In Part I, I broached the topic of collecting mental images as part of the creative process.
This practice has been well documented by Julia Cameron. In The Artist’s Way, the two primary tools she discusses, “Morning Pages” and “Artist’s Dates”, are essentially techiniques for the practice of gathering.
Cameron’s Morning Pages, three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing performed first thing every morning, is meant to get thoughts and ideas (plus the inhibitions, self-criticism, and other negative forces) down on paper. It’s a form of self-discovery that she recommends whether you’re at the crest of creative output or the trough of creative stagnation. They are intended to help you circumvent your inner “censor”, to allow thoughts to flow freely.
If you think of creativity as a flow of ideas, Morning Pages are the pump.
And if Morning Pages are the pump, then the Artist’s Date is the gathering process that Cameron prescribes for filling the reservoir of the imagination. The Artist’s Date is a weekly commitment to spend time by yourself, on whatever activity brings out the child-like artist within you. If you want to stretch out with a new box of crayons and a fresh coloring book, go for it.
The premise here, that successful creatives control the flow of their ideas, puts these two activities at the root of the creative process. But the key is that we train ourselves to suspend judgment, to quiet the editor within us so that we are free to imagine–and create–without constraint.
The goal in all of this is to create. Why bother, otherwise? But The hard message from Cameron is that there is real work to be done to vanquish the harsh, critical voice inside our heads that gets in the way, tells us that our work is crap, or that we’re headed in the wrong direction.
I’ll say it again: The goal is to create. To create, we must take in the world as it is and see it as if for the first time.