The Shadow Artist

Do you suppress your creative urges by surrounding yourself with 'official' artists?

BY: Julia Cameron

 

If find yourself married or related to artists while your own artistic life withers, you may be a Shadow Artist—a secretly talented person in the proximity of people who have been crowned “creative.”



Listen


Julia Cameron's audiotape series "Reflections on the Artist's Way" is available from Sounds True, PO Box 8010/Dept. BP98, Boulder, CO 80306-8010.

Excerpted with permission from the Sounds True Audio Collection "In Their Own Words"

Text of the audioclip: I have been a writer since I was a little kid. I grew up in a big yellow house out in the country with seven siblings--there were seven including myself--and it was a situation that some of you may find familiar, which is that when one kid comes along and is pretty good at the piano, when the second kid comes along--the piano is already taken.

Do any of you have an "officially" creative sibling? Well, then you grew up with a very intimate version of something I call being a "shadow artist." Shadow artist is a phrase that I invented to explain the fact that very often people who are extremely gifted will put themselves in the proximity of other people who are officially more gifted. And I want to be clear that they are only officially more gifted. Very often a shadow artist is the person who does the work at the office (you can feel free to just groan or weep if this strikes any chords with you), or someone who maybe dates a person or marries a person who is pursuing the desired art form. I don’t know if any of you know men who complain bitterly about their bad luck with actress after actress, and you say, "Well, why don't you stop dating actresses," and what you really need to say is, "Why don't you take an acting class?"

Many of us grew up in homes where art was something around the edges, creativity was very nice, but not necessarily something that someone from my background might aspire to. So there is a lot of undoing to be done as we begin to move toward dreams that we have been fairly systematically ignoring, distancing, grimly admitting, but beating ourselves up about.

But the fact remains that many of us have dreams, and we have difficulty actualizing these dreams. We have a lot of things we say to ourselves about these dreams, such as, "Well, if I had a million dollars, I'd write the book" or "You know, if I just had a little bit more time, if I had a year off just to paint, I would paint." I think that having a vast savannah of time and finding yourself unable to move toward the easel or the page or the stage is very, very painful.

So I want you tell you a little bit about pain, because that is how I came to write this book. I have been a writer since I was a little kid. My early writing was at the Washington Post, and then I walked onto my first movie set, and it was like, "Oh I see, they didn't tell me about this in Libertyville," and I became a screenwriter and eventually a director. I also did a lot of journalism, a lot of work for studios, a lot of independent work and work in the theatre, and just many forms of creativity, which may sound like, "What would this woman know about being blocked? Clearly, she has never had a block in her life."

I would propose that what I am telling you is the story of someone who was so damaged that whenever she was banged up in area A, she would jump off that particular skillet into frying pan B, and tap dance there. Then that would become frustrating, so I would leap into yet another pan, and what I began to learn was, "How do you stay functional and creative?"

 

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