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9.03.2012

In which we mark a turn.

At the spontaneous suggestion of a dear friend, I've started haphazardly going through Julia Cameron's "creative counseling" program (my own term), The Artist's Way. If anyone else feels like joining me in the venture, the book's on Amazon and in most libraries. I'd seen it before, sitting on the shelf at Barnes & Noble, and considered going through it. But the vague spirituality in the book's premise made me go squinty-eyed, and it took the aforementioned friendly suggestion for me to remember my first moment of curiosity and take the plunge.

I say I'm going through it haphazardly, because I'm not remotely faithful to the most basic dictates of the program. I generally journal pretty regularly, but turning what's always been a natural impulse into a daily and regulated practice hasn't worked out as precisely as I'd hoped. If I look at my journal, though, I can see that I've written much more frequently, meaningfully, and helpfully since I started. And I've definitely found myself being more actively creative and internally aware than I was before.

A few other things have coincided with this program. I was introduced to the Enneagram Institute, which might best be described as a holistic approach to understanding personalities. I have always been wary of personality tests for a number of reasons. For one thing, putting yourself into the box of a four-letter typology seems unhelpful at best (and they're easy to manipulate so that you score as the kind of person you think you are rather than the kind of person you are - defeating the whole purpose). Human beings are complex creatures, and naming your personality in such an impersonal way seems to do more harm than good. Especially as it offers self-justifications, creates blind spots, and ignores fundamental aspects of human behavior and feeling.

I'm not suggesting that the enneagram test has somehow overcome all of these limitations, but for the first time after taking it, I felt like a personality test helped me understand myself better. Not in terms of offering excuses or pat explanations, but in reminding me of the ways I tend to err, and offering suggestions for what the reasons for those errors might be in order that I might approach them differently in the future.

This is not meant to be an advertisement for a personality test - or a book, for that matter. What I'm leading toward is the realization that in the last few weeks I've become a lot more introspective than usual. I am introspective by nature, but the last few years have been mentally cluttered with work concerns, and I've let a lot of things slide. I'm also reading another book that I'll hopefully talk about a bit later. It discusses self-accusation, in contrast to self-righteousness and self-hate, as a practice of spiritual maturity. There's a lot more there, but as I said, I'm hoping to talk more about that book at a later date.

Ultimately, I'm realizing more and more that the process of developing the creative self - which is the goal of Julia Cameron's book - is a similar process to the spiritual journey. To develop your creativity, you have to be fundamentally aware of yourself - of your strengths and limitations. You have to be honest about your motivations and impulses. Honest about your failures and successes. About what success means to you. It's a process of honing your vision, not just toward the world around you, but first toward yourself. And this is not a selfish process, because it's a process of honesty and healthfulness - which is ultimately a process of entering the world without blinders. And this is good for relationships, for reaching out to others, for acknowledging brokenness and your own willingness to heal. It's the process between that oft-misquoted verse about removing the log from your own eye. Clear out your junk so that you can help others with theirs.

It's this whole process of thought which has led me to the rather sudden decision to define the purpose of this blog a bit more precisely. I have always written here about my random observations of life, art, and faith, but never with much intentionality. Forgive the length of this post, but it marks the beginning of what I hope will be a clarification. At least for the rest of the year - and hopefully beyond - the purpose here will be exploring the development of the creative self. Both internally and in practice. If that means walking through some of the activities I'm doing from Julia Cameron, or reviewing and article or book on the subject, or whatever - so long as it's directly related to that theme - then you'll see it here.

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