The writing way

Recently, I’ve been involved in a group studying Julie Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way.  One of the tenets of her book is writing what she calls “morning pages”–several pages of uncensored, stream of consciousness writing that is done first thing in the morning.

The idea is to clear your head of other thoughts which interfere with your creativity.  She includes a number of other tasks in the book as well, and one that seems most applicable to educators is the “artist date.”  The idea is to take yourself on a date somewhere to do something artful–you have to go alone, and you can’t break your date with yourself–it is something you schedule.  You can go to a museum, take photographs, browse for art supplies, write in the park, but the idea is to do something relating to art.

It strikes me that this is such an excellent activity for both teachers and their students.  In this age of AP testing, standardized testing, college prep, etc., both students and teachers are under much pressure and a barrage of reading/homework/grading, etc.   As many of our staff and my colleagues online have commented, how do we get students to be creative or innovative when they are exhausted and overloaded?

I would posit that the same goes for us as educators.

I suggest that an artist’s date is an excellent assignment for both students and for ourselves–to carve out time for exploration and nothing else, to make it a way to treat yourself, indulge yourself in seeing the world in a different way.

When we model for students that spending time nurturing themselves isn’t frivolous or unnecessary, but that it is a key to supporting themselves intellectually and creatively, then we have done them a great favor.

Blogging, too, I believe, is enhanced by spending that time seeing in a new way.  It has made such a difference to me as a photographer, for example, knowing I have an audience at flickr or that I’ll post a photograph on my blog.  I think for our students, writing online for an audience also enhances their “vision” so to speak.

So I challenge you to try taking an artist’s date for yourself for the next couple of weeks.  See how it feels, what it leads you to, and what it feels like to dedicate that time to yourself.

5 thoughts on “The writing way

  1. I am so happy to read a new blog post from you. I thought you had gone the way of Rosie O’Donnell who ended the 2008 year by saying her blog was going to go “unplugged”.

    You should talk to Norman about this concept of creativity and taking the time to be creative. Last summer (before I left), the PTEP students were in a class on creativity. Their task was to learn something new and to be creative for a major assignment. I believe Norman took up the task of learning how to juggle.

    The ways of staff development and professional learning aren’t as creative when in large-group formats. We know they don’t work. But to challenge oneself to learn something new – something non-classroom or work related, is a concept that can help all of us.

    And it isn’t just to explore our learning and to learn how we learn. The process of creativity invites inner struggle and the recognition of progress as the skill continues. Plus, you just add another skill to your belt when you learn something different.

    Great post. Please continue! I will read them!

  2. Anything that bumps us off the relentless feed-rails of information for information’s sake (collecting, absorbing, processing) and moves us into creation has my vote. Especially given what Daniel Pink and others have been so persuasively saying about the need for getting the right sides of our brains into the game. Creativity isn’t just going to happen by itself. (Or will it? Kind of a mystery…) An artist’s date seems like a great way to make some intentional space, and, as you say, model it for students. Like with everything else, it’s tough to expect it from students if we don’t value it, make time for it, and have a heart-knowledge understanding of it ourselves. And maybe carving right-brain time is more than just a treat—does it rise to the level of a need? When the oxygen mask (or paintbrush or writing tablet or camera or piano) drops from the hidden panel in the ceiling, affix your own before assisting the person next to you.

    Welcome back! And thanks for the cinnamon. Clay thinks we should all go bowling together sometime. What name do you want stitched on your bowling shirt?

  3. Many, many years ago I was in an Artist’s Way group and for many years after that I wrote morning pages. I can’t say if it made me more creative, but it was a great quality of life enhancer. I hope you find it worthwhile.

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