Artist's Way,  MidLife

The Artist’s Way for MidLife – FREEDOM

I am currently working my way through Julia Cameron’s newest Artist’s Way series, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again – a program specifically targeted to help those in midlife discover creativity and meaning.

This week I focused on chapter two: Reigniting a Sense of Freedom.

I continue to follow the four cornerstones of the program:

  • Daily hand-written Morning Pages (wrote 6 out of 7 days)
  • Weekly solo Artist Dates (visited the local Farmer’s Market)
  • Two 20-minute solo walks per week (still walking the Bassett – even in this Midwest heatwave)
  • Ten weekly Memoir prompts (this week focusing on ages 6-10)

Freedom is rooted in the memoir prompts. These elementary school days allow us our first taste of independence. We spend more waking hours away from home than we do with Mom and Dad. We learn we have choices in life, albeit often judged as good or bad – right or wrong. We become aware of our individuality and we learn to express ourselves in unique ways to fit our budding personality.

This week’s writing prompts asks us to recall the following:

  1. Where did you live? Describe your bedroom.
  2. Who were the major players in your life? Did you have an influential teacher?
  3. Did you try new artforms in this period?
  4. What new freedoms did you experience?
  5. What were you bored by?
  6. Describe a smell you remember.
  7. Describe a close friend – real or imaginary.
  8. Describe a favorite treat.
  9. Describe a location where you spent time.
  10. What other memories do you recall?

While I jotted notes for all the questions, I was most interested in question three: what new artforms did I try at this time?

For most of my adult years, I claimed to have little creativity. And while I have begun to cultivate a writing practice, I really don’t consider myself an artist. But as I allowed myself to ruminate on this question, I realized I tried several different artforms as a child – some with a certain degree of success.

I started piano lessons in second grade. I learned the value of daily practice (20 minutes – 3 times a day). I learned the sense of satisfaction that comes with consistent work. And I learned an appreciation for music that lasted well into college. In fact, if it were not for my involvement in band and orchestra, I’m not sure I would have survived high school.

I also tried my hand at various forms of needlework. This was Mom’s favorite past time (needlepoint – crewel embroidery – sewing play outfits for me) and I wanted to share these hobbies with her. Unfortunately, my lack of patience and need for perfection prevented me from enjoying the process.

But Mom also let me help her in the kitchen and I soon developed an interest in baking that continues to this day.  We started with chocolate chip cookies. She would measure the ingredients and I would pour them in the bowl when told. We then moved on to holiday Bishop’s Bread – a southern style fruitcake that required lots of prep-work such as halving the candied cherries, chopping the dates, and shelling the pecans. This proved perfect tasks for young hands.

I pretty much took over holiday baking when I entered high school – and when I got married and moved to New York City, we held an annual Christmas party that required two weeks of food preparation. I loved every minute of it.

When we moved to Kansas in 1990 my husband’s Italian grandmother passed the torch to me to prepare the family’s traditional Christmas Eve Vigil or The Feast of Seven Fishes. A true labor of love, this multi-course meal provides a bond to the past that we cherish. In an effort to prepare the next generation to continue this tradition, I wrote a book documenting our family stories and favorite recipes.

All this thought of family celebrations around the dining room table informed my choice for this week’s Artist Date. I took myself to the local farmer’s market. I pretended we lived in a small Italian village and daily shopping was required. I looked closely at each stall, eyeing what looked fresh enough to prepare that evening. I marveled at nature’s colorful rainbow: ruby red tomatoes – golden yellow squash – garnet-colored beets – purple onions – green asparagus – white garlic bulbs. Delicioso!

On the way home from the market I stopped by the library. I scanned the shelves and selected several authentic Italian cookbooks for research. We are planning a family trip to Italy in 2021 to visit my husband’s homeland. I want to learn as much as I can about his past so I can fully immerse myself into that experience.

I plan to practice authentic Italian cooking in the hopes of recreating regional recipes when we are there. I even plan to delve into Rosetta Stone lessons so I can converse with the locals in their native language.

As I finish writing this post it occurs to me… Freedom is the perfect word for this week.

I rediscovered a love of cooking. And I realized midlife offers me time to experiment in the kitchen that I missed when the children were younger. I was too busy rushing them to after-school activities to do more than reheat frozen meals. Now I can pour over cookbooks, create extensive grocery lists, wander up and down the market aisles and select only the freshest ingredients.

I have always loved to travel, but limited funds and busy lifestyles prevented us from doing more than an occasional weekend on the lake. Now my husband and I have the means as well as the freedom to travel overseas, reconnect with our ancestral past, and enrich our lives for the better.

There is a parallel to be found between the expansion of later childhood and the expansion of retirement. ~ Julia Cameron (p 21)



  • Natalie

    Hi Molly – I’m visiting from #MLSTL link up. I enjoyed reading your post. You’re a very creative person with your regular writing, your three books and more to come, photos, cooking, etc. It’s never too late and now is the time to enjoy life. Natalie at Natalie the Explorer

    • Molly Totoro

      Natalie … thank you so much for stopping and for offering such encouraging words!
      You are right … now is the time to enjoy life and I am grateful to have the time, health, and creativity to do so 🙂

  • Donna

    Hi, Molly – It is a pleasure to meet you at Sue and Leanne’s #MLSTL. I agree the midlife and retirement/semi-retirement can allow us the time to rediscover and experiment with old passions….and find new ones. My husband and I are also in the beginning stages of planning a trip to Italy (hopefully for Spring 2019). I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    • Molly Totoro

      Donna – I’m so glad you stopped by!
      Do you know where in Italy you plan to visit? While my husband’s family is from the Naples area, we will probably spend more time in the Tuscany region (and I have a true fascination with Venice). I think I might be looking forward to the research as much as to the trip itself 🙂

  • Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

    Hi Molly, I’m so thankful to you for introducing me to this book. I have decided though that I won’t really start until next month as I’m currently undertaking other challenges. I can see what benefits you have gained and can’t wait to start doing the tasks that Julia sets. I look forward to your posts each week with your learnings and this one was beautiful. Like you, I didn’t see myself as creative but I can see through your task that you have learned not only about being creative but also found a new idea to run with. Thanks for sharing with us at #MLSTL. My husband was born in Naples, but came to Australia when he was 4 years old. He is now 70. HIs Mum is still alive and will be 92 tomorrow. I love visiting his cousins in Italy to practice my Italian which is very, very rusty but lots of fun trying to communicate. Have a wonderful week and thanks for the inspiration.

    • Molly Totoro

      Sue – I’m so glad this book is resonating with you and I look forward to hearing the insights you glean while working through the chapters.
      What part of Naples is your husband’s family?! My husband’s grandmother came from the Cassano Irpino region (although I only learned that from the passenger list found on I think it is rather remote, so I’m not sure we will have to chance to travel there… but I do hope to visit the Naples area. I’m open to any suggestions for local restaurants or places of interest if you care to share 🙂

  • Denyse

    I am so pleased to see The Artist’s Way “It’s Never Too Late” has been used by you to such effect. I am afraid I found writing 3 pages each morning was an impossibility with problems with my hands and shoulders so gave that away (sorry Julia!) and then I bought this book and kind of ‘got’ what was the theme. However, to give me credit I guess, I was already down the track of embracing my creative side and giving myself some ‘dates’ so I passed this book onto a friend.
    I do say though that anything which kickstarts our creativity is a great way to be! Best wishes as you continue.


    • Molly Totoro

      Sounds like you have found your Artists’s Way, Denyse 🙂 That is terrific … and I love how you passed along the book to a friend!

  • Leanne |

    Hi Molly – isn’t it interesting looking back at our childhood and reaizing how much we’ve forgotten. I remember doing sewing all the way through primary school – learning all the different stitches and it’s stood me in good stead all these years (I can hem and sew on a button with the best of them). I wish I’d learned a musical instrument because it would be a great gift to have (and reading music would be great). I’m really enjoying following your discoveries with this book.

    Thanks for linking up with us at #MLSTL and I’ve shared this on my SM xx
    Leanne |

    • Molly Totoro

      Oh Leanne… I joke that I can’t even sew a button on a shirt 🙂 I fear needle art is not in my DNA. Although I did enjoy counted cross-stitch for a while. There was a time, not too long ago, when I would “force” myself to stitch because I thought it was what I was supposed to do. Mom did it… my friends do it… I should do it as well. But I am (slowly) learning that Midlife is the perfect time to shed those “should” thoughts and instead pursue what truly gives us joy. I’m delighted to have found this #MLSTL group who encourage one another to embrace our differences and become who we are meant to be.

  • Victoria

    Molly, you are very busy and creative. I think it is so awesome how you are branching into Italian cooking. I love to cook though do more “down home” cooking.

  • Karen Hume

    Hi Molly,
    What a great way to work with the concepts in chapter 2. As much as I talk about the creative possibilities that are in virtually everything we do, I hadn’t thought at all about exploring a whole new area of cooking as a form of creative activity. What a terrific idea to do that before your visit to Italy. #MLSTL

  • Jennifer

    Love these little insights. I also did not have the patience for sewing or knitting or crocheting. But for some reason, I took a liking to embroidery. Not the normal pretty flowers or stuff. I would trace a picture onto a white cloth and then do a satin stitch to “sew out” the picture. #MLSTL

  • Mary Lou

    I’m really enjoy this series Molly! And thinking about going back and adding more memories to those early years that I’ve written about. My favorite treat was 5 cent Fudge Pops that I would walk down to the little grocery store ‘Otto’s’ nearby. There was a lot of creativity too that I recalled. Thanks for the memory prompts! Visiting from #MLSTL and I’ll be sharing this on m social media sites.

    • Molly Totoro

      I LOVED fudgsicles (tasted like frozen chocolate milk) … and I think it is so fun to not only recall the treats but where we went to buy them (for me, it was the local Sage … forerunner of Walmart in Houston, TX). I’m glad you are enjoying the series, Mary Lou… I’m having a blast doing it 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: