Doing the Artist’s Way course

May be an image of book

I’ve been journaling for over 20 years now, and I’ve tried a lot of different things. I have also done morning pages on and off a number of times. But the one thing I have never done is the Artist’s Way.

This has been weird 12 months for all of us. I think in one way or another most of us have been through personal crisis or some sort of journey. Over the last few months, I personally went through a lot of health issues, and when it was finally looking like there was a light at the end of the tunnel, I decided to do the full Artist’s Way course. A friend of mine agreed to do it with me, so we are doing it together, and at the end of each week we plan to discuss how that week went.

If you are not familiar with the Artist’s Way, it’s a 12-week course that you do by yourself (or with friends). You work your way through the book, completing each week’s tasks. There are two non-negotiable elements. The first is that you write three-morning pages every morning, ideally first thing in the morning. This is a stream of consciousness writing. The second non-negotiable element is that you go on the artist date each week, where you take your inner artist out and spend some quality time together. In the current coronavirus days, you can also find indoor activities. The purpose of the course is to free your inner artist from fears or censor or any limiting beliefs and allow them to find joy in their practice. At least that is my purpose. No matter how experienced you are as an artist, from time to time, we all need to replenish our well with a little TLC.

My first week of the course has gone really well. I’ve been very enthusiastic about this course. So much so that I finished all my week’s task by Tuesday. But I’ve been warned by more experienced people not to expect that every week. This is meant to be an emotional journey after all, so you never know what you might discover.

What do you need to do the course

You need the Artist’s Way book. Even if you are a kindle or an audio book user (I use both), in this instance I would highly recommend having a physical copy of the book. It would make your life a lot easier to be able to flip through the pages to check exercises and different tasks.

You need a journal to do morning, and an A4 notebook to do your morning pages. You can do both of those things in one notebook if you really want to, but I would recommend keeping them separate. Morning pages are ideally meant to be A4 pages. They are also meant to be pages you don’t regularly look back to (though Week 8’s exercise includes referring back to them I believe). This is the writing where what you write doesn’t matter, your spelling mistakes or your handwriting doesn’t matter. You are meant to write them as fast as possible, so this is not where your prettiest work will happen.

The journal where you do your weekly tasks can be as pretty as you want. It might also be helpful to refer back to what you answer for these tasks, as some tasks overlap across multiple weeks. It will keep things organised and tidy to keep those separate as while flipping back to previous week’s exercises, you won’t have to go through 7 days worth of morning pages in-between.

You need a comfortable pen. This is pretty important. Depending on your handwriting, the morning pages will take anything from 30 to 60 minutes. My handwriting is tiny, so they take me a full hour each morning. By the end of that hour, my hand is usually pretty cramped, though much better if I remember not to clutch my pen in a death grip. The first day I wrote with a heavier fountain pen, then switched to a lighter one and it made a lot of difference in my comfort level.

As with most journaling advice on here, unless you’ve a medical reason for why you cannot write by hand, I would suggest sticking to pen and paper, as opposed to a computer. Julia Cameron advises the same. The reason is simple – there is a process that happens when your thoughts form, and the time it takes you to write them down manually. It’s a slower act than typing for most of us. There is also an added element of engaging more of your senses and being more tactile when you write by hand. I believe it helps. Though if you hate writing by hand so much that you would rather do it on a computer or not at all, then by all means use a computer. The artist’s way – like all forms of journaling – is flexible. It’s meant to serve you.