AW11: Recovering a Sense of Autonomy

(Just a quick aside: most of my blogging is happening on Substack so if you’d like to join me there please do!)

My God it’s been a loooooong almost six months on this Artist’s Way trip. But this chapter reminded me that a lot has genuinely changed since I started on 1 January this year.

Chapter 11 in Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way discusses autonomy in the sense of how you might nuture yourself as an artist through acceptance and self-worth, managing your centre when success comes, the physicality of creativity, and creating for yourself an artist’s altar.

There were some great insights in this chapter and I was particularly delighted by her inclusion of physicality in the creative process, but it was the section on acceptance that got me thinking about how far I’ve come since last year and all the old stories I had about myself, my artistic worth, and my creativity.

Acceptance and self worth

Here are a few lines that stood out for me:

“I have to free myself from determining my value and the value of my work by my work’s market value.”

And: “I must learn that as an artist my credibility lies with me.”

And: “As an artist, my self-respect comes from doing the work.”

These are key phrases for me since each one is a learning that brought me to the Artist’s Way in the first place. And now, towards the end of it all, I’m enjoying the benefits of having these ideas really land for me.

Which is particularly useful at this juncture.

The past month, I’ve had a few people respond with surprise that I’m writing another story. I’ve had more than a handful tell me how inspiring my determination is to continue. I’ve had one or two give me a “Oh good for you!” or “Oh how sweet!”.

However well-meaning some of the cheers, I can’t help but sense an element of gentle and not-so-gentle patronising, like one might do with a child somewhat behind on their two times table but bullishly heading off to start on their nine times table.

I suppose this understandable. Without the success of an instant bestseller or the warm, safe glow of traditional publishing, it can seem crazy to continue.

“Why do it all again if credibility, money, status, or readership isn’t likely?” seems to be the gist of it.

Maybe the more cynical part of myself would’ve agreed a few months back.

When I started writing The Fulcrum, I thought it was of primary importance to find a publisher. Then I thought the primary importance was to find an agent to find that publisher. Later, I thought the primary importance was to find my readership.

All of which was about validation: Look, I am published, therefore I am a real writer; I have an agent, therefore I am credible; look, I have hundreds or thousands of readers who love my work, therefore I am a worthy storyteller.

I thought that if I had those then I’d be validated in continuing to write the stories that come to me. I’d be given permission to continue writing the stories that come to me.

I’m not saying these validations aren’t worthy or complementary to the experience, but they are no longer necessary for it.

None of these validations came to me and yet I’m still fully in love with The Fulcrum and clearer and more confident than ever about continuing with the stories I have regardless of what the possible outcomes might be from doing so.

Because I see now that my purpose is not publishers, or agents, or even readers. Once everything is stripped away, my purpose is the story. Getting the stories that come to me out into the world. Publisher or not, agent or not.

As for readers, there will always be a handful that will read what I write and for that I will always be grateful.

But even without readers, my story and I will still exist for each other.

And there’s something very affirming and empowering for me in that. As an artist, my self-respect comes from doing the work. My credibility lies with me. My value and the value of my work is not determined by market value.

I finally believe this.

Who knew this programme of creative recovery would actually work?*

Love and light fellow Earth dwellers,


Photo by Mikael Kristenson on Unsplash

*At minimum thousands of people. Thousands. If even 1% of the 50 million copies sold landed in the hearts and minds of those who bought and read them, that’s 50 000 lives changed – and that ripples out to hundreds of thousands of lives around each core human. What a legacy.

(PS I must admit that although I loved Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, I can’t help but wonder at how much of Cameron’s stuff she just reworked … or maybe this is the nature of universal truths?)