If you’re a dreamer or a doer, you may be as passionate about innovative solutions as I am. But for me, the spark of inspiration sputtered out five years ago. I just couldn’t get past a few failures and gradually lost my creative confidence altogether.
So I sat quietly in class, like some snuffed out candle, as I started the course “The Artist’s Way,” a 12-week program based on Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, facilitated by FreshWater Cleveland editor, Jen Jones Donatelli. “The book speaks to anyone looking to make a meaningful shift, personally or professionally,” said Jen in her advertisement.
I was looking for a light.
Jen called the class CLE-ative Groove. That name spoke to me as a drummer who had let my team building company, Rhythm Culture, fade into silence. The drums were too heavy, and my family was too loud. My eldest son has autism. I felt guilty leaving them to help other people find their groove.
Through weekly tools, interactive activities and connections, I began to free myself from some unhelpful habits of thought and lifestyle. I hadn’t really let go of drumming. Rather, I had shut down my playful self to better manage the responsibilities of home, work and family.
“Morning Pages help you unlock artistic skills that may have long been dormant in you,” said Jen. Every week, nine ladies sat around the table, sharing our hilarious Morning Pages “brain dumps”. The sharing brought us closer together and freed space for creative thoughts throughout the day. I learned I wasn’t alone in my frustration to live more creatively.
A major contributor to creative dry spells is ordinary burn-out. Without self care, small hurdles can pile up into huge barriers. I felt stuck. So I began taking myself out on the course’s required “Artist Dates,” during which you engage in a creative activity — solo. But you are not really alone — you are providing dedicated time to yourself, recharging your natural, creative spirit.
Each week, activities were designed to strengthen our creative confidence, expanding what was possible. Jen explained, “What seems like an impossible dream at the start of the course, becomes more realistic by the end.”
I was invited by Jen to lead a drum circle for my class as a surprise activity. So I dusted off my djembes, bells, guiros and claves. Before anyone arrived, I created a circle in an upstairs room, brightened by patterned silk scarves and low lighting. Nine wide-eyed women grooved together on the drums, sang and danced as their creative spirit pulsed inside. Their faces were lit with their newly discovered musicality. I felt like a lighthouse, helping them continue on with their journeys.
The full title of Cameron’s book is The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. It utilizes spiritual language and concepts, like “higher power,” because Cameron’s model is based on the 12-step method for recovering alcoholics. “Higher power” is used as a metaphor for creative recovery. Regardless of our belief systems or world view, everyone was encouraged to journey in a “good, orderly direction” and tap into the natural flow of the universe. Timely coincidences, called synchronicities in the book, were especially fun to share. It felt like my new friends and the whole universe had my back.
Cameron wrote The Artist’s Way back in 1992, and the book has sold over four million copies to date. You might even have the guide on your own bookshelf. This is Jen’s third course series in Ohio, but she herself has taken the course eight times on the West Coast.
After spending eight years studying Cameron’s work, Jen was so inspired that she went on to design her own Artist’s Way course, melding her experience as a writing instructor and life coach training from the Co-Active Training Institute. She debuted the course when she moved back to Cleveland in 2018, in hopes of sharing with others the meaningful takeaways she’d received in Los Angeles. This will be her third time offering CLE-ative Groove here in Cleveland.
Creativity energy has been burning in me this past year. I launched an Artist’s Way series for Caregivers and began exploring journalism through classes with Literary Cleveland. If you, like me, need to rekindle your entrepreneurial, artistic or creative spirit, consider this course.
Update for 2020 | The next cohort of Jen’s Artist’s Way class is being held virtually beginning Sept. 23, 2020. Click here for details and registration.