I finished reading quite a bit of books over the past couple of weeks. The latest book I've picked up is The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I found out about it from The Actor's Diet blog, which is great, by the way.
The book is meant to be your resource and workbook should you find yourself in need to connect deeper within, with your true self--some say, your artistic self. It helps to dissolve the social binds that keep us alert and on the defensive, the superficial "I'm fine" type of facades, and the creative blocks that we face because of the confluence of all these factors.
Creative doesn't necessarily mean artist, however, at least in my perspective. It could just mean that you're not being productive in ways that re-energize and enrich you.
The two main tools spoken about in the book are the Morning Pages and the Artist Dates (learn more here and here).
The Morning Pages are just the act of getting into a routine or discipline of writing three pages longhand of whatever is floating in your brain at the time. There is no right or wrong, and it can be deep and dark, or superficial and flighty. The point is to help get these little flotsam captured and out of your noodle, so you can spend less time worrying and more time doing what you really mean to. Don't ever show these to anyone. Ever. But use these pages to help track situations or concerns that are occupying your mind even when you don't realize. Sometimes, creativity emerges through these pages, offering you ideas for enriching activities that you could pursue to help feel more comfortable in your skin.
The Artist Dates, oddly enough, are something I've been doing since around 2007 or so. Basically, you go by yourself (no crew in tow, no favorite people allowed) to some sort of event or activity (it doesn't have to cost a cent to be successful) and soak in and re-energize. Some suggestions include going to an art gallery opening, a museum, a park bench, a movie. Whatever you want to do the most, but do it by yourself so there are no distractions.
Eventually the things that are blocking you come to light and you move from mentioning them, to contemplating them, and finally, possibly, to fixing/changing/massaging them. Much of this has to do with the past and how we hold onto it even when it no longer serves us in our current path.
The point of the book and exercises are to scrape away at the unnecessary shellac of defense mechanisms, self-criticism, social rules, peer pressure and other veneers that freeze us and prohibit the light of day to reach deep down inside and illuminate what really makes us tick and stokes us.
I'm really liking this whole process so far.