My friend is taking a pottery class. Last week she told me she’s enjoying it even while she wonders if she’s moving too slowly. At her last class, she formed a coil pot but hadn’t had time to get anything on the wheel. “But I figure I’d rather take home a few things I want instead of several I made in haste, ” she said.
“If it were me, I think I’d just enjoy throwing and working with the clay, ” I said. “I don’t think it would matter much for me to have anything to show for it.”
“Even though you’d have messy hands?” she asked.
Well, there is that.
As soon as she asked, I could feel imaginary clay drying on my hands, its chalky film sucking the moisture off my palms. I noticed I was rubbing my fingers together, unconsciously seeking assurance that my skin was still there. It didn’t help, I suppose, that earlier that day I’d gone into mild convulsions when our black lab ran her slobbery tongue from my wrist to my elbow in unrestrained dog-joy at being alive.
I concluded that as long as I had my hands in the clay, I would be fine. But then I’d need to wash up immediately. At the same moment, I had another, more surprising, realization: I half expected to enjoy the process.
I’ve never found getting there to be half so much fun as having arrived. The process, it seems to me, is a necessary evil. In chapter eight of The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron picks apart my preference for the destination over the journey.
Instead of allowing ourselves a creative journey, we focus on the length of the trip. “It’s such a long way, ” we tell ourselves. It may be, but each day is just one more day with some motion in it, and that motion toward a goal is very enjoyable.
At the heart of the anorexia of artistic avoidance is the denial of the process. We like to focus on having learned a skill or on having made an artwork. This attention to final form ignores the fact that creativity lies not in the done but in the doing. (p. 144)
My friend is coming for a visit in a few weeks. As if to test me and this tentative willingness to squeeze clay between my fingers for no better reason than how it feels, she offered to bring some along.
“Seriously, ” she said. “I can.”
Suddenly self-conscious, I caught myself hedging. “It’s up to you, I guess, if you want to.”
If I know her at all, she will want to. And maybe then, I’ll close my eyes and push my hands into a sticky ball of clay and pretend it wasn’t Julia Cameron who said, Creativity occurs in the moment, and in the moment, we are timeless.
We’re exploring Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way together. What do you prefer — the process or the outcome? What stood out to you in the chapters this week? Perhaps you’d share in the comments about your experience with Morning Pages, an Artist’s Date or any of the tasks you tried.
For next week, we’ll conclude our discussion with the final three chapters. Give yourself the freedom to choose one chapter to focus on, and pick up the others at a later time.
If you post about the book at your blog, please place your link in the comments so we can join you there, and feel free to use our Book Club button on your page.
Buy a year of Every Day Poems, just $5.99— Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In June we’ll be exploring the theme Trees.
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