The Artist's Way: Jump The Rut and Get Unstuck
by Elizabeth Salaam
When I graduated from college, I hitched a ride across the country with two women I’d met the week before. I rode with them from Olympia, Washington to somewhere on the east coast, where they dropped me off at a train station and I caught a train into New York City. I had never been to New York before, but I was going to start my new adult life there. I had a little bit of graduation money and a friend willing to put me up until I found a more permanent living situation. That was the only plan I had.
Fast forward four years. After that big risky move across the country, I was now living my whole life within a few blocks radius. I rented a room in a building on West 13th Street in Manhattan, and worked a job waiting tables at a coffee shop half a block away on the corner of 6th Avenue. I took dance classes on 17th Street a few times a week, and hung out in bars with friends in the same general vicinity. I was 25 and living in New York City, but I was bored, depressed, drinking too much, and in need of...more—but I didn’t know what.
Ruts are sneaky little bitches. They can happen to anyone at any stage in their life or career. One minute, you’re alive with the thrill of newness and exploration. But then suddenly, it’s four years or a decade later, and everything that was once new is now old and familiar and maybe a little boring. Chances are, you blame yourself for not being more exciting or more excited. Or you blame the people around you for not making you happier. Or you drink more to get happier. And then you lose your way in your novel, and the more you write the worse it gets.
I’m not sure how I ended up with my first copy of The Artist’s Way, but opening it created a seismic shift in my world. My creative, adventurous spirit woke up, yawned, and made a cup of coffee. Within a year, I had discovered a love of collage, applied to graduate school, traveled to Senegal with a dance program, written a couple of short stories I was proud of, and taken a better paying job in a new neighborhood where I made several new friends all at once.
It sounds like bullshit, I know. But it’s true.
In the years since, my creative life has ebbed and flowed. There are years when I’m on fire, taking risks, having adventures, and writing and submitting stories to publications. And then there are years when I find myself taking the same route over and over again, spending hours a day on my phone and in front of my tv, belaboring the hell out of whatever I manage to write, and thinking thoughts like, “Is this really all there is?”
Sometimes it takes a while to recognize a rut as a rut. But even when I do, knowing I’m in a rut is not enough to get me up and out of it. Breaking open The Artist’s Way works for me every time. Each page I read reminds me of the infinite possibilities available to me. Each tool I put into practice loosens my grip on what I “should” do and gives me permission to live and create exactly the way I want to. Every task I perform helps me jump the rut and get unstuck.
The Artist’s Way reconnects me to the wild child who set out for New York City on a whim. She’s badass and she doesn’t do ruts. When my life and art are in her hands, things are guaranteed to be interesting.
If you think your life or art could use a kick in the pants, please join us in working through The Artist’s Way. On Wednesdays beginning October 9, we’re going to start at the beginning and make our way through the 12-week program together here at YBH. Come prepared to play. There will be Legos.
For more information about the workshop, click here.
The Artist’s Way workshop will be facilitated by writer Elizabeth Salaam, author of over 50 cover stories for the San Diego Reader as well as dozens of feature profiles and news stories. Elizabeth is a lifelong believer in the power of The Artist’s Way to provoke seismic shifts in the creative lives of all people everywhere.