Creativity for Skeptics Episode 9: The Artist’s Way Week Three Recap and Week Four Preview

In episode 9 of Creativity for Skeptics, I’ll recap week three of The Artist’s Way and preview week four. Transcript is below.

Or download here.


Hello, skeptical creatives and creative skeptics. Tammy here. This is episode nine of Creativity for Skeptics. In this episode, I’ll share my experiences with week three of The Artist’s Way as well as preview week four. Keeping this one short again this week yet again, no intro or outro or recommendation.

And what a week it was. Here in the US, I think there was a collective moment of peace when the storm was over, we have a new President now. But, to extend that metaphor, now’s the time we have to look outside and see what damage there is that we have to fix. And we have to acknowledge that for so many Americans, the storm is far from over, the storm has never subsided for them.

I think my own creative journey has paralleled my social and political journey. That manifests itself in the political science fiction stories that I’ve written and the blog posts I write, but it’s also in the fact that I feel like I can speak out now, especially to elected officials. There’s a lot that I write that isn’t directly political, but it informs my work no matter what I write.

It’s been an exhausting week for other reasons too. Some good reasons. I attended an online Zoom for a local writers’ group, and it was wonderful and everyone was lovely and after meeting with a dozen new people, I want to sleep for a week. Like I said, I’m an introvert.

I do want to note here that I gave a talk on Creativity for Skeptics for Freethought Blogs in 2020, which was a reprise of a talk I gave in 2018 for Fellowship of Freethought Dallas. I talk about our need for community in that one, and I may devote an episode to that soon. And also, I think after the twelve Artist’s Way episodes, I’ll grab the audio from the 2020 version and post that in the feed.

Heading back toward The Artist’s Way. Another little personal note. One thing that I like about Julia Cameron’s tasks is that it’s a lot of list making. I love lists. I live my life through little daily lists and grander yearly lists. It’s how I get stuff done.

Anyway, what’s this got to do with creativity? I’m working on a series of sonnets that I’d like to craft into my next poetry chapbook, and the work I did on a few preliminary poems was in the direction I wanted to go, but there was something not grounded in the physical experience of the woman I was writing about.

So, I’m making lists for her. I make pages and pages of notes for each poem I write–like a ten line poem, I can write pages that I hone into those ten lines. But this is different. I’m starting not from the arc of any story I want to tell, any emotional and intellectual movement from one point to another, which is what I usually do. This is more me looking at the stuff around the speaker of these poems. What does she hold on to? Why? What is meaningful to her, particularly in light of the losses she contemplates in the poems? So, lists. That’s one way doing the tasks has helped me in a larger project. I’ll report back on this way of going about composing the poems, if it worked any better or not.

I’m also making a list, a spreadsheet really, of agents. Which is the more intimidating list, but it’s a list. It’s a start, right?

So, week three. No morning pages, no artist date. I’m wondering if that happened to a lot of us this week. Anyway, I did do tasks, and I wanted to note a couple things. First, task number four, one of my bad habits is scrolling through social media. I’m on Instagram as a writer, and honestly, I don’t know what I’m doing there. I wanted to use it as a chance to get more in touch with the visual, rather than just words. But thinking about social media, my platform or whatever, that’s become less about presenting my work and more about a thing I can worry about so I’m not working. Anyway, I’d be curious to know whether social media would make it into the list of bad habit examples if Julia Cameron rewrote this for the 2020s.

Also, was anyone else just grossed out by the treats in task three? Some things I would have happily eaten as a kid–like fruit-flavored candy–those are not a food item. Also, mac and cheese. Which garnered negative associations for me in my 20s, and which I now refer to as acrimony and cheese. Anyway, I’m making a peach cobbler, which was something I liked as a kid and something I still consider a food item.

So, how did your week three go? I’d love to hear about it. I’d love to hear what you did last week for an artist date and anything you have planned. Leave a comment at Or if you’d like to share your thoughts on the artist date, what you did, how it went, you can record a clip and send it along. I’ll play selected clips on upcoming episodes.

Anyway, on to week four. Lots of good stuff in the first section, “Honest Changes.” I think “okay” which she talks about in this section is a word I’m going to remove from my day-to-day use. There’s a powerful paragraph on page 82, one worth focusing on: “[…] creativity is grounded in reality, in particular, the focused, the particularly observed or specifically imagined.” This goes back to my poem lists, and it’s definitely a “this is why I love this book” moment. In spite of the woo in this section.

The “Buried Dreams” section contains a useful exercise. But I’m not convinced by the “Reading Deprivation.” Two things. First, I don’t think I’m the person she’s talking to here. I read at night and it feels like a luxury. I’m not getting lost in others’ words to avoid my own, if that makes sense. I think that’s a lot to do with why I don’t watch TV, though.

Which leads me to number two. If you’re not reading, I’d think it would be easy to plop in front of the television or scroll through social media. Which isn’t about doing something active. Her list is about doing things, experiencing things, and if you use reading not to do things, then I can see the point of this exercise. But my days as a stay at home and homeschooling parent are filled with the sort of “doing” she lists. We paint, we putter in the garden, we do math and science and read. We dance and sew. And in the evenings, after all that, I write. Only after the day’s work has been done, do I read. So, I don’t know, if you’re like me, maybe this won’t do much for you. This is just something to think about.

Tasks, lots of good stuff here. Number four reminds me so much of Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own.” If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so. Also, I’m trying not to laugh at number seven. A “small vacation” isn’t happening right now.

So that’s it from me today. If you have any questions about creativity you’d like me to address, post a comment over at my blog,

Thanks for listening to Creativity for Skeptics. For more information about the show or to listen to past episodes, go to We’ll talk creativity again soon.

Creativity for Skeptics Episode Eight: The Artist’s Way Week Two Recap and Week Three Preview

In episode 8 of Creativity for Skeptics, I’ll recap week two of The Artist’s Way and preview week three.  Transcript is below.

Or download here.


Hello, skeptical creatives and creative skeptics. Tammy here. This is episode eight of Creativity for Skeptics. In this episode, I’ll share my experiences with week two of The Artist’s Way as well as preview week three. Keeping this one short again this week, no intro or outro or recommendation. Just the minimum, because sometimes, you have to go with that, right?

How did your week go? Mine could have been better, but it was pretty low energy all around. I did finish the third draft of the mystery I’m working on, and it’s off to beta readers after I get this to you.

Morning pages happened, but my artist date, which involved looking through the half dozen seed catalogs didn’t do much for me. First off, I just really want to go to a garden center or a nursery, and I can’t.

Second, I looked up some plants online and ended up reading reviews and there’s nothing like reading lackluster reviews of gorgeous sunflowers I want to plant to push me out of the childlike wonder that artist dates are supposed to engender.

Also, I have this vision of walls of sunflowers. Some of them would be up against the house to make up for the fact that houses don’t have window boxes here. Not sure why, but they’re wonderful, and why not? That’s enough of that tangent.

One other observation, in case any of you had the same problem, regarding the “other lives” tasks. When I’ve done The Artist’s Way before, I loved these tasks. This time, however, it just made me tired. I don’t know if it’s just that present situation is just exhausting enough that I don’t want to have to live other lives too, or if it’s that I’m pretty happy with my life as it is now. My life is definitely not following the norm of mid-40s as being the least happy time of people’s lives. I’m so much happier in my 40s than I was in my 30s, and my 30s were exponentially better than my 20s and teens. But that was kind of a low bar. Anyway. Back to the tasks. How I got myself to do the tasks was to ask myself, okay, if you don’t want to live these lives, then who would you want to write about? So, research for writing projects, that felt refreshing, not exhausting.

Another task I wanted to touch on is the life pie. I mentioned last time that I wanted to replace spirituality with something like awe or wonder, then when I was listening to NPR this past week, I heard a segment about awe versus wonder. Wonder is more cerebral, whereas awe is more visceral and tinged with fear. Which maybe could encompass spirituality? I don’t think I have a good answer yet. Wonder goes along with another category Julia Cameron has in that task, play, so maybe I need something else to fit in the spirituality slot.

How did your week two go? I’d love to hear about it. I’d love to hear what you did last week for an artist date and anything you have planned. Leave a comment below.  Or if you’d like to share your thoughts on the artist date, what you did, how it went, you can record a clip and send it along. I’ll play selected clips on upcoming episodes.

On to week three, “Recovering a Sense of Power.” This section. The “Anger” section. This is powerful stuff here, y’all. I want to read the last line of this section: “Anger is not the action itself. It is action’s invitation.” That’s probably the most important piece in this week’s readings.

I have trouble with the ideas in the next section about “Synchronicity.” It’s hard not to point to examples of synchronicity and say, well, if you’re talking about your work with other people, then you’ll have more chances to collaborate with them or show your work to them and so forth than if you weren’t talking to people. That’s my skepticism talking there.

The “Shame” section is important too, and I don’t disagree with what Julia Cameron says about the topic.

I do appreciate her advice on how to handle criticism in the next section. I’m thinking about a time when I left a group situation, and it was the criticism of other people’s work that pushed me out of it, if that makes sense, even though there were other good things happening in the group.

I’d also like to add here that there is a difference between criticism and critique, and I think that just as you grow as a creator, you grow as a critic. Criticism rarely helps anyone, that finding fault with things. Critique, on the other hand, is so very useful, even if it’s not what you want to hear. Giving feedback is a skill, so that’s something to keep in mind as well. Some people are just better at it than others.

Lots of good things to think about in the last two sections, and I’ll leave that there.

The one thing I want to touch on in the tasks for this week is in number four. I don’t watch TV, because I needed to cut out as much as I could to have time and energy to work. And for me, watching TV is draining–it took me a long time to realize that. I bring up TV here because Julia Cameron mentions it as a possible bad habit. I like this task because it ties in neatly to a problem that a lot of creatives have–when do you find time to work? Between jobs and family and friends and keeping the house clean, when do you work? If this is a problem for you, keep your answers for number four in mind.

So that’s it from me today. If you have any questions about creativity you’d like me to address, feel free to send me an email, Or post a comment over at my blog,

Thanks for listening to Creativity for Skeptics. For more information about the show or to listen to past episodes, go to We’ll talk creativity again soon.

Creativity for Skeptics Episode 5: Intro to The Artist’s Way

In preparation for doing The Artist’s Way (without the woo) on Monday January 4th, I posted an episode of Creativity for Skeptics with an overview of the introduction to the book. Transcript is below.

Or download here.


Hello, skeptical creatives and creative skeptics. Tammy here. This is episode five of Creativity for Skeptics. No intro or outro or plug today, because I wanted to get this up tonight—it’s the first day of 2021 as I’m recording this (happy new year)—and I am at the tail end (I hope) of a now three day migraine.

My migraines come with all the standard symptoms plus a lot of bonus features I guess you could call them. One of which is that sometimes I physically can’t talk while having a migraine, which means I can’t record a podcast. And that was my new year’s eve. So that’s why this is late.

A couple other things. I should probably introduce myself at the start of the episodes, since this is a new podcast. As T.D. Walker, I have a couple poetry books out, Small Waiting Objects which was published in 2019 by CW Books and Maps of a Hollowed World which was published by Another New Calligraphy in 2020. All that on top of my other writing.

Also maybe I should use a different word besides plug when I was to share stuff I love with y’all, because plug is a word people use for their own stuff? I don’t know. If you have an opinion, let me know.
Anyway, all this to say that I wanted to get this out now, a few days before we get going with The Artist’s Way without the woo.

Just as a reminder, I’ll have the episode to introduce week one up late on Sunday the 3rd of January. If you want to go ahead and start the morning pages on the 4th without listening to the podcast first, that’s great too. As a reminder, morning pages are the daily three handwritten pages.

The book is available just about anywhere you buy books. If you want to grab a copy on the cheap and help out a small business, as I’ve said before, there are tons of copies of this book out there, so I’d have to imagine you can find a used copy without too much trouble.

So let’s talk about the introduction to Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.

First off, Julia Cameron calls this method the spiritual path to creativity. So we have to ask ourselves what is spirituality in the first place? For some people, that might look a lot like their connection to the creator idea she uses. For me, though, it’s something quite different. Part of the reason that I love science fiction is the idea of the sense of wonder–something amazing about the idea of the possible. Spirituality for me is that sense of wonder applied to what’s here and now. My definition doesn’t need a deity or a conscious universe or even a spirit, really. So if you want to call it awe-filled (as opposed to awful) path to creativity, there you go. You can define it for yourself.

Let’s dive into the Introduction. there are intros to the later ones, but this is about the original intro. And you can safely skip this and come back to it later. Main idea is that she’s not tied to you being tied to any particular idea of god. See page xxii.

On to Spiritual Electricity: Basic Principles.

So I have a scream and throw the book moment at Cameron’s use of the term “spiritual chiropractic.” on page one. To prevent you from doing so too, I’ll note a few things you might want to pay attention to and things to skip.
On page 2, she talks about synchronicity, if you show up and do the work, the universe opens up more opportunities for you. Here’s another take on that idea. If you’re doing creative work and attending events and, you know, talking to other people about what you’re doing, then you’re probably going to make more connections around your work than you were when you were just daydreaming. That happened for me. Start working? Voila, more opportunities. No universe magic needed.

The “how to use this book” section is a good one to read, but be aware she does use metaphors of substance withdrawal and suicide of your former self in this section, particularly on pages 6-7, so skip that as you need to.

And on to the Basic Tools section. This is worth reading, since it tells you about morning pages and the artist date as well as her ideas about refilling the creative well. All super helpful. This is actually the real core of what has worked most for me, so I’d recommend not skipping out on these tools as we go along.

There’s also a creative contract you can fill out. If that’s something that helps you stick to the whole twelve weeks, go for it. If, like me, you don’t get anything out of symbolic rituals and ceremonies and the like, skip it and don’t feel bad for doing so. Remember, this is about making this work for you.

That’s it from me for now. Next episode of Creativity for Skeptics will be up Sunday the 3rd to get us ready to jump in to week one on the 4th. Happy 2021, and we’ll talk creativity again soon.

Creativity for Skeptics Episode 4: My Word for 2021 and Getting Ready for The Artist’s Way (without the woo)

It’s episode 4 of Creativity for Skeptics: Flaneur 2021 (or I need to get outside!!!).  Transcript is below the podcast links.

Or download here.

Hello, creative skeptics and skeptical creatives. This is episode four of Creativity for Skeptics. Tammy here. In episode two, I talked about agency, my word for 2020, and how that worked out and didn’t, ultimately, it sort of did. Anyway, it’s the last weekend of 2020 as I’m recording this, so it’s time for me to choose my word for 2021.

Given how rough 2020 was and how much I didn’t do, I’d thought about choosing a very serious word to guide 2021. Something outwardly focused, since I’ve essentially been at home since mid-March. Plus, it needs to have concrete actions and goals associated with it, something I can actually do.

So at first, I thought about focus or concentration, something that gave me a firm direction. Yeah, these are abstract, but my brain loves shiny new projects, and my concrete steps could be something like “if you’re distracted by a new project, write it down, save it for later, and go back to what you need to finish.”

Which is good, but there’s something missing too.

After spending so much of this year inside my house and, let’s face it, inside my own head, I need something to draw me out. I need to, well, just play in 2021. Which so many of us need right now. A long extended session of “refilling the creative well.” Focus as a concept is good, but I don’t think it’s going to be what I need.

Which brings me to what I did land on: flaneur. Okay, first off, I apologize for my bad pronunciation of French. What does flaneur mean? It’s the idea of being a detached observer of society, someone who walks through a city watching the workings of the world around them. I’ll admit, this is not a great choice, because it’s a loaded word, it’s fraught. There has been much written about that, including whether or not a woman can be a flaneur (or flaneus, again, apologies for the pronunciation) in the first place.

But that aside, here’s what appealed to me:

First, it’s external. A flaneur is supposed to observe. A flaneur is supposed to get out of the house and look at the world around them. Which is what I need to do after being inside so long.

Second, there’s a sense of play, of adventure about it. I don’t have an end goal in mind, just getting outside. Which, again, is useful after a year of extreme vigilance and hard-core goal setting. (Not creativity-related, but I’ll talk about that in another episode.)

And finally, there are concrete actions to associate with it. It’s simple, but go take a walk. That’s good advice for anyone, really, but it’s especially useful for creatives. And it features in a lot of advice guides for writers, for other creatives. And it ties in to The Artist’s Way and some of Julia Cameron’s other books, which I’ll be talking a bit more about shortly.

So, this is late December 2020, and while there are vaccines available, they’re not widely available, and they’re going to the exact people who need them most, the front-line medical professionals. Wider access won’t be available for a while, so this means we’ll all need to wait until we’re able to get out into the world safely. I’m not going to risk mingling with the general public—no one should just yet—so how am I going to get out into society and just observe?

That’s a question I’ll go into more detail about later, but for now, I think it might involve a bit of virtual strolling through places. We’ll see.

Do you have your word for 2021 yet? If so, I’d love to hear about it. You can drop it into the comments for the episode over at [or below].

In just a moment, I’ll plug a new podcast about creativity that I’m really enjoying, but first, here’s what’s coming up on Creativity for Skeptics.

Later this week, sometime around the new year, I’ll post an episode in which I talk about my plans for doing The Artist’s Way from a skeptical perspective and without the woo. I’ll go through the introduction and tools in that episode, and we’ll plan to start week 1 on Monday, January 4th. I know, I’m in the US, but weeks start on Monday in my brain, so there it is. I’ll have the episodes corresponding to the weeks up on Sunday, so you can take a listen to the first one on January 3rd, and we’ll check in about week 1 tasks and look ahead to week 2 on January 10th. And if you’re hearing this sometime in the future, then, you can listen to the weeks as you come to them.

There have been over 4 million copies of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way sold, so I’m imagining that they’re probably easy to find at used book stores, if you want to go that route.

And now, I’m going to point you to another podcast about creativity that I’m really enjoying. I’ve been a fan of Rachael Herron’s for a while now. Her podcasts How do You Write which is ongoing and the writer’s well (which is on hiatus) are ones I recommend too. Her book about writing, Fast Draft Your Memoir, gave me a lot to think about even though I don’t write memoir. So I had to take a listen when she announced her new podcast, You’re Already Ready. The short episodes are a mix of personal narrative, thoughts on creativity, and gentle reminders that you’re already ready to do the thing you most want to do. And it’s aimed at a wider audience than her writing podcasts, so it’s broadly applicable to creatives in general. Take a listen, there’s a link in the shownotes.

So that’s it from me today. let me know your word for 2021, if you choose one. If you have any questions about creativity you’d like me to address, feel free to [post in the comments or send me an email].

Thanks for listening to Creativity for Skeptics. For more information about the show or to listen to past episodes, go to We’ll talk creativity again soon.

A Few Podcasts of Interest for Overwhelmed Creators

Greetings after a long absence.  There are a number of reasons for my time away from the blog, though it’s mostly that I don’t have much time to write, and I have been dedicating what little time I do have to fiction and poems that explore the sorts of issues I had been blogging about here.

Even though I think I’m better at getting into the complexities of social issues through fiction and poetry than I do through blogging, I haven’t felt much like writing anything of late.  And I know I’m not alone in that.

So, how do we get back to the necessary creative work we do?

I’m still struggling with that.  One shift I did notice lately is that I didn’t want to listen to writing podcast episodes, which I usually do the day they’re published.  Why not?  Because I felt guilty listening to writing podcasts when I should be paying attention to news.  Because writing–especially writing science fiction and poetry–feels less vital than doing whatever it is I should be doing right now, even if I’m already doing it.

That said, writing podcasts give me a sense of the larger writing community, outside my local community which, of course, I’m not socializing with for the foreseeable future.  Listen to just one podcast, I told myself.  See what happens.  And it helped.  The writing is slow, and I’m easily distracted, but I’m writing.

In case this helps anyone else in the same situation, here are a few episodes I recommend:

  • In episode #486 of I Should Be Writing, host Mur Lafferty reminds us that we need to adjust to life as it is now, rather than pressuring ourselves to use “free time” to write what we feel we should be writing right now.   (Though the podcast is for “wannabe fiction writers,” I’ve found Lafferty’s advice just as useful after the publication of my first book as I did when I had just come back to writing.)
  • The title of episode #203 of the #amwriting podcast says it all: #HowToWorkAnyway.  Practical advice on how to get the writing done when so much is changing around us all.
  • More practical advice from host Rachael Herron in episode #174 of How Do You Write?
  • And even more from Rachael Herron and her co-host J. Thorn on their podcast The Writer’s Well.  In episode #168, they ask each other “Do You Pray?”  Their answers are “no” and “not really,” but they have an interesting conversation around the topic.

So, these are the podcasts that have eased me back into writing.

How about you?  Are you finding it difficult to create now?  Have you found anything that helps?


From Around the Web: 3 October 2017

A few links of interest from around the web:

  • A couple podcasts featuring SF authors: Gary Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan interview Nnedi Okorafor on the latest Coode Street Podcast. And Gregory Benford, David Brin, Geoffrey Landis and Larry Niven appear on a recent episode of Planetary Radio.
  • Here’s a poem featured on Rattle by Raye Hendrix, on the “death” of Cassini: “ELEGY FOR A SPACECRAFT
  • And for those of you in the North Texas region: I’ll be reading at this year’s Art & Words show, curated by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam.

From Around the Web: 11 September 2017

A few links of interest from around the web, writing on writing edition:

From Around the Web: 20 March 2017

A few links of interest from around the web:

From Around the Web: 13 March 2017

A few links of interest from around the web:

  • From The New York Review of Books, Masha Gessen explores the role Russia is playing in the Trump administration and in our conception of it: “For more than six months now, Russia has served as a crutch for the American imagination. It is used to explain how Trump could have happened to us, and it is also called upon to give us hope. When the Russian conspiracy behind Trump is finally fully exposed, our national nightmare will be over.”
  • In “definitions depend on which field you’re in” news, the latest episode of Planetary Radio asks “Hope for Pluto—Should We Re-Redefine Planets?
  • And on the topic of Pluto, check out The Future Fire‘s interview with Toeken, who illustrated my story “Over the New Horizon.”

From Around the Web: 6 February 2017

Links of interest from around the web:

  • SF author Kameron Hurley discusses feminist SF and space operas on the most recent episode of the Breaking the Glass Slipper podcast.
  • Ursula K. Le Guin responds to a letter to the editor to The Oregonian that compares the current US president’s administrations lies to science fiction: “[SF writers] make absolutely no pretense that our fictions are ‘alternative facts.'”
  • And on the topic of the current US presidential administration, check out Dr. Sarah’s post on Freethought Resistance, “Speak out NOW to stop Betsy DeVos“: “The good news is, you may actually be able to stop her nomination from going through.”