Mom and I returned from NYC Monday morning and it was unlike any trip we’ve ever taken to New York, or maybe anywhere. Unlike other trips, which are packed tight with sights and restaurants, this trip was for one reason only: to attend The Artist’s Way workshop taught by Julia Cameron herself at the New York Open Center.
We arrived Friday afternoon and went to our hotel, The Lotte New York Palace, which is also where K and I got married last May. They welcomed us back with champagne and a note in our room, which is exactly why we love this hotel and continue to stay there. They truly make you feel at home and welcome.
We freshened up and went downstairs where we had plans to meet our wedding planners for a glass of wine before dinner. We both so enjoyed catching up with these women; we spoke with them almost daily for weeks so it truly felt like meeting old friends. We reminisced and caught each other up on our lives, then parted ways and headed to dinner where we sat at a bar, ate delicious food, drank delicious wine, and talked and talked.
The next morning was day one of the Artist’s Way Workshop. I had no idea what to expect but we both entered with open minds and I’m so glad that we did. We were in a group of about 80 people of all ages and from all over.
So first thing’s first: Julia Cameron. Do you know those people who are so distinctively themselves that you could be at a store and say “oh that’s looks just like something _______ would wear”? Those people who have a distinctive style, who know exactly what they like and just go for it full tilt regardless of trend? She’s that. She exudes that. She has a twinkle in her eye and a sly sense of humor, and she takes these long pauses when she speaks, waiting until she’s fully thought things through.
She’s delightful. She was also married to Martin Scorsese in the 70’s, or as K put it, “peak Scorsese.”
She started with a 30-minute overview of Morning Pages and then a Q and A about the practice. I thought this was indicative of how the rest of the workshop would be run. I was wrong. After the Q and A was over, she said “Blank sheet of paper,” a term she would return to throughout the course. She would give us a prompt, then we would write. These prompts were meant to make us really delve into our identities and our stories. Things like “I wish…” or “I love…” or “Artists are…” Or “Write 10 imaginary lives.”
Once we finished writing we broke out into groups. Sit with strangers, she said. We went around introducing ourselves and reading our responses. The listeners, or witnesses as she called them, were meant to give feedback in the form of “popcorn.” Popcorn varied: sometimes our feedback objective was to write one adjective describing the person’s character after hearing their words. Another was to send them on a lavish vacation. Another still was to bestow a blessing, her example to which was “you will experience enormous wealth.” My favorite was to picture them in a movie genre, but that’s just because someone said they pictured me standing high up in a strong posture, like Cat Woman. I dig it.
Honestly, I left day one feeling drained and kind of disappointed. It was exhausting for me, talking all day and being so open. I was expecting some sort of light bulb moment, “THIS is what you’re meant to do!” and that didn’t happen. I went into day two, after vowing in my MPs that I would keep not an open mind, but a clear mind, and found that mostly everyone else was like me. They were there not because they knew they were writers or painters or poets, but because they were seekers.
Both days were structured the same–prompts, writing, clusters, popcorn–punctuated by quick Q and A sessions with her. By the end of the weekend I am certain I met everyone in that room and felt that I knew something real about them. I met a woman from Peru who is opening a holistic healing center there and wanted to see one in action. I met two people from Sweden, which I’m taking as a sign and planning my next trip. I met a man who is raising his two year old son with his wife on Staten Island. I met a psychologist who works at the VA and leads yoga workshops for veterans. I spoke to an actor who lives in the Village with his roommates.
I was floored by how open and generous everyone was with me and how I was with them. This may sound strange coming from someone who regularly shares their worldview with the internet at large, but I’m generally pretty private and a classic introvert. I talked to more strangers and shared more things about myself than I had maybe ever. I also learned a lot.
I left day two feeling calm. Inspired, for sure. Unlike day one, I felt energetic, delighted, and armed with creative tools that will propel me forward and hopefully help me remain unblocked.
We had such a great time learning and meeting new people. People who, like us, are yearning to tap into whatever that is that creativity gives humans: Soul? Connection? Divinity? It was enlightening to see that in action, and to experience it first hand myself.
It was a really special weekend, one that I will remember forever. New York City is the best.