Montana Fowler Art

week two: recovering a sense of identity

03 March 2023

I’d imagined that Week 2 of the Artist’s Way, recovering a sense of identity, would have had exercises to make us look inward to identify who we are. In fact, Julia Cameron tells us to do the opposite.

Recovering a sense of identity was not about us writing about what makes us unique. Instead, Cameron argues that where we put our attention defines our identity.

Asking ourselves what we pay attention too is a harder question to hide from than asking ourselves who we think we are. I can tell myself I am a painter, but if I have to admit I only painted once in the last week… that tells me where my priorities have been.

This chapter encourages us to take actions to define ourselves. If we want to be a runner, we must run. If we want to be a musician, we must play.

Another element is that we have to own when we are choosing not to do something. People often ask me how my French is, and the truth is it isn’t great. I thoroughly enjoyed my eight weeks of intensive French when I first got here. When I was in class, I had full intentions of using my time in Montreal to learn this beautiful language. Once I started work, got the studio & started playing roller derby, French fell to the bottom of my priorities. In my limited time outside of work I am choosing to divert my attention (build my identity) with these other actions. I could choose to study French instead of paint as my main activity outside of work, but I love painting too much to put anything else above it.

So, if we are what we pay attention to… then do we want to make any changes? Cameron’s main goal is for us to examine the destructive distractions we choose that ultimately take us away from our creative work. Do we have people we give too much time to? Media we consume too much of? The key to diagnosing yourself with unhealthy distractions is checking in with yourself. (In The Artist’s Way terms, the morning pages) If we turn off the distractions… meditate, drive or walk without listening to anything… take a break from the news or social media…. we can hear ourselves think.

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