The problem with ‘realizing your creative dreams’

January 22, 2008

I had the conversation below with a member of the Artist Grads group, a list serve of people who have completed the months long creative recovery program,’The Artist’s Way’, by Julia Cameron.

It is a wonderful and highly recommended book, but there are some worrying underlying assumptions which put people under pressure to ‘achieve’. We discuss this aspect:

M wrote: Somehow, after doing this programme I am left feeling hopeless and somehow not quite dedicated enough to my art.

I replied: Maybe this exposes the downside of the ‘realize your creative dreams’ trend. I recognize those feelings of guilt or inadequacy concerning my level of commitment to my art and I’m wondering how we got to feeling that we have to jump through creative hoops- whose hoops? Who says we have to be dedicated to our art in a certain prescribed way? Built into the self-help trend or realizing your dreams is the assumption that if you don’t you’ve failed.

Thus, ‘our art’ becomes yet one more goal in our goal oriented society, instead of a personal quest governed by our own unique sense of tempo and unfoldment.

M: It is obvious that I have been doing creative and artistic things, but somehow I have not accepted that these activities are actually expressions of my artistic self.

S: As long as we discuss art in the context of the accepted paradigm of this culture which is about improvement, progress, achievement, consuming, and prosperity, we are going to go in circles and will never be satisfied. We will always be judging ourselves and our art according to those standards, and those have, for me very little to do with my art.
I am not searching for one ‘universally accepted definintion of art’. As an artist I am dissatisfied with the existing definintions of what art is and am trying to expand them to be more inclusive. I am trying to find an art that fits with my deepest values instead of making my art acording to external values that mean very little to me.

M:…I am still in the process of finding a gentler way to tend to my artistic nature and stop the constant self criticism that only adds to my frustration.

S: thanks M, me too. The key word is ‘gentle’, I think. And you use the word ‘tend’ which comes up repeatedly in Thomas Moore’s writings:

“…careful tending of the soul results in an atmosphere full of connections and significances’,
(paraphrased)  we need to tend our personal shrines, tend borders, gardens, communities and dreams…..

3 Responses to “The problem with ‘realizing your creative dreams’”

  1. madsilence Says:

    I’m not familar with The Artist’s Way nor its efficacy as a “creative recovery program,” but the dialogue you recreate resonates. Perhaps the “artist’s way” has less to do with the fine arts and more to do with the art of living. I believe humans are inherently creative and must express that aspect of their being to be fully human. Creativity manifests in many aspects of our lives, including the fine & decorative arts, music, literature, dance, etc. But it’s the creative process that’s important: not the end product of that process. Art therapy isn’t about painting style or quality: it’s about the therapeutic effect of the creative process.


  2. thanks madsilence. I agree that the ‘artist’s way’ is more about making your life the artwork, than succeeding at the fine arts.

    And yes, the creative process is inherently therapeutic whether it is called therapy or not. Whatever you make says something about you whether you are aware of it or not.

  3. […] interesting read over at my friend Sarah’s blog about tending our dreams versa realizing our dreams has me thinking. I really like the idea of tending, and putting more awareness into the things I am […]

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