Artist's Way,  MidLife

The Artist’s Way for Midlife – PURPOSE

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 four: Reigniting a Sense of Purpose.

I continue to follow the four cornerstones of the program:

  • Daily hand-written Morning Pages (wrote all 7 days)
  • Weekly solo Artist Dates (reconnected with my love of scrapbooking)
  • Two 20-minute solo walks per week (I did walk the Basset every day)
  • Ten weekly Memoir prompts (this week focusing on ages 16-20)

This was an emotional roller coaster time in my life. I experienced extreme highs (being part of a student exchange group to France; going away to college; meeting my husband-to-be) – as well as devasting lows (I lost two groups of friends in high school which cemented my life-long fear of rejection).

While discovering my life’s purpose is important to me now (almost an obsession) … I wasn’t sure it was a blip on my radar during my late teen years. But in answering this week’s memoir questions I (re)discovered some buried passions.

This week’s writing prompts:

  1. Describe your major relationships during this period.
  2. Where did you live?
  3. What creative ideas called to you? Did you follow these callings?
  4. Describe a sound from this time – what are the emotions associated with it?
  5. Describe a taste – can you revisit this taste today?
  6. Describe a smell.
  7. Were there callings you tried and then abandoned?
  8. Did you have dreams, questions, or impulses about your greater purpose during this time?
  9. What was a source of joy for you during this time?
  10. What other memories from this time period feel significant?

Now I will be honest here… I didn’t make it past question 3.

At first, I was taken aback by the word “calling” Perhaps because other synonyms for the word include mission and lifework (and interestingly, antonyms include fun, entertainment, and pastime). With such lofty (and serious) undertones, no wonder my mind went blank.

But then I chose to use Julia Cameron’s definition: many worthy callings could be defined as ‘committed interest’. Now the floodgates opened.

I started with my “committed interests” of elementary school and brainstormed through the current day. Without going into great detail, here is a partial list of my life’s callings:

  • become a foreign exchange student to France
  • become a teacher and lead other students to France
  • become a stewardess (flight attendant) and travel the world
  • music performance (flute)
  • needlework (mainly counted cross-stitch)
  • baking (mostly desserts which led to Molly’s Muffins)
  • cake decorating
  • catering (mostly appetizers and desserts)
  • photography (mostly nature and learning to see the joy in the ordinary)
  • writing (blogging as well as non-fiction and Middle-Grade fiction)
  • scrapbooking (leaving a legacy)

I could easily write a blog post for each of these bullet points (and how they either came true or why I abandoned them) … but I will save that for another day.

Today I want to share a snippet of my memoir entry:

I’ve loved to scrapbook since 1997. I love the creative expression as well as the practicality of organizing boxes of hidden photos. Even more than that, I am drawn to tell the story behind the picture. It is the perfect intersection of so many other interests: photography – writing – preserving family memories to leave as a legacy for future generations.

Why don’t I enjoy it more often?! It is almost as if I can’t allow myself to scrapbook unless I have a deadline to meet (a gift) or it is a monetary means to an end. 

How silly?! I AM allowed to pursue my God-given interests whether they produce an income or not. This week’s Artist Date is Scrapbooking!

And I did scrapbook. All day Saturday. With a really good friend. We talked, we ate, and we preserved our family stories in a fun, creative way. I had a blast!

How naive I’ve been all these years. I assumed life’s purpose demanded serious work for financial gain. I thought it meant sacrificing pleasurable pastimes for productive jobs. It never occurred to me the two could be intertwined into one joyous calling.

You’re never too long to learn valuable life lessons.


  • Catherine Ensley

    I’ve felt the same way about scrapbooking. Recently, I asked myself which would make me sadder: if I died without having completed my/my family’s life in scrapbooks? Or without having published a work of fiction. I saw that getting the scrapbook albums finished is more important to me (and more fun). So I have decided to make that a higher priority.

    • Molly Totoro

      Oh Cathy … I completely understand this internal conversation! I have vowed to be vigilant about my scrapbooking from now on – and to have fun while doing it 🙂

  • Patricia

    I’m impressed you can recall so many things you wanted to do when you were a kid! Was there something that really helped you recall all that? I’ve tried similar exercises and came up pretty blank. I even asked my mom, my sister, and an old friend…. what did I want to do? What did I really like to do? And there wasn’t much they recalled either. I love so much about The Artist Way, but those memoir things really stumped me!

    • Molly Totoro

      That’s such a good question, Patricia! I’m not sure how I recall the details…
      The foreign exchange student dream began in 2nd grade and I vividly remember when I was when I knew I wanted to do that. Perhaps the fact that it informed so many life decisions through college (I majored in French) has something to do with that. Band was a vital part of my high school career. If I didn’t have that sense of belonging, I’m not sure I would have made it through the loss of friends. Interestingly, I knew if I went on to pursue music as a career, it would work rather than pure pleasure.
      I tend to be an introspective person, so this comes naturally for me. Perhaps if you try to think back to a time when you felt most content (?) and then analyze why … what made you content (?) I’d be curious to hear what you discover!

  • Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

    Hi Molly, I look forward every week to your learnings from The Artist’s Way and as you know, after reading your first post, I am now working through the book. You have accomplished so much each week and I am always inspired by your ideas that have flowed from the next chapter. Thanks for sharing at #MLSTL and I will be sharing on social media. I have been slow in starting the process and tasks in the book but as I said you inspire me to do something! Have a beautiful week!
    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

    • Molly Totoro

      Hi Sue… I am so loving this #MLSTL community and am grateful to you and Leanne for organizing such an awesome weekly get together!
      As I was going through the book this week I realized that I am really just scratching the surface. I am focusing on the memoir prompts, but as you know, there is so much more information packed into each chapter. For example, I didn’t even attempt to identify the “touchstones” of this time period. So many layers to sift through – but I’m enjoying the process.

  • Leanne |

    I think I made the same discovery when I got serious about my blogging Molly. It’s not about selling your soul or about making megabucks or proving something – it’s about the sheer joy of creating and doing something that brings you pleasure. If you can throw in some friendship time like you did then it’s definitely win/win. Loved your Parisian page x

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

    • Molly Totoro

      Leanne … I struggle with maintaining the balance with blogging as well. I enjoy writing and sharing, but then I start to focus too much on numbers and become discouraged. I can honestly say the #MLSTL community is helping me to let go of quantifying my efforts and simply enjoy the personal connection.

    • Molly Totoro

      I hope you enjoy the book as much I have, Leah 🙂 And you can definitely do it at your pace … so don’t feel as though you have to accomplish a chapter a week!

  • Karen Hume

    Hi Molly,
    Your scrapbooking is beautiful. I hope you continue to make time for it. Not doing so is like having a favourite item of clothing in your closet that you don’t ever wear because no occasion is ‘good enough.’

    Your partial list of callings is fascinating. I’m looking forward to blogs about all of those. You won’t run out of things to blog about any time soon!


    • Molly Totoro

      I love your analogy, Karen … probably because I that is exactly what I do. I save clothes, china and hobbies for special occasions. But I think I’ve done that for so long that I never deem an occasion special enough. CRAZY! Perhaps my new mantra should be, “Today is a special occasion” 🙂

      I have a feeling I won’t run out of blog post ideas for quite some time. I’m glad these possible topics are of interest.

    • Molly Totoro

      I can imagine that would be a traumatic time, Victoria. I didn’t marry until I was nearly 23 but I look back now and think I was pretty young too 🙂

  • Mary Lou

    Count me in with those who are looking forward to each of your posts Molly! There’s so much memory that, just reading through this, came rushing back of those late teen years. So much packed into those five years ~ dating boys and meeting the man who I would marry at 20 and who would be the father of my five sons, my first real jobs, thinking about possible college pursuits. I didn’t write that much back then but did have a fascination with the book publishing company I worked for and also newspapers where my Dad worked. Back in the late 50’s/early 60’s girls weren’t encouraged to explore those dreams. Once again I’ll be sharing for #MLSTL on my social media. Thanks!

    • Molly Totoro

      I’m SO glad these prompts brought back such vivid memories, Mary Lou! It certainly is the start of a VERY busy time of life. Sometimes I look back and wonder how on earth I managed 🙂

  • Kristin Alicia

    Hi Molly, I found your post through an old linky on Cresting the Hill. Funnily enough, I just today downloaded one of Julia Cameron’s books. I read and worked my way through the Artist’s Way back in the 90’s when it came out. I haven’t yet cracked open my new book (Vein of Gold), but I look forward to doing some of the exercises. I love your scrapbooking photos. I started a foray into that when my kids were babies, but grew a bit overwhelmed by the process and gave it up after about a year. I now have a large supply of scrapbooking supplies which I’ve never put to use!

    • Molly Totoro

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Kristin (and welcome to the #MLSTL community!) I have read Julia’s first book, The Artist’s Way, a number of times. But this is the first time I have truly worked through each week’s prompts and exercises. It was exactly what I needed at this particular time in life.

      I completely understand the scrapbooking supply issue. I started in 1997 (and was even a consultant for about ten years) … so I am well acquainted with acquiring an overabundance of materials that go unused. HOWEVER… now that I have more time to do what I want to do, I’m having fun rediscovering old hobbies. And I don’t need to invest much money since I can shop from my closet.

      As an aside… I visited your blog and noticed you are also from Kansas!! I’m from the Kansas City area. Where do you reside?

      • Kristin Alicia

        What a small world! I live in south Johnson County. I used to live in Lawrence (was born and raised in the Bay Area in CA, however). I’ve been here for about 20 years now. What about you?

        • Molly Totoro

          We’ve been in Kansas since 1990 (now in Olathe… so we must be neighbors!). We moved here from Connecticut, so opposite coast 🙂

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