Creativity is, like life, not a linear journey. Excerpt from The Artist's Way at Work: Riding the Dragon Mark Bryan, author of The Artist's Way at Work: Riding the Dragon, believes the path to creativity can be learned, and following that path on the job can unleash, in the metaphoric sense, the creative dragon. For some, that means unlocking the barriers to creativity. For others, it means achieving a more fulfilling artistic experience. But those embarking on such a journey without a compass risk losing their way. Bryan's book, happily, provides the direction-finder. In the book's "Twelve Weeks to Creative Freedom," readers experience self-discovery, self-definition, and self-determination using a series of essays and personal exercises.
Bryan believes creativity can make a major difference in the way someone experiences their world. "It can help income, personal happiness, personal relationships," he says.
The book confronts the issues from workaholism and receiving on-the-job criticism, to overspending and fear of failure. It offers, in short, a journey of fulfillment, grounded in Bryan's research at Harvard. And it is based on the experiences of thousands of students who learned about creativity through The Artist's Way workshops taught by Bryan and co-author Julia Cameron. Despite that real-world research, Bryan says some consider the work to be New Age. "The semantics we use are based in the spiritual world," Bryan says of the book. "We talk about spirit and love and commitment. The greatest things about the New Age movement are age-old human truths. And this is what we need to get back in touch with." The metaphor for the reader's pilgrimage is, indeed, ancient.
The Artist's Way at Work: Riding the Dragon is so named "because the creative spirit, like the dragon, is a thrilling, joyous, chaotic and powerful force," the authors write in the introduction. "The act of creation," they continue, "whether it's a new idea, a new business, or an old business revitalized, can feel like both a high-altitude ride and a free-fall." On the cover and throughout, the book uses the 13th-century painting of Chen Rong's "Nine Dragons," to illustrate the transformations inherent in creativity. "The first three weeks are tools about self-revelation," Bryan explains. "The second three weeks are: How do I function in the social world? What role do I take in a group? Am I silent? A leader? Someone who would like to be more of a leader?" The authors encourage the use of a daily writing exercise, the "morning pages," to help readers shed obstacles to creativity. These pages are conceived as a stream of consciousness that helps to dispose of "mental debris." The book relates the story of Don, a workshop participant who headed a small construction business. After using the morning pages and the book's exercises, he decided to recapture an old dream: He went back to school to become a designer.
The last sections are devoted to helping the reader move toward "who I want to be in a group," says Bryan, "and how do I make meaning of every piece of my life? How does it all fit together?" Claire, whose family placed a high premium on modesty, used the exercises in The Artist's Way at Work to reclaim her natural tendency for leadership. That required her to examine the core of good leadership. "Leadership is the act of saying: I think we should try this," the authors explain. And Claire learned to do this. "Whenever we are concerned with the question of how an action will seem, we have moved away from our core," write the authors. "The issue is not how our actions appear but what our actions intend." Bryan actually knows plenty about creativity. His previous book, Prodigal Father: Reuniting Fathers and Their Children, was published last year. He was a new products inventor and international entrepreneur when he enlisted poet and writer Julia Cameron's aid in his own writing more than ten years ago. Out of that grew a partnership. He and Cameron collaborated on the 1992 book, The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, which has sold more than 1 million copies. This time, he worked with Cameron and business executive Catherine Allen to write The Artist's Way at Work.
The book was shaped by Bryan's own experiences in literature as well as by students' experiences in workshops. "About four years ago, I found a book by James Masterson, The Search for the Real Self," says Bryan. "He listed what he thought were the ten core capacities of the authentic self. It explained to me what I had been seeing in students for some time. It was much broader than just their creative lives. This was sort of a guiding form for us to use in this new book." Authenticity, it turns out, is a powerful force underlying artistic effort. Therefore, Bryan devotes the final two chapters in the book to finding and maintaining the inner peace that is a product of the authentic self. As a child, Bryan was moved also by the autobiographies of great Americans. And, like many young boys, he was moved by the adventures of Tom Swift. "Here was a series about a young boy who was always inventing things," says Bryan. "So, in a sense, that filter of gizmos and inventions stayed with me for a long time. I love a great idea." Not surprisingly, it was Bryan's idea to write The Artist's Way at Work.
After the first book, Bryan felt compelled to find ways to translate the techniques for creativity to the workplace. "We started getting calls from students who would say,