The Artist’s Way Week 3: Recovering a sense of power

Growth can be erratic and uncomfortable, but it's all part of the process. This week we look at anger, shame and how to deal with criticism.
A young woman in a tutu is in an underground railway carriage and swirling around a pole.

In this FREE journey to creative recovery, we’re following Julia Cameron’s bestselling creativity self-help manual, The Artist’s Way, tracing the book’s 12-week program with a series of inspiring ArtsHub articles, resources and ideas for artist-date activities. There’s also a Facebook community group you can join for discussion and support.

To recap, the idea with The Artist’s Way is to commit yourself to a structured creative recovery that will spark joy, remove blocks and build the confidence to play and take risks – whether you’re a professional artist or not. You can read previous articles here:

Or you can jump right in and follow along, wherever you are in the process. Grab a copy of the book, start reading and look out for ArtsHub’s weekly articles, published each Monday.

Week 3: Recovering a sense of power and experimenting with spiritual openness

Julia Cameron warns that this week we may be ‘dealing with unaccustomed bursts of energy and sharp peaks of anger, joy and grief’.

This is all part of the process as we question our previously accepted limits and start to crack open the shell that’s keeping us creatively cramped. Growth is erratic, she reminds us, and it’s normal for it to look chaotic and feel uncomfortable.

By this stage of the journey, your enthusiasm for the project may be waning, as you start to grapple with the repetitive blocks, excuses and habits that held you back before and will hold you back now if you give up. I know I’m grappling with them, all over again.

Change is hard. Remaining stuck is the way of least resistance, but as Cameron says, this is a week to experiment with spiritual open-mindedness.


Many of us were raised to push down and deny any feelings of anger. After all, “wrath” is one of the seven deadly sins – defined as ‘uncontrolled feelings of anger, rage, and hatred and a desire for revenge’.

But what if anger is just another emotion that can be expressed and used, either destructively or healthily? What if anger is meant to be listened to – a voice telling us what we don’t want, and sounding the alarm when our personal boundaries have been violated? It can be scary, but it needs to exist.

I remember the sheer panic I used to feel around my tantrum-throwing three-year-old, whose loudly-expressed anger was, to me, an “inappropriate” and terrifying emotion. I had never been allowed to show anger myself, even as a toddler, so it was rare that I even acknowledged it as a feeling. Instead of helping him learn safe ways of expressing and self-soothing, I shut him in his room for “time out” and gritted my teeth. (Hopefully, he’s not scarred for life.) But now I’d want to ask more questions and hold more space.

As Cameron says, ‘Anger is fuel.’ It’s a tool we can use to motivate action. It’s the opposite of sloth, apathy and despair. It’s not comfortable – we can even feel angry that we need to feel anger – but it can be part of the solution to acknowledge problems like procrastination, time-stealing of poisonous playmates, and envy or outrage that someone has “stolen” our ideas.

When we’re angry about the success of others, for example, this can tell us more about what we want for ourselves.


Whether you call it coincidence, luck, answered prayers or “the law of attraction”, synchronicity does exist. Opportunities arise once we are committed to a course of action – doors open, teachers and mentors appear, and we start to see inspiration everywhere.

Wishes and prayers, when uttered with sincerity, can be powerful. (Maybe you found this Artist’s Way journey because you told someone you wanted to be more creative.)

What struck me in this week’s reading was the idea that answered prayers are scary because they imply responsibility. Once we get what we asked for, we’re tasked with doing more work and justifying the gift or the grant we’ve received. Once you get that publishing deal, that residency, that acceptance into a show, you need to deliver more of yourself, and sometimes we’re scared that we can’t.

As Goethe famously said (and Cameron quotes): ‘Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it.’

A dancer opening up to power in The Artist's Way.
What would happen if you opened yourself up to synchronicity? Image: Pexels.

Shame and criticism

‘Making a piece of art may feel a lot like telling a family secret,’ writes Cameron. ‘Secret telling, by its very nature, involves shame and fear. It asks the question: “What will they think of me once they know this?”‘

Many of us were shamed as children or as young artists. Bad reviews (or bad marks, or negative feedback) can add to this shame. We can feel foolish for even trying. How dare we!

This week’s reading explains how we need to protect ourselves from premature or unkind feedback – to discern where and when to seek it. There are some people who are just never going to understand or appreciate, so why ask for their opinion or their approval?

Not all criticism is shaming either, Cameron says, ‘In fact, even the most severe criticism when it fairly hits the mark is apt to be greeted by an internal “Aha!” if it shows the artist a new and valid path for work.’

Part of the work of being an artist is learning when to listen to criticism and when to ignore it.

Some rules for dealing with criticism

  • Receive the criticism all the way through and get it over with.
  • Jot down notes on what concepts or phrases bother you.
  • Jot down concepts or phrases that sound useful.
  • Remember that even if you made a truly rotten piece of art, it may be a necessary stepping stone.
  • Do something nurturing and remember past successes or positive feedback.
  • Think about whether the criticism is tapping into messages or wounds from childhood.
  • Get back on the horse and do something creative as soon as possible.

My personal journey with ‘The Artist’s Way’ this week

This week was tricky and frantic, but I held tightly to a couple of mantras: ‘Something is better than nothing’ and ‘Progress, not perfection’.

A long weekend away in the country with friends meant lots of driving and socialising. No quiet time for pages or dates. Back in the office, I’ve been learning a new role. I’d also committed to several social engagements in the evenings, overestimating as always my capacity, and failing to plan for rest or exercise, let alone “Art”.

So, here’s the truth. A few weeks into The Artist’s Way program and I’m struggling with some old, entrenched patterns, including my inability to prioritise or schedule time alone. I wonder if there is a part of me that’s actually afraid of being alone. Maybe I’m afraid I’ll be abandoned or unloved if I go into “hermit mode”. This is big internal work and I can’t believe how hard it is to actually look at the calendar and block out two hours to take myself out next week.

One of the things that kept me on track this week was the daily comments and posts from others in our Facebook community group – reading about their similar struggles and inspiring Artist Dates.

Morning Pages

I managed four days out of seven, and enjoyed the early morning quiet time, noticing the changing of seasons as the darkness lingers longer in autumn. I worked through some of the “Detective Work” questions in this week’s chapter. For example, some of my answers:

  • I don’t do it much but I enjoy… Going to the movies.
  • If I could lighten up a little, I’d let myself… Dance.
  • If I weren’t so stingy with my artist I’d buy her… Writing retreats and classes. A new piece of art for the office wall.
  • My parents think artists are… Not totally sure and I can’t speak for them, but maybe I feel they see artists as self-indulgent and impractical, or just incomprehensible.
  • What makes me feel weird about this recovery journey is… Trying to do it in public and be honest about the process while also completing it as a “work task“.
  • I secretly enjoy reading… poetry, memoir, other women’s candid experiences with menopause on Instagram.

Some of the other tasks that struck a chord this week: practising saying “yes” to help, experimenting (unsuccessfully) with solitude, and thinking about myself as a child and the things I loved to do and eat. As per Cameron’s endorsement to revisit childhood preferences, maybe this week I’ll indulge in a mango and a packet of Twisties!

Artist Date

While I didn’t manage a proper Artist Date this week, I made a mini-date out of a tram ride last night, travelling from the heart of Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall to my book club in South Melbourne.

I put my phone in my bag and committed to being fully present on the ride, watching the world pass by in the golden light, enjoying all the public art along the way, including glimpses of the free PHOTO 24 exhibition dotted around pavements in the City of Melbourne (until 24 March), and when the tram stopped at the intersection outside the National Gallery of Victoria, I watched Julian Opie’s digital silhouettes of Australian birds pecking away at the nature strip.

Not a real artist date, but an act of paying attention.

Julian Opie, ‘Australian Birds’, NGV. Photo: Tom Ross.

Creative Affirmations

Here are a few of Cameron’s affirmations that sit well this week:

  • My creativity leads me to forgiveness and self-forgiveness.
  • I am allowed to nurture my artist..
  • Through a few simple tools, my creativity will flourish.
  • As I create and listen, I will be led.

And here are a few of my own:

  • Making time for creativity is as important as making time for exercise.
  • I’m willing to do the work and tell the truth.
  • I can survive if others reject or ridicule my art.
  • I’m allowed to make imperfect art.

Artist Date ideas from our community group

  • Attending a Metropolitan Opera live streaming performance of La Forza del Destino.
  • A bike ride to a pop-up art walk.
  • Attending a public light show installation Lit in Wyndham Park, Werribee, Victoria.
  • ‘This week I watched two [films about artists] that were both very inspiring and visually “ART for art’s sake”. Mr. Turner [Stan] and Frida [Prime]. Both the stories of artists from very different backgrounds, times and cultures. Just loved them both. The cinematography in Mr. Turner was like each frame was a painting in itself and Frida was like reading through her illustrated journal.’ – Robyn Lea.
  • ‘Went on my first solo walk today. Such a lovely day for it. 70 degrees and sunny. Saw a blue heron fishing, helped a garter snake off the driveway and into the grass, enjoyed the little violets popping up in the wilder part of my yard. Why did I wait so long to start doing this?’ – Sharon Hines.
  • ‘For my artist’s date I took a sneaky long lunch break and visited St Patrick’s Cathedral, which is near my office. I’ve walked past that hulk of stone many times and been inside before, but this time I really paid attention to the inner world it creates, the way it’s been designed to induce reverence, the light cast through the colour-stained windows. Also the repetitive gruesomeness of the crucifixion everywhere you look. And I did not know that dead archbishops (NOT Pell) are buried beneath the floor and there is a little vestibule where you can kneel down and pray for their souls.’ – Jo Bowers.

Other resources

Next up is Week Four: Recovering a sense of Integrity – and we’ll be experimenting with the dreaded week of Reading Deprivation! Stay on the path and do what you can to stretch that little bit further.

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Rochelle Siemienowicz is the ArtsHub Group's Education and Career Editor. She is a journalist for Screenhub and is a writer, film critic and cultural commentator with a PhD in Australian cinema. She was the co-host of Australia's longest-running film podcast 'Hell is for Hyphenates' and has written a memoir, Fallen, published by Affirm Press. Her second book, Double Happiness, a novel, will be published by Midnight Sun in 2024. Instagram: @Rochelle_Rochelle Twitter: @Milan2Pinsk