharmacist, lawyer, teacher or retail clerk? Absolutely not. Why not start with shining a light on your shadow artist and making small but meaningful steps toward reclaiming your creativity. Sign up for a photography class or art lessons. Make your own greeting cards. Perfect the chocolate souffle. Stencil a border in your bathroom.

Committing to being a fiction writer was the most powerful gift I ever gave myself. I've learned those inner voices have a lot to say.

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