Save your inner artist and start creating your own path

In the previous post, I talked about creativity and how to take it back. I took my creativity back by working on Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. This book worked for me and a number of people around the world.

But how did I manage to finish it? That’s what I’m going to cover in this post. You might not be interested in doing The Artist’s Way, and that’s fine. You can use the tips given below for any other things that require you to push the envelope further.

Now, let me quickly go over what The Artist’s Way is…

The Artist’s Way is a 12 week course on crushing your creative blocks. Each week you will explore different topics that are related to your creative blocks; by actively reflecting on these topics, you will be able to discover your inner artist, who has been buried under the blocks.

There are two core exercises in this book: The morning pages and the artist’s date.

The morning pages is a daily exercise – you write down whatever comes to your mind for 3 pages as soon as you wake up in the morning. When you write down your thoughts, you don’t edit yourself; let your hand take over the process. You don’t have to worry about your handwriting being messy either, because you are not supposed to read what you’ve written unless you are given an instruction to do so in the book. You simply write down anything that comes to your mind at the time of writing. You might write about your worries or your dreams. Anything.

The other core exercise, the aritist’s date is a weekly date. You get to go on a date with the loveliest person for you in the entire world – you. This exercise is powerful and significant, especially if you are the kind of person who has been too busy for fun and exciting things in life and doesn’t take some time off for yourself. Spend some quality time with yourself and nourish your inner artist (read: do something fun). That’s the idea behind this exercise.

In addition to these core exercises, you’ll be assigned to do other weekly exercises specific to each week’s topic. There are about 10 exercices per chapter. Some are extensive, and some can be done quickly. Doing these exercises is crucial in taking back your creativity, because they help you realize your potential as well as your dreams and help you take small steps so you can crush your creative blocks.

What I learnt through working on The Artist’s Way

If you manage to complete The Artist’s Way, what happens? Here’s what happened to me.

  • I realized that what I labeled as procrastination was a bunch of creative blocks in a guise.
  • I realized that I had been blocked.
  • I’m no longer interested in judging other people’s artworks or other artists unless I’m asked to do so by them. In most cases, it’s unnecessary to judge them and I’d rather work on my own thing than becoming someone who is busy making judgments about others.
  • I’m happy to take small steps as well as big steps.
  • I’m much more willing to take risks and mistakes.
  • I realized I have enough resources and potential to do what I want to do, whatever that may be.
  • I realized that I am creative.

These realizations and attitudes helped me move further than where I used to be. I believe you can do the same.

Considering these benefits I got out of The Artist’s Way and the cost of the book ($10.63 at Amazon at the time of writing this post), I highly recommend you to work on The Artist’s Way.

What’s the catch?

Does it sound too good to be true? The Artist’s Way works – it worked for a number of people and it’s highly likely that it works for you as well.


It works only if you commit yourself to this 12 week course and if you complete it. I often hear that finishing The Artist’s Way is difficult. Why can it be difficult to finish?

  • You need to commit yourself to The Artist’s Way for 3 months. You need to do your morning pages every day. You need to do your weekly exercises. You need to read the book. Making these commitments can be daunting for some people.
  • It challenges you to take a look at your past and to reflect on who you are. In many cases, you will need to change yourself so you can reclaim your creativity. Change is good, but it can be uncomfortable for some people.
  • Some people may not believe that it works.
  • Some people may dislike the kind of language the author uses. While it’s not too woo woo new agey, it does contain some fluffy language, which may put off some people.

But if you’ve decided to give it a go, you want to make sure that you can crush your creative blocks, meet and celebrate your inner artist, right?

I bet you do.

What do you need to do in order to get the most out of The Artist’s Way by actually finishing it?

How to finish The Artist’s Way (Hint: There’s no easy way)

Here’s some advice I want to share with you. It’s from my own experiences.

  • Realize that creativity is important for you (see my previous post). If I tell you that reclaimed creativity will make your life three times better than your current life, will you set some time for tasks you need to complete?
  • Create more time. When it comes to completing the tasks, the major reason for feeling overwhelmed can be the lack of time. For the morning pages, you will need 20-40 minutes, depending on how fast you can capture your stream of consciousness in 3 pages. So, you might need to wake up early to make that time. For other exercises, you might want to have 2-3 hours each week. Also, create some time for reading each chapter as well. To create more time, you can stop watching TV, browsing the internet, or doing things you don’t need to do. To wake up early, go to bed early.
  • If writing 3 pages of the morning pages is overwhelming, try writing 1 page instead. Once you get comfortable with it and made it as your habit, you can start writing more.
  • Don’t be a perfectionist. While it is important to do the assigned exercises, if you miss some exercises, don’t feel guilty or worry about completing them. You can slow down or completely skip them and move on. It’s better to do so than getting stuck because of worrying too much about some tasks.
  • Do it with your friends. I worked on The Artist’s Way with a group of people and it made it easier for me to be accountable about the progress.
  • Be persistent, take it easy and have fun. Don’t be too serious about your journey of reclaiming your creativity. It will take some time to reclaim your creativity and it’s better to enjoy your journey than to crash and to burn out for being too serious about it. This applies if you don’t like how The Artist’s Way is presented as well. Be amused every time you find a fluffy metaphor in the book.

I hope these tips will help you finish The Artist’s Way. Good luck!


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Photo: ewen and donabel

The art of writing shitty first drafts

I don’t have a plot. I don’t know who my characters are. I don’t have anything ready. I’m worried that I’m behind if I compare myself with other participants. All I know is that I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo and that I’m going to spend the next 30 days writing… a lot.

NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month is a month-long writing marathon in which participants write a novel of 50,000 words. What’s important to note about NaNoWriMo is this: What you’re asked to produce is a shitty first draft rather than a well-polished masterpiece that’s ready to be published. Quality doesn’t matter. Quantity does. (You can read the details here. )

Last month, I realized that I want to focus on creating. So, the timing of NaNoWriMo was perfect for me except that I got reminded of it only few days before its first day. At the time of writing this post (5am in the morning on 1 Nov), I can safely say I’m not ready at all, if by ‘ready’ I mean ‘having story materials handy’. My inner critic loves to pick on this point and insist how unprepared I am.

Here’s what my inner critic’s voice sounds like.

“Dude, you don’t have any plot. That’s horrible. You aren’t going to write a great story without it. It’s very likely that you’ll waste your time. Don’t even start it. Whatever you’re going to write is bound to be crappy.”

My inner critic may sound right. But he’s wrong. Sure, I don’t have a plot. This plotless state of affairs is probably going to make it difficult for me to write a consistent, non-crappy story. I’m not going to worry too much about it, because he is trying to mislead me. My aim is to write 50,000 words of a crappy draft and not a best seller novel. It’s totally fine and even apt for me to produce bad, boring boo boos.

Having said that, it’s scary to accept and to embrace this plotless state of affairs. This is the first challenge I need to overcome in NaNoWriMo. Can I accept my current situation and simply start writing anyway? I say I can. The first sentence of my novel is most likely to be “I’m going to tell you a story, but I have no idea what the hell I’m going to tell you”, and that’s OK. This attitude, I believe, is what underlies the art of writing shitty drafts. If I don’t write anything in the first place, there’s no way I get to write something brilliant. Embrace imperfections and dive in.

By the way, since I don’t know what stories are buried inside the treasure box in my mind, I can’t judge whether they can be good or bad.

Either way, I believe in the power of writing them down.

If my stories stored in my treasure box are indeed rubbish, I want to take them out of the box by writing them down so I cam make some space for new stories, which might turn out to be better than the ones I have accumulated. There’s no reason why I should keep old ones when I’m aware that they are rubbish.

Of course, those stories might turn out to be great as well. If that’s the case, there’s no reason why I should keep them only to myself either; writing them down and sharing them with the world seem to be a better way of handling them.

Through out November, I will make sure to report my progress on this blog as well. I want to share some lessons I learn through participating in NaNoWriMo with you too. Stay tuned.

If you are reading this post on 1 or 2 Nov, it’s not too late. If you’re curious, why don’t you give it a try? Your inner critic might tell you all sorts of things, but remember, your inner critic is trying to mislead you and to scare you away. (This whole thing reminds me of my post, Cat vs. Curiosity. Check it out if you liked this post.)

My account name on NaNoWriMo is Masafumi. Feel free to add me as your writing buddy on the site. Happy writing!

Photo: Ernst Moeksis

Let’s make connections with yourself and others

Here’s my favorite part of The Connection Manifesto by Pace (@PaceSmith) and Kyeli (@Kyeli) Smith.

Before you know how to read or tie your shoes, you’re off to school. You spend 13 years, day in and day out, doing what others tell you to do, being shoved into boxes and molds. You get out of school, get a job, and spend the next fifty years, day in and day out, doing what others tell you to do, being shoved into boxes and molds. Eventually you retire, and then and only then can you enjoy life. When you’re 65.

Fuck that.

You can download The Connection Manifesto from here for free, and let your friends know about it if you like.

I read this manifesto recently, and it resonated with me. The Connection Manifesto introduces core ideas behind Pace and Kyeli’s world changing movement The Connection Revolution. I was moved by their manifesto, because they were honest and passionate about encouraging you to connect with yourself and others… about making this revolution happen.

Making connections with yourself and others. I believe this is very, very important. Making connections is a big theme in what I want to do as well – making the world more romantic. So, I was naturally interested in what Pace and Kyeli had to say about it.

It’s something people tend to miss or are afraid of doing when interacting with others. I don’t know if there is any single, unifying reason behind it, but I bet one of reasons why some people might be afraid of making connections with others is because they have to be authentic in front of others.

To be authentic, you can’t hide your vulnerability. You can’t impress others by putting on a mask. But if you can’t hide your vulnerability or impress others by putting on a mask, what’s going to happen? What if others judge you for who you really are?

Well, the answer is: nothing happens unless you make a big deal out of it. Trust me, you’ll be much more impressive when you show up as your authentic self.

But how do you make connections with others? In fact, what do you mean by ‘connections’ anyway? That’s a question I want to think over a little bit more… I can answer the first question though. Well, I’m not sure if people I interact with feel the same way, but I tend to ask them what their childhood dreams were and/or what their current dreams are. I’m more interested in these things than in how they make money (the typical ‘what do you do’ question, which I hardly ask), where they are from, and whether they have siblings or not. The trick is to be really curious about what their dreams are. I mean, aren’t you curious about such things more than those boring, average questions like the ‘what do you do’ question?

I can imagine some people getting frustrated about me calling this kind of questions boring, and I can understand that frustration. But let’s face it. It is boring. Imagine you could meet anyone you admire and ask one question. Would you really ask Andy Warhol (for example) how he earns money or where he’s from? You wouldn’t, would you? It’s totally fine if you would, but… Anyway. And don’t tell me the man sitting next to you might not be as interesting as Andy Warhol. He could be. In fact, assume he is as interesting as Andy Warhol (or whoever you think is interesting) and he will be.


Hi. What’s your dream?

Photo: ClickFlashPhotos / Nicki Varkevisser

Review: The Art of Non-Conformity

In the past two years I’ve been inspired by Chris Guillebeau. I wrote about Chris before, and he is famous in the blogging world. But for those of you who don’t know about Chris, he runs a website called The Art of Non-Conformity where he posts articles on unconventional lifestyle, entrepreneurship and traveling. He also wrote a free e-book A Brief Guide to World Domination, which I translated into Japanese with Etsuko. (If you have Japanese friends, please refer them to this page for the Japanese version of the brief guide.)

Chris recently published his first book – it has the same name as his website, but with a n extra subtitle: The Art of Non-Conformity — Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World.

I finally got a copy of his book and read the whole thing straight after. What you’ll read below is my biased, subjective review of the book. (I believe there are some good, objective reviews outthere if you prefer. Check its Amazon page for example.)

What I like about the AONC book

  • His message is strong and his style calm and passionate. It doesn’t have a cheesy, motivational-speaker-type, in-your-face vibe. It’s perhaps because of his guru-free way of thinking, which I like love.
  • It’s like the best of the AONC website. There are a number of posts on his website, and one could get lost in it. This book puts together essences of his posts and thoughts in one place and organizes them in a neat way. I was already familiar with the way Chris goes about things and the content of the book itself didn’t surprise much. However, it was refreshing to see his thoughts running a straight line and connecting with one another.
  • He does give you practical tips on living an unconventional life. He tells you how by sharing his own stories as well as stories of other unconventional catalysts. (Since Chris lists their websites and twitter accounts on the book’s bonus webpage, you can connect with those unconventional catalysts as well. They are real people and not someone’s inventions!)
  • When it comes to the book’s content, I especially liked the chapter where he compares his graduate school experiences and his writing career. He wrote a master’s thesis and it was read by three people. His manifesto was read by more than 100000 people, and it changed and influenced many of them. That inspires me. Really. And that makes me think as well. In a good way.

The AONC book is like a developed version of his manifesto. So, if you’re curious about the book, you should check his manifesto as well as his articles.

How do you want to live your life? Do you want to live a remarkable life, or an average life? You don’t need to be modest about your answer, because it’s your life and you don’t need to make others comfortable by how you answer this question. Perhaps you are already living a remarkable life and that’s great. Perhaps you are actually pretty happy with living an average life. If you feel like living an average life at the moment, but you want to live a remarkable life, the kind of life that is purposeful and meaningful (by your own definition), then this book can be helpful for you to take the first step towards the life you want to live.


In the previous post, I promised to give away my copy of The Artist’s Way – I got two comments within the post and two other comments on twitter. I’ve used this service to choose the winner randomly. The winner is …



Thanks to all of you who commented on the previous post :-)

photo: Hamed Saber

Japanese translation of "A Brief Guide to World Domination" (Day 16)

I’ve been working together with Etsuko Tsukagoshi to produce a Japanese version of Chris Guillebeau‘s “A Brief Guide to World Domination” for the past 3 months. Now it’s almost finished, and we’re in the final stage of this project: releasing this Japanese version.

I assume that most of you who read this blog are English speakers. If you haven’t done so, you should check Chris’s brief guide. It’s a short PDF you can download and read for free. The content is inspiring. It has inspired me (and a number of people all over the world) at least.

It didn’t have to take 3 months to complete this project. But I lost the momentum when it came to revising the first draft. So, in reality, I didn’t do much about this project for a month or so.

What made me act anyway was the Artist’s Way – there’s a chapter on creative U-turns. Have you ever given up something you had devoted your energy to just before its completion? You’re almost there, but you feel like you’re not going anywhere. In fact, you feel as though things will get worse if you keep going. Even though you can see your destination. You start imagining the worst trap in front of your goal. Not just the worst trap, but the absense of such a trap as well. What if I could just take a few more steps and get to the goal with no problem at all?

What’s really neat about this chapter on creative U-turns is that this is the part where you’re asked to read your morning pages. In these morning pages from 3 months ago, I wrote about this project of translating Chris’s e-book into Japanese and how it would help some Japanese people “dominate the world”. I had forgotten about this excitement until I read these morning pages.

It was great to remember those feelings and excitement I had about the project. More motivational than anything else.

If you’re about to make a creative U-turn, can you remember your initial excitement about your project? Perhaps that can help you keep going forward and finish your project.

Letting go of things you own (Day 11)

One thing I want to do during the period of this 30 day blogging challenge. I want to get rid of some of the things I own. Those ones that I don’t really need … or to be precise, those things that don’t belong to myself in an ideal lifestyle of mine.

At this stage, I’m drawn towards a lifestyle of a vagabond. A minimalistic lifestyle, that is. Ideally, I want to be able to carry everything I need in a 40l backpack. When it comes to the clothing department, I’m rather fine. I could have only a few clothes and be fine about it.

What I find most difficult is books. I always liked reading books. When I was a little kid, I would put my favorite books around my pillow before going to bed. In fact, I still do that, although I hardly put a pile of books around my pillow anymore. Now it’s just one or two.

I wonder what makes it difficult for me to let go of those books. I’d definitely need some of them for reference, like most of my philosophy books. There are some other books that I got a number of inspirations from; these ones are harder to let go. There are books I feel as if I would reread at a later stage of my life.

This attachment to material objects.

But then, in most cases, what I really want to keep is the content of those books rather than physical copies of those books. Perhaps it’s not so much about letting go of material objects that holds us back, but it’s the fear of forgetting what we’ve learnt or experienced through reading those books. This seems to apply to other objects like clothes or photos. It’s not really about those objects, but the memories we associate with them that matter.

Memories. There’s something about memories that I want to talk about more. I’ll save this topic for another day.

In any case, this post will serve me as a public statement of my intention to get rid of unnecesarry things I still own. It’s a small step I take towards this goal. So, let’s see what happens.