“I like to think of the mind as a room.”

doorway“I like to think of the mind as a room. In that room, we keep all of our usual ideas about life, God, what’s possible and what’s not. The room has a door. That door is ever so slightly ajar, and outside we can see a great deal of dazzling light. Out there in the dazzling light are a lot of new ideas that we consider too far-out for us, and so we keep them out there. The ideas we are comfortable with are in the room with us. The other ideas are out, and we keep them out.” -Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way (51)

The other day a friend wrote to me, explaining why she couldn’t do The Artist’s Way. 1) She was way too busy. It would be impossible to do Morning Pages as she didn’t have 15 or 20 minutes a day to devote to them. And then, 2) now that her children are older, she spends all of her time doing things solo, and has lots of personal time, so Artist’s Dates are completely unnecessary.


It took me a little while to process this, and to realize that I make the same excuses, even now (even though I am committed). I’m too busy. I’m not busy enough, or (as I usually put it), I selfishly already spend plenty of time doing whatever it is I want to do….

Okay, Bethany, which one is it?

One of my favorite exercises from The Artist’s Way is the Imaginary Lives one–what other 5 lives can you imagine for yourself? I begin the exercise reluctantly, then I get into it. I would raise horses. Be a visual artist. A film-maker. A famous poet  (key-note speaker at conferences! leading a group of poets on a trip to Ireland! 8 or 10 books of poems! devoted disciples!). A mystery-novelist (like Agatha Christie or Donna Leon, with 18-100 mysteries!).

It’s fun to imagine creating a different life, especially when you don’t have to actually create it. (It’s impossible! I could never do that!)

But then Julia Cameron asks us to imagine what one or two small pieces of one of those lives you might insert into this life. And that’s where the real fun begins. Crack that door open, just let a tiny bit of change in, and see what happens.


The Artist’s Date

carolsjournalI do a lot of daydreaming. I always have. I spend quite a lot of time alone. Even when I was teaching at the college, one of my guilty pleasures was going to a coffee place or (ideally!) a bookstore with coffee to write. When my kids were younger and I was really busy, I often wrote in my minivan at soccer practices…

My guilty pleasures now that I’m not teaching full-time are still writing-with-coffee. Also reading novels (I read a lot of novels…kind of an addiction). That, and meeting a girlfriend to write (over coffee, usually…okay, so coffee is definitely an addiction).

So, shouldn’t I have this Artist’s Date thing in the bag? Don’t I spend plenty of time, already, alone with my inner artist?

No, I don’t. It turns out that the artist’s date shouldn’t be work (even when it is the wonderful work of writing), and it shouldn’t be with other people. It should be play, AND it should get me out of my comfort zone.

Out of my comfort zone? Dang.

(To see Julia Cameron talking about the artist’s date, go to this site:

I have a couple of ideas for artist’s dates. For one thing, I’ve always wished I could draw…but my perfectionist tendencies get in the way. What if I pursued this, playfully, joyfully? Just for an hour or two this week?

images borrowed from

I also want to ride a horse, which I have not done in years, in decades.

What would YOU do on an artist’s date?

The Artist’s Way

I love libraries. While at my library a couple of weeks ago, I spotted a copy of THE ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron, for sale among the other books in the lobby, and I grabbed it. I paid my dollar (okay, three dollars because I bought two other books, too) even though I already had a copy at home, a copy which I’d worked through about 13 years ago, a copy which was hugely responsible for all the writing I was able to do while teaching and raising three daughters. I didn’t understand why I needed another copy (it wasn’t all marked up, the cover wasn’t tattered, but–really–why did that matter?), but I felt as though I did.

Then, meeting my friend Shawna for a cup of coffee, I listened to her say, “Why am I doing this? Why am I doing this again?” and I thought, “You should work through The Artist’s Way.” Before I could stop myself, I had volunteered to work through it with her. I rifled through the trunk of my car, found the library-sale copy, and handed it to her. She was initially reluctant, looking a bit like the proverbial deer in the headlights (“You want me to do what?), but after a couple of days (I presume she read the introductions), she texted me and said “Let’s do this.” I had lunch with my friend Carol on Tuesday last week and the same thing happened. It was beginning to look a lot like fate.

The Artist’s Way is, to my mind, the UR-book about using journaling to break through creative blocks. Although Julia Cameron wasn’t the first writer to artistsway1suggest journaling as a spiritual path (see Natalie Goldberg, Dorothea Brande, Brenda Ueland, Peter Elbow or any number of others to find advocates for daily writing–try googling that term), the way Cameron describes the process of “morning pages” in this short video, might convince you of how useful they can become. At the same site, you can sign up for the entire 12-week course. Or you can just find a copy of the book, and do the work.

You could, if you wanted, do the work now, with me. The timing is terrible, I know, I know. And in a way it isn’t fair of me to expect anyone to join me (after all, I already write in a journal and do a massive amount of reading every day, so it isn’t as though it is going to disrupt that schedule, just take it over for a while). But the first time I did this my youngest daughter was a toddler and my twins were in second or third grade; I was teaching full-time plus moonlighting a class two or three times a year (The Artist’s Way gave me permission to stop that nonsense). If you want to do it, you can. I’m thinking of it as a Christmas gift–and commitment–to myself.

A second tool is “the artist’s date.” More about that, later.

So, if you think you would like to join me, send me your email address (mine is and I’ll add you to our small group. Oh, and get a copy of the book and start reading. The first chapter is “Recovering a Sense of Safety.”

And start writing. (Loose leaf paper is fine, or a notebook. Rereading is not allowed, at least at first).

Write three pages or about 750 words. In the morning. Consider it to be like taking a dustbuster to your brain. (Watch the video!)