Artist's Way,  MidLife

The Artist’s Way for MidLife – WONDER

As I mentioned in last week’s introduction to this Artist’s Way series, I am spending the summer working my way through Julia Cameron’s newest book, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again – a program specifically targeted to help those in midlife discover creativity and meaning.

The Artist’s Way program is builtΒ upon these four cornerstones:

  • Daily hand-written Morning Pages
  • Weekly solo Artist Dates
  • Two 20-minute solo walks per week
  • Ten weekly Memoir prompts

The first chapter of the book is entitled: Reigniting a Sense of Wonder.Β 

Since this week’s memoir prompts ask us to reflect on the first few years of life – a time when everything is new and we are filled with curiosity – wonder seems an appropriate focus. Wonder aptly describes our childhood – and wonder can also describe this new season of life.

I’ve spent the last thirty years raising three children, taking care of ill parents, and teaching full-time. I used to long for a spare moment to call my own. Now each day is a blank slate. The children are grown and raising families of their own. My parents have both passed on. And I have cut back teaching to one course a year.

I’m not complaining, mind you. But life is different and I must learn to renavigate the lay of the land.

Productivity is a trait I admire. In fact, I judge whether a day is good or bad by how much I accomplish. Unfortunately, I also measure my self-worth by the size of the to-do list. While this system accommodated the workaholic life of myΒ 30s and 40s, it fails in this retired empty-nester phase. I struggle to find a purpose to the day when no one is depending on me. I find it difficult to remain motivated when I am accountable only to myself.

Self-doubt is a constant companion and when it is combined with a lack of focus, malaise sets in. This is where memoir prompts help get our lives back on track. By reconnecting with our past we can find possible directions for our future.

This week’s prompts had me reflect back to when I was 0-5 years old. Granted, the memory was a little rusty, but it is amazing what I could recall after a few days of focused concentration:

  1. Where did you live?
  2. Who took care of you?
  3. Did you have any pets?
  4. What is your earliest memory?
  5. What was your favorite book? What was your favorite toy?
  6. Describe a smell you remember from this stage of life.
  7. What was your favorite food?
  8. Describe a sound from this period of your life.
  9. Describe a location where you remember spending time.
  10. What other memories occur to you from this period?

What came to mind when you read through these prompts? If you feel comfortable, please share in the comments below. I’d love to hear!

For my Artist Date this week I decided to try painting. How is that linked to a sense of wonder?!

I’ve always wanted to paint. The idea of transforming a white canvas into a colorful picture is nothing short of miraculous to me. There’s only one problem. I cannot draw a stick figure. No… really. I can’t.

I also love quilts. I adore the colors and patterns of the fabrics. I am fascinated by how different geometric shapes can be combined to form a multitude of unique quilt designs. The only problem is… I can’t sew. I can’t stitch a straight line – really.

But I have a feeling five-year-old Molly would not let lack of talent stand in her way. I’m pretty sure she would splatter paint on a canvas and call it a masterpiece. So I decided to give into my inner child and paint a quilt block.

Fortunately, Pinterest provided the inspiration. I searched “barn quilt patterns” and found numerous options – from ultra simple to extremely detailed.

I then took myself on a shopping spree to Michaels where I bought 8×8 canvases (buy one get one free) – acrylic paint (in colors I like but not necessarily colors that match my home decor) – and paintbrushes.

I made myself a paper draft of the pattern so I knew where to place the colors and I lightly penciled in the lines on the canvas. Then it was just a matter of paint-by-number.

I so enjoyed doing the first one that I quickly painted another. I have a third one almost finished and then I think I am ready to put away my artist supplies for now. While I had a good time expressing my creativity in a new way, I am no Picasso. But who knows… I may try again another day.

In the meantime, these colorful quilt blocks will go nicely on the blank wall in our beach-themed room. Not planned, but a serendipitous surprise.

Please join me again next week when the Artist’s Way focus will be: Reigniting a Sense of FREEDOM.


  • Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

    Hi Molly, after reading your post last week I actually purchased this book and I’m loving it. I had also planned to write some posts based around the teachings. I find it hard to make the time to really think so the memoir task, although yet to be completed, will certainly help me with my focus as there are questions which will guide me. Thanks so much for introducing me to the book and also for sharing at #MLSTL. Have a great week and I will be sharing on social media.

    • Molly Totoro

      I’m SO glad you are enjoying the book, Sue!
      One idea for the memoir prompts that works for me… initially just jot down ideas/memories as they come to you. Then another time flesh those out with more detailed writing.
      I’m excited to hear what Artist Dates you take πŸ™‚

  • Terri Webster Schrandt

    Hi Molly, as a fellow empty-nester working from home (I also teach at a university as a part-time lecturer), I understand how the idea of a to-do list works or not! This book looks interesting! Because of blogging I grew passionate about photography and coupled with my active life I have a decent focus on this midlife journey! Saw this on #MLSTL!

    • Molly Totoro

      Photography is my next midlife project πŸ™‚ I first need to let go of perfectionism and self-doubt. Then I have great Artist Date ideas that involve walks around town with camera in hand!

  • Leanne |

    I loved your quilting art Molly – creative and yet structured (it reminds me of the pleasure I get from colouring in – staying within the lines, but choosing the colours and the “feel” for each piece). I also really liked the questions to remember being a five year old – there were a few I struggled with (lucky there are a few photos from those days to jog my memory!)

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

    • Molly Totoro

      Yes… Photos help a lot with memoir prompts (and my dad used to take 8mm movies, so I have those visual reminders as well).
      The painting project was VERY similar to coloring (which I also enjoy). While I enjoyed the feel of the brush in my hand, I must admit, I prefer the portability of coloring (with less mess to clean) πŸ™‚

  • Karen Hume

    Hi Molly,
    I read It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again last year and certainly agree that it’s an excellent book. Great idea to spend your summer working through it and blogging about your experiences.

    I’ve done a number of the memoir activities in the book, with lots still left to do. There’s plenty there for summer, fall and winter too!

    I love your barn quilts, Molly. I too have done the whole “I can’t draw a stick figure” thing. Then, this past winter, I took a course at my local community center called “Painting for Absolute Beginners.” I figured that the shoe fit! It helped enormously. And, good news, the artist who taught the course has been busily making videos on YouTube so you can do this at home. Check out Rod Bergeron’s channel. I think you’ll find that he’s very reassuring, straightforward and helpful. #MLSTL

    • Molly Totoro

      Oh Karen – thank you SO much for the YouTube recommendation! I will definitely check that out (perhaps this week’s Artist Date?)

      I agree… writing memoir begets more memories to write about πŸ™‚ I enjoy the process though. Someday I hope to organize all these stories into a cohesive project to leave for children and grandchildren.

  • Pat

    Hi Molly, visiting from MLSTL I’ve read 2 of Julia Cameron’s books… but not this one. The current one I have on my shelf is The Artist Way for Retirement. But having read 2, I know many of her concepts are the same! I’ve become an avid morning journal person and cannot imagine life without that! I’ve done some artists dates, but none for awhile, so thanks for the reminder about that. Good for you to just try out painting!! I bought coloring books and tried that on, but canvases and paints – wow! That is inspiring.
    I think it’ time for me to work though her book again and reenergize my creative artist within.

    • Molly Totoro

      The Artist’s Way for Retirement – how did I miss that one?!
      I cannot live without morning pages either. At this point I don’t really know what I think unless I write it down πŸ™‚

  • Victoria

    My memories from childhood are not really something I want to relive. I do like your painting and also think quilts are so pretty. My sister quilts and I have a couple she has made,

    • Molly Totoro

      I have one doll’s quilt from my great-grandmother and it is a prized possession! You are fortunate to have homemade quilts from your sister. A true labor of love πŸ™‚

  • Jennifer

    Thanks to you, I renewed my interest in Morning Pages. I had the habit for years, but when I first started my blog, I only had mornings in which to write. So the Morning Pages fell to the wayside and blogging took its place. But now that I’m in a forced retirement, I have most of the day to write. So last week, I started back on my Morning Pages and I’ve already seen the impact they have on clearing clutter out of my mind which helps me focus better on all the other things I do that day, including writing.

    • Molly Totoro

      Hoorah for Morning Pages!! While I do love to share my thoughts on the blog, morning pages are for my eyes only. And I think it is for that reason that Morning Pages are so valuable.

    • Molly Totoro

      I find Julia Cameron inspiring as well. While many of her books provide the basic Artist Way structure, each book also provides enough unique instruction to serve the particular needs of that audience. And I think she teaches us to enjoy the journey rather than focus on an end destination. A lesson I struggle to remember πŸ™‚

  • Mary Lou

    I’ve written my memoir by decades and I did include memories 0-5 years. Prompt #6 made me recall the smell of cigars and medicine when our family doctor would make a house call to our home when I was sick. I can still recall his booming voice as he came down the hall. He’d take my temperature and give me a shot of penicillin. I was always happy to scoot under the covers and read a book after he left. πŸ™‚ Visiting for #MLSTL and will share on Social Media.

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