Last week when I taught a workshop on the Artist’s Way for Magical People – worth repeating, with some serious tweaks that bring in aspects of Vein of Gold in particular – I encountered an expected stumbling block: the contract. I find the contract perfectly reasonable, but I daresay most people balk when they see it. “I don’t know if I can get through 12 weeks, and you want me to do this?” is the general response. In a room full of people who take vows and make contracts regularly (initiatory religious and magical practices do that) most struggled with the idea of making a commitment to the self. Intellectually, oh yes, they all understood the importance of self-care, but when called to do it, oh holy cartoon windmilling arms in the thought bubbles above their heads.
This is a normal response.
I think, in part, it’s because people who start the Artist’s way path don’t know how to bring about the balance required in order to fulfill that contract. Even though Cameron states, “there will be backslides and setbacks,” just the possibility of failure causes people to stop.
When I signed the contract, I didn’t think I was going to make it through. I went ahead with the work, ignored the aspects of the contract that bothered me and just kept going. As it turns out, the tasks eventually teach the artist how to bring that balance about. When I started the Artist’s Way for the first time, it wasn’t possible for me to keep that contract – but by the time I finished it, I had learned what I needed to, and it made the year commitment of artist’s dates much more possible to me.
Which is why I’m thinking – if I continue to teach the artist’s way, and I really want to give anyone who comes to me for guidelines on what is ultimately a self-teaching, perhaps moving the contract to the end of the course might help with this. When people come in in the beginning they just don’t know how to strike that balance, but at the end, when they rethink their daily attitudes and have found a way to their art and to regular creation, it makes absolute sense to make that commitment.
I’m still kicking it around. From an initiatory perspective, issuing such a challenge at the beginning of the course fits into the psychological tradition, and weeds out those least likely to benefit from the given system (in this case, the Artist’s Way.) On the other hand, this particular approach helps people clean themselves up from the inside out, and the ones that run screaming into the night are typically those most in need of such purification.
It’s something I’m thinking about if I teach a class on this. I don’t want to change things just for the sake of student retention; the last thing I want is to keep someone hanging on that the system doesn’t work for. But I also want everyone to give the system its best opportunity to work for them and on them.