Julia Cameron

Resolutions: The Good, the Bad, and Mine

I’m not a fan of resolutions.

Over the years, I’ve made some of the typical resolutions: eat more healthfully, exercise regularly, get better sleep, put down the iPhone/iPad, etc, etc. And they never stick. Ever.

The fireworks go off, the resolutions are written and then the resolutions are promptly ignored.

The fireworks go off, the resolutions are written and then the resolutions are promptly ignored.

My determination lasts long enough to motivate me to make the list. And then, list happily made, I go back to my regular life.

That’s not to say I’m not a pretty motivated person. It’s just that resolutions never help me get there.

But this year, in the spirit of author Claudia Mills (for the record, I LOVE her blog), I’m going to resolve to do something that seems both good for me AND fun.

I’m going to resolve to do a regular Artist Date.

A photo from my last artist date… in November.

A photo from my last artist date… in November.

The Artist Date idea comes from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, one of my favorite books about creativity. I credit it - and the Artist’s Way class I took with other artists, who ranged from opera singers and painters, to writers and photographers - with helping me stick with writing books long enough (um, about 10 years) to finally publish one.

An Artist Date is something you do by yourself for fun. It can be short (a ten-minute stop at a clock shop or pet store) or long (an all-day drive into the countryside). It can involve anything, from painting an old wooden table to smelling perfumes at the mall, and from trying out a new restaurant to cross-stitching. It’s playful. You don’t do it for a purpose.

Which is probably why these are so darn hard for me. I like productivity and efficiency… to a fault. And guess what? That doesn’t always (or ever) work when it comes to art.


Getting myself to do an artist’s date is like pulling a tooth. I delay, I hem and haw, I find other more useful things to do.

But when I finally do one, it’s magical. It helps me see the world in a new way. And it’s sneakily useful.

Making any sort of art requires you to dip out of your well of experiences, emotions and images, over and over. To continue making art, you need to fill your well back up again. Which is exactly what Artist Dates do.

So, the Artist Date is not only fun, but very important. And I want to do more this year.

Which leads me to the ‘regular’ part.

Technically, you’re supposed to do an Artist Date every week. But I already know this is too much for me. So, I’m going to try for TWENTY this year. And I’m going to keep a list. (It will probably involve pretty markers and stickers for extra motivation.)

We’ve already plunged well into the new year and, not surprisingly, I haven’t done a single artist date yet.

But that’s okay. There’s still plenty of time. And I’m hopeful that once I start and remember how fun Artist Dates are, this will be one resolution I’m happy to complete.

I’ll let you know. And if it doesn’t stick, there’s always next year.


The power of collage

Sometimes ideas just come. But there's one fail-proof way of helping them along: make a collage.

I was introduced to the idea of collaging during a summer class on Julia Cameron's The Artist's WayAt first, I was skeptical. And a bit nervous. To be honest, the idea of flipping through magazines to collect images, then gluing them to a piece of poster board, felt more like grade school work than "writerly" work. Not very productive. Better to actually write, right?

But I stuck with that first collaging session, surprised at how enjoyable it was to think of a word or idea, then stumble into images that captured whatever I was looking for perfectly. Colors and textures and feelings, all right there before me. Images of soaring mountaintops and leaping dogs and summer flowers bursting out of an arrangement. I'd flip through, faster and faster, pausing to collect only the images that called to me, tugged at my heart. It was a subconscious reaction, and was so fulfilling to pull the image out and save it.


And then, putting them together. Taking a pile of images that seemed to have nothing to do with each other. Cutting or ripping. Arranging. Gluing. And suddenly, meaning would appear. Something bigger, something more, something that resonated completely with me, but that I hadn't even known to look for.

Not only that, but I could repurpose images: an ad for a beauty cream became a statement on true beauty; tips for time management became a call to slow down and manage less. It was empowering. And beautiful. And fun.

I collage regularly now. For big life changes and questions that I need to work through. To explore goals for a coming season or year. And for my writing.


For every book that I write, I'll make several collages along the way. At the very least, it's a nice way to spend an hour or two feeling productive when the ideas stall. And invariably, these collages point to deeper themes and meanings that are bubbling up in my work. 

It's become a part of my artistic process. I grab used magazines from doctor's offices and the library whenever they're available. I subscribe to several magazines just because of the quality of the images inside. I always try to have glue sticks and poster board on hand. 

And somewhere in the process, as those bits of photographs come together in a new and orderly way, I find myself ready to dive back into the writing process again.