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The Artist’s Way

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There’s no question that as artists we will be plagued by doubt at some point in our artistic journey. Doubting our skill and capability, doubting our decision to do this full time, doubting our work choices.

Though the presence of doubt in my life is a given, my relationship with it has changed over time. In my initial years of performing, every time Doubtji would pop up, it would be followed by days that resembled an ugly breakup…highly melodramatic and pointlessly drawn out. But now when Doubtji arrives, we meet as old friends, have chai and nankhatai together, have a chat, listen to each other and then Doubtji leaves. We both know we’ll be seeing each other again, so the goodbye is quick and with very little drama.

Many factors helped me with this transformation. One important one was the theatre school training at the Helikos International School of Theatre. The rigour and continuous practice of creating work every week reduced the fear of failure…well, because we failed a lot. But we would bounce back by Monday.

The Artist's Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self by Julia Cameron

A book that I discovered while studying there was ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron. It describes a 12-week programme or a ‘creative recovery process’, with specific tools in the form of simple tasks and exercises you have to do. Four of my classmates and I started it together. Every Friday we would meet with wine and popcorn, read a chapter and then chat about it. And it was incredible that all of us from completely different backgrounds, age groups and levels of experience, found each chapter and theme so relatable.

Ok, confession time. I’ve never completed the 12-weeks! I’ve tried many times though and keep trying. But I still find the book very relevant and simple. It addresses many of my doubts and fears as an artist. There are two tools I keep going back to – the ‘Artist date’ and the ‘Morning pages.’

The artist date is a solo date. You don’t take anyone with you on this date except you and your inner artist (your creative child).  It could be a trip to Chor Bazaar or an art gallery or even just a walk. The important thing is you block this time as me time…you commit to it. On my last date I explored a route I had never been on before…from Charni Road railway station to Crawford market. The walk took me through the colourful lanes of ‘Umbrella Gully’, chikki dukaans…I watched the huge cranes looming against the backdrop of old chawls…so many exciting sights and new discoveries!

The morning pages is, very simply, waking up and filling three pages in longhand with whatever is flowing through your head…strictly stream of consciousness. This is not an exercise to churn out material for your next path breaking script, but it’s extremely helpful to declutter your mind. The thoughts that keep spinning in our heads become these huge dangerous Godzilla-like-entities, but on paper they look like my 4-year-old nephew’s scribblings of Godzilla…not dangerous at all. Time and again this exercise has given me clarity of thought. It somehow becomes easy to see the true nature of my thoughts…to separate the ones that should go straight into the bin from the ones I should engage with.

There are also little nuggets of wisdom in the side columns of almost each page. Here is one of my top 10: “What moves men of genius, or rather what inspires their work, is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough.” – Eugene Delacroix.

By the way, Doubtji is not the only thing that keeps coming back in my life. It’s also this book. Next week I’m diving into yet another attempt at completing the 12-weeks. The last few months have been tumultuous and a different kind of exhaustion has crept in. I feel the need to recuperate and I’m sure the book will help with that. It has always refreshed me. Each chapter is titled ‘Recovery of….’. Somehow ‘recovery’ seems inviting right now.

So much time and creative energy has been spent in trying to create work and adapt it to the current scenario. Be it making a short film, ideating, online seminars, Instagram live gigs, fundraisers etc. It’s time to replenish the creative well.

So wish me luck as I jump onto ‘The Artist’s Way’ boat once again. The world is so different right now. I’m curious to see what comes up

– Puja Sarup

You can buy a copy of the book here: The Artist’s Way on Amazon

About Puja Sarup

Puja has been a part of the Mumbai theatre scene since 2003. She is the co-founder of Patchworks Ensemble and has co directed Ila, acted in and been part of the devising team for The Gentlemen's Club a.k.a. Tape, It's About Time and Fly By Night. She completed her MA in Theatre Arts from Mumbai University and studied at the Helikos - International School of Theatre Creation in Florence, Italy. She was awarded the J.N. Tata Endowment scholarship. She won the Best Supporting Actress Meta award for her performance in Hamlet- The Clown Prince. She is also the recipient of the Vinod Doshi fellowship. Besides acting and directing she enjoys conducting storytelling and theatre workshops for children and adults.

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