The Artist’s Way? No Way.

Perhaps you, like me, have once had someone–perhaps an overbearing aunt or a coworker who bikes to work–insist that you read The Artist’s Way.

Multiple people (including someone on Facebook recently, hence this post) have suggested that I read this book, saying things like “It’ll free your creativity” and “You’re creative–you’ll like this book.”

I haven’t read the book, and I don’t intend to. If you have read it, perhaps you can explain to me why the book comes so highly recommended.

Here’s why I have no interest in reading The Artist’s Way: I’d rather spend my time being creative than reading about how to be creative.

You see, it’s really not all that hard to be creative. All you have to do to be creative is create something. Turn off the TV, unplug the internet, put down the book, and make something.

I think the only difference between creative and non-creative people are that non-creative people don’t spend the time or energy to create anything. And that’s why reading a book about creativity seems so counterintuitive to me. If you’re really serious about being creative–serious enough to pay $26 for a book–why not just skip The Artist’s Way and start making something?

Every once in a while someone says to me that they “should really write a blog.” I’ve found that about 50% of those people never actually write a blog, and the other 50% write a blog for a few weeks and then never write again.

The people who are serious about writing a blog don’t talk about it–they just do it.

Overall, I think this is a good litmus test for people. If you find yourself talking or reading about creating something instead of actually creating, then there’s a very good chance that you’re never going to spend the time or energy creating that thing.

Honestly, most everything fits into that category. The category of talk instead of action. You’re never going to write that novel or record that album or act in a play. And that’s okay. Because I bet that there’s one thing–one thing–that you actually are serious about. Most likely you’re already doing it.

But if you’re not doing it yet (and if you haven’t been talking it up as something you “really should do”), why not spend one hour a night this week doing it? Stop consuming for one hour a night and create something.

That’s the effing artist’s way.

13 thoughts on “The Artist’s Way? No Way.”

  1. lol Wow. Tell us how you really feel, sport. lol Good point though. Procrastination and complacence are the enemies of creativity. On that note though, creativity isn’t limited to artistry. Remember that creativity is now highly valued on the business side, as well as in the business of the arts. In fact, to avoid procrastination, I use a binder/book, thingamabob, called, “Book in a Month.” For those of us that are primarily right-brained, it gives structure as well as a means to implement time management.

    As to the book, well, I admit that I read it and did not pay retail. Thank goodness for the library. =D Was it Earth-shattering? Nahhh. Was it ground-breaking? Probably not. But to some, I am sure it has purpose. Like I told a client, if it works and keeps you focused, great. Otherwise, it’s a paperweight and a half.

    I compare this to how we learn. Some of us are visual. Some of us are audio-learners. Some still require a manual. Evidently, action is vital to the process. However, if someone needs help developing a plan to accomplish the goal, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using tools to that effect.

    I would recommend, “What Color is Your Parachute?”, though. 😉

    • Orianna–Some good points here. I am genuinely curious if people have found value in the book, and exactly what that value is and how they’ve implemented it into their creative life.

  2. How apropos. I didn’t read this before our conversation at El Maguey this Monday, but I had this concept in mind as we spoke.

    Over the past couple of months, I’ve been much more aware of saying, “I should do X” vs. “I will do X”. I find forcing that one little mental shift to be helpful in distinguishing what I truly care enough to do and what is passing fancy. If I can’t commit to a “will do,” I probably will never do it or won’t have my heart in it.

    • Trev–I like that shift in mindset. I think it ties into the “minimal viable product” concept we discussed. Sometimes, instead of starting with some huge plan or product, you can test the waters with a very simple version of the product that you can get up and running today (instead of “someday”).

      I do think that some books, like The $100 Startup, fall into a different category in terms of utility than The Artist’s Way. I consider those books to be manuals for things that you wouldn’t otherwise know how to do. But knowing how to be creative isn’t something you need to read a book to learn how to do. All you have to do is create something and you’re instantly creative.

      • In the vein of offering the other side, as there is a need for manuals sometimes, I revisited Julia Cameron’s website. Lo’ and behold, Jenna Fisher offered a very animated testimony for the book. Before landing “The Office,” Jenna admittedly was not as well-known.

        Sometimes, and this is what I feel this book offers, people need a bit more than a refined nudge of sorts. What I mean is, yes all you may need to do is create, but usually there is the, “Where do I start question?”.

        Or as a friend of mine asked, “What do I do first?!”

        Similarly, when I decided that I wanted to be more fit, you can relate I’m sure as you play sports, I didn’t know where to start. Since then, I’ve become an avid fan of P90x because it gave me a roadmap. That’s what this book offers.

        I prefer “Book (or script) in a Month” myself but you get the idea.

  3. I create every day. I enter a request for data, the data is returned; I perform systematic analysis; play the formatting game; and PRESTO! I have Created a Report. But this isn’t what most people mean when they say they want to be more creative. People usually mean that they want to find a way to express something they think or feel in a unique and effective way to other people. While there is no teacher like doing, people are often too self conscious about how the product will be viewed. They may seek input from “expert” resources on the topic. Or they’ll engage some output that is often considered a good example of the genre. And sometimes, the overall task becomes too daunting, or ends up unfulfilling. The individual’s creative potential may never actualize into a product. That is the situation where people need the extra boost of books like this.

    • Red–Here’s the thing. I agree that most of the time when people talk about being creative, they’re referring to something artistic. So say that you’ve always wanted to paint as a hobby. You have a few choices:

      1. You can do nothing and just talk about how someday you want to paint.
      2. You can buy paint supplies and start painting.
      3. You can get a book on how to paint, go to art museums, and gather information about how to paint.
      4. You can buy The Artist’s Way and read about general “creativity”

      1 and 4 are useless. 3 is less useless, but it only means something if you do 2. #2 is the only way that you can actually be creative. There’s no barrier to entry for anyone to spend $30 on paint supplies and actually start painting. So why not just do it instead of talking and reading about doing it? Maybe people need that boost, like you said. But I still contend that people who are serious about creating things are those who actually do them instead of talking or reading about them.

      And again, I’m not shaming those who aren’t serious about creating things. I’m just saying that you can use those clues to see what you’re truly passionate about.

  4. I have not read the Artist’s Way, and don’t really know much about it—but I can tell you that as someone who’s expected to ‘be creative’ 40+ hours a week, there are books and exercises that really do help get you moving. Circumventing the procrastination part you talked about is key, but sometimes just moving forward on something doesn’t get you anywhere either—at least not anywhere worth going. So while I’m probably not going to go out and buy the Artist’s Way, I’m hesitant to knock it since I know plenty of other books that really do get you inspired, thinking and moving.

    On the procrastination note, I recently read an article, about time management or something I think, that had an interesting take on the problem. They suggested that instead of simply saying “I don’t have time for X”, you rephrase that to be “X is not a priority.” The reasoning is, you do have time for X—there are 24 hours in a day—you’re just prioritizing other things above it. It really changes your frame of mind. Just think, instead of saying “I don’t have time to proofread your resume,” you say “Proofreading your resume is not a priority.” Rephrasing changes the tone and I’ve found when you use it, it helps you determine what really is a priority. Since reading that article I’ve used the technique to be more consistent about Spanish lessons and redesigning my portfolio website—both of which I’d been talking about, but not doing, for far too long.

    • Christine–Yeah, I’m not sure this post applies people who need to be creative at work. Although really when people say that, I think they mean “be imaginative.” Because we’re all creators at work. That’s what work is.

      I like that way of reframing the things that we feel like we don’t have time for. “X is not a priority.”


Leave a Reply

Discover more from

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading