2 Indispensable Tools For Blocked Writers and Closet Artists


Meet Willbababer. He thinks he has to hold his breath under water.

“Artist” is one of those words that can mean one thing by the speaker and then transform mid-air into something completely different for the person hearing it. For example, in my corner of the world, around Nashville, when one speaks of being an “artist” they seldom mean it in the traditional sense of drawing, painting or sculpting. It’s usually a safe bet to assume they are talking about a recording artist.

In the book The Artist’s Way the author Julia Cameron is referring to all art forms but her specialty is the blocked writer. The heart and soul of writing, as it is in the creation of all artwork and music, is creativity. The point of conception of a brainchild is deep within the human spirit.

If we are made in the image of God, the creator of the universe, then creativity is part of our DNA–our spiritual DNA.

Cameron writes,

“For most of us, the idea that the creator encourages creativity is a radical thought. We tend to think, or at least fear, that creative dreams are egotistical, something that God wouldn’t approve of for us. After all, our creative artist is an inner youngster and prone to childish thinking. If our mom or dad expressed doubt or disapproval for our creative dreams, we may project that same attitude onto a parental god. This thinking must be undone.

What we are talking about is an induced–or invited– spiritual experience… We undertake certain spiritual exercises to achieve alignment with the creative energy of the universe.”

We are all gifted with it. The problem is that many of us became creatively paralyzed at some point in our formative years by harsh criticism or discouragement. Then again, many of us simply succumb to the demands of adult life, and our creative spirit becomes crippled under its weight, its voice becomes too weak for us to hear.

The author offers two essential tools to begin your “creative recovery.” This week my daughter Emily and I began using both; they have become a vital part of our lives.

Morning Pages – Your Spiritual Windshield Wipers.


Hidden behind this pretty cover lies my morning haze and tiny flashes of understanding.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emmerson

This journal has floated around my house for a few years now–empty.

It was love at first sight, and I had to buy it. But, something this pretty needed timeless prose inside, right? Not just journaling, after all I am not consistent, so there will be major time lapses within. Maybe recording all the prayers God has answered? Or how about letters to my children? They will find it someday after I’m gone. But then, who wants to write with a pen? There’s no spell check. This could get embarrassingly ugly. What if someone read it? Then again, if I write in cursive, the Common Core generation won’t be able to read it anyway.

This string of disparaging sentences that ran through my mind like a neon sign in front of a run down strip mall. They taunted my perfectionist tendencies into a complete stall. So you know what I did? Absolutely nothing. That’s why it sat as a blank decoration on the corner of my desk for years.

Then I read the author’s explanation of “morning pages”:

“When I am in a puckish mood, I call morning pages “Brain Drain.” They are used to siphon off whatever nebulous worries, jitters, and preoccupations stand between me and my day. I am reminded of a wonderful old television commercial that portrayed test driving “on the Baja Peninsula.” As the truck bucked and lurched over rugged terrain, the windshield wipers went “thunk, thunk, thunk,” clearing away the dirt and debris that obscured the windshield.

That is what morning pages are: spiritual windshield wipers.

I need spiritual windshield wipers, and I desperately need to drain my brain on a regular basis.

My daughter Emily and I went out and picked out a journal for her as well. Something inviting. Why not make it pretty? After all, isn’t that illustrative of who we are? All dressed up on the outside, and a mess of random thoughts, flashing brilliance followed by sullen doubts on the inside. This old beauty now contains, and hides away, my mental debris.

Here’s your tool: Write three pages of “stream of consciousness” style writing first thing in the morning. Just keep your hand moving across the page no matter what. If you need to write, “morning pages are stupid…” over and over go for it. Just let your hand drain out what is sitting an your brain. That is what is clogging your writing and creativity. You might just find that it is also fogging up your ability to hear that still small voice inside.

It is surprising what you will uncover. For some time now, I’ve done various types of writing in the mornings. This by far is the most useful, and most enjoyable tool I have ever found.

Then there is the other basic tool the author offers, and it’s the most fun.

The Artist Date – Take Your Inner Child On a Fun Date


This is Stan the smiling Stingray. He actually thinks he is a fish fairy.

When Emily was younger, okay so it was last year when she was 16, we would spontaneously pull into a pet store and stroll through the fish tank aisles. Then we would create voice-overs for funny looking fish. Yes, we give fish personalities, and made them into characters.

According to Julia Cameron, what we were doing was feeding our inner “artist child.”

“When we work at our art, we dip into the well of our experience and scoop out images. Because we do this, we need to learn how to put image back. How do we fill the well? By the artist date.”

So we headed to the Aquarium and spent the evening taking pictures of grumpy old fish, and smiling friendly stingrays.

Both Emily’s inner artist and mine are cartoonists.

Cameron reminds us that our inner artist is really very childlike. Those of us that have watched the years leave their tracks across the face in the mirror and marvel at the difference between what we see and how we feel know our spirits are ageless. They may grow in wisdom but also long for creativity just like a child.

Here’s your tool. Each week set aside a time for you to take some time alone with yourself. Go and do, fill up that well.

Do whatever inspires you: a trip to the zoo, an afternoon movie or maybe a long drive in the country.

If you listen carefully you will hear exactly where it wants to go–and you’ll get excited about it.

Did you have artist aspirations that someone crushed growing up? How do you plan to feed your artist child this week?

Join the conversation–The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron