In a recent The New Yorker, Carrie Battan writes about Julie Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and whether or not it’s still relevant in an age when corporate America has co-opted the word “creative” and turned it into a commodity.
Cameron is famous for her “morning pages” — uncensored journaling first thing each day — and her artist’s dates — outings for the joy of it not to produce anything. She advised people to “channel their energies inward and respond to their own desires rather than those of the marketplace.” Not only is that message still relevant, Battan contends, but it’s necessary now that our “hobbies are … necessarily productive.”
“If you’re learning piano, you must try to record the jingle for that commercial your friend directed. If you develop a curiosity about a niche topic, you must start an online newsletter dedicated to it, work to build your audience, and then try to monetize the newsletter. If you have a nice speaking voice, you must start a podcast,” Battan writes. “We’re encouraged to be ‘goal-oriented’ and rewarded with outsize praise for everything we’ve accomplished, and so we feel that we need to turn every creative pursuit into a professional one.”
As a professional writer, you might think I’d be the last person to look down on the evolution of creative pursuits into professional ones. But maybe it’s precisely because I am a professional writer that I feel the need to protect my own creativity from always being “on.” Sometimes, I want to write — or paint or cook or play the guitar — just because, not to help build my platform or advance my career or help me seem more well-rounded to my audience.
Maybe you feel this same pressure, whether you are a professional in your creativity or not? Maybe you feel like you have produce something with your creativity rather than just enjoy the process? Or maybe as , the pressure you feel is the need to succeed … or at least to avoid failure.
This week, let’s forget about the “have-tos” and the “need tos.” Let’s set aside the potential and the possibilities. And let’s practice our creativity just because.