Every once in awhile something comes into your life that will change it forever and lead you on the road toward a different path, you might say an "awakening" of sorts. Two books did this for me, and one of them was Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity (Inner Workbook).
First a little background information about me. Ever since I can remember I had been involved with all forms of the creative art fields. My mother had been artistically inclined, did scores of oil paintings and had gallery exhibitions of her paintings. As a young child, I would watch with fascination as she created one of her works, and one day asked if I could do an oil painting. I guess to amuse me, she gave me one of her old canvas boards and some of her paints she wasn't using. I did my first still life oil painting at the mere age of seven. My creative flair didn't stop with painting or drawing, but I got involved with music, writing, dance (even studied a bit of ballet). Now while my mother never discouraged me from my creative endeavors she never exactly embrace them wholeheartedly. You see, I was also a science geek. It was assumed by my family that when I went to college that I would in effect emerge out as a female Einstein. As much as I loved the sciences (and still do) my heart wasn't into any of the science fields as a profession, instead my heart, my bliss were the arts. You can then imagine the reaction I got from my family when I announced I wanted to be a Drama Major. A colossal thud of disappointment.
Simultaneously while in college I became involved with photography, and not that I no longer was interested in my aspirations of being in the acting world, I have to admit to have gotten discouraged when my own family didn't support me. So onward toward being a photographer. My family's negative reaction to my creative endeavors however, did leave a gigantic scar, in which I was made to feel worthless, and that being in the creative fields in general was fool-hearty, a waste of time and energy, and one couldn't possibly be successful. Translation: I had developed a real heavy-duty sense of low self-esteem.
Then only seven years ago, while in the library, a book caught my eye, Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, and I checked it out. I now have my own much battered copy of it and read it on a regular basis. While the title suggests that one has to be an "artist" to appreciate this book, this really isn't the case. It's a tremendously uplifting book for anyone with sagging self-esteem and needs a booster shot of self-worth and confidence.
For instance, when I came upon her concepts that one of the biggest saboteurs of one's aspirations can be one's own family members, I thought....BINGO! Up until then, I really, honestly didn't connect the dots and realize how my own family had curtailed my dreams by in effect telling me how useless my creative aspirations were. It also truly woke up my eyes to realize how manipulative my mother had been and knew oh, so well how to push those buttons. Who knows? Maybe it all started with that very first oil painting of mine, since it took her from the creative limelight and now I had become the focus of attention. In other words, plain simple jealousy, which is another concept Ms. Cameron brings up.
One of the things I love about this book is that sprinkled throughout it is the idea to nurture the creative child within and one way to do this is on and off is to get some little treat for oneself to make one feel better. It doesn't have to be expensive, but something that makes you happy. How often do we deny giving some silly gift to ourselves? Maybe it could be a stuffed toy, a package of incense, a delightfully scented candle, or even an inspirational book? For me, and please don't laugh, as this was one of the things I got for myself. When I was a kid, I couldn't wait for school to start as it signaled getting new school supplies including the most sacred of all in my mind: that new box of 64 Crayola Crayons. So one of my gifts to myself one time was to out do that. I got a box of 96 Crayola Crayons, and believe it or not, yes, I do use them.
Another concept in her book is to start making lists of your past accomplishments, whether big or small. It could be anything and everything you can think of, such as graduating college, having that first short story or photo published, being promoted in your job, or even learning how to make that perfect crepe. Write them down, and keep writing. Then one day you'll look back at the lists you've made and think, my goodness did I really do all that? What a boost for the self-esteem.
As mentioned from time to time I re-read my much battered, highlighted, marked up copy of The Artist's Way, and I'm so glad, that seven years ago it caught my eye in the library and I took it out. It helped me on the road to self-healing and of giving me a positive self-worth I didn't have before. My life has definitely gotten better as a result of her book, and I highly recommend it.
Update On Dec 07, 2008: I include a scanned image of the cover of my copy of The Artist's Way book. As you can see, I've read it a lot judging by it's condition