Oh, Those Baby Steps

Almost exactly twelve years ago, I discovered The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It would take too long in this blog to say how my life has changed in those years, but B.C. (before Cameron) I was a writer who didn’t write, which is one of the saddest things on the planet. I had no idea how to begin; yet three weeks after beginning the exercises in her book, I was writing short stories. I was pregnant at the time, and a few months later, when my daughter was stillborn, I used the tools to write my way through grief. That’s how When a Grandchild Dies: What to Do, What to Say, How to Cope, was born.

She didn’t just get me writing. She helped me find my curiosity. I went back to school and got a degree, I learned how to quilt, I bought a camera, I began to travel…the list is endless.

There are two main lessons that I learned from her book–though I highly recommend it for any artist who feels stuck, and I often revisit it when I block. First, she reminded me that rough drafts are just that, rough, and that we need to be willing to do things badly in order to learn. Second, she taught me how to write in little snippets of time, which was what I had for years.

I was thinking of her this morning. This week I have dusted off the draft to Exodus: the Freedom Meditations, which is a small book of musings based on how Exodus applies to our modern lives and quest for inner freedom. I’ve been busy doing book layouts, but I needed to feel like I was writing, so I have started working on it again. I don’t spend a lot of time on it each day, but I do enough to feel the satisfaction of creating new work. I have been pretty bloody with the red pen this time around, but I still really, really like the work. Despite what sounds like heavy subject matter, it’s more playful than what I usually produce. I get to feel like a little kid at play again. What a gift–the gift of baby steps.

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