Beth Lee-Browningby Beth Lee-Browning

For years I was baffled as I watched the opening credits of the television show Bewitched.  It featured an animated version of the main character played by Elizabeth Montgomery, sweep through a black sky and twinkling white stars and loop through the air to draw the B in the title Bewitched with her broom, followed by the caption, “Now in Living Color.” If it was ‘now in living color,’ why did I see it only in black and white?

I think we’re all fascinated by magic. I still wish I could wiggle my nose like Samantha or cross my arms, blink my eyes, and swing my pony tail with a head bob like Barbara Eden in I Dream of Jeannie and make my dreams come true.  Who hasn’t wanted to fly, wished upon a star, or squeezed their eyes really tight while blowing out candles on a birthday cake, all the while hoping that somehow our secret desires would come true.

Week Six of Walking in This World by Julia Cameron is called “Discovering a Sense of Boundaries,” and the focus is on how to “interact with the world in ways that minimize negativity and maximize productive stimulation.”

I’m fascinated by Tarot Cards, so I was intrigued by the opening reference to the author’s favorite Tarot card, the Magician.  “He stands alone, holding one arm aloft, summoning the power of the heavens.  He has no audience.  His power – and our own – lies in our connection, personal and private, to the divine.”

In some ways, art is a like magic. We often associate the word magic with the supernatural, but according to Merriam-Webster, it can also be defined as “something that seems to cast a spell: Enchantment.”  I think it can be said that art, whether it is music, painting, writing, or any other form casts a spell and entrances us, even if it’s only for a moment.  Like a good sleight of hand, the creative ingredients of a piece of art are as invisible as the magicians well-kept secrets.

As I read the section called “Containment,” I began to understand what Julia Cameron means when she writes, “As artists, we must learn to practice containment.  Our ideas are valuable.”  If we share our ideas before they are ready, while they are still incubating, we run the risk of allowing someone who is not insightful or forward-thinking to influence us into tossing those kernels of inspiration aside rather than pursuing them.  We run the same risk as a magician who performs a new trick in public before he has perfected it.  When the audience laughs or even worse yawns with boredom, chances are good that the trick may be tossed aside and if it happens often enough, the magician may stop performing completely.

I’ve always been a believer in bouncing ideas off of people and it seemed counter-intuitive to me to keep my ideas to myself until they have taken more of a complete form.  After all, why bother pursuing an idea if it doesn’t make sense to others? As I read, however, I realized there are many projects and ideas I’ve tossed aside because I let them out before they were ready.  I abandoned some because they were not well received and others because they were; I became paralyzed at the thought of not being able to fulfill their promise.  Perhaps Julia is right when she says, “One of the most useful creative laws I know is this: ‘The first rule of magic is containment.’”  It’s not that we shouldn’t share our ideas at all, but that we need to trust our instincts and protect our ideas; we need to limit the risk of abandoning our dreams because we shared them too soon or with the wrong people.

The discussion about containment led to the section entitled “Inflow,” in which Julia describes how in our over-stimulating world of cell phones, radios, jobs, friends, family, media, finances, internet, bosses, coworkers, and more, we often find ourselves feeling like we are shouldering the weight of the world and life becomes “too much.”  We wonder how long we can continue acting “normal.”

In order to create, we need to find ways to manage the inflows and expectations; we need to find time for solitude, and focus.  We must learn to protect our creative energy and use it wisely. She explained that this may involve setting boundaries, something I’m not comfortable with.  I’ve always associated setting limits with saying “no,” perceiving  a risk of rejection within a relationship, not living up to expectations, or  hurting someone I love.

I never realized that by being honest and gentle with myself and others, boundaries aren’t barriers and honesty and self-respect can serve as catalysts to communication and better relationships. We can all find “a room of our own,” a half hour of privacy in some very simple ways.  We can turn off the phone, the computer or the television, and we can say no, not now, but later.  And when later comes, our heart and mind will be focused on helping friends and solving problems rather than resenting the interruption and going through the motions. “Setting even such small boundaries is a huge step toward self-care–which leads to the self in self-expression.”

Recently a friend asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?  What’s your dream?”

“I want to leave Corporate America behind and be a full time writer; I’d love to be able to just write. My day job used to define me, but I’ve grown past it. It’s no longer me,” I replied.

Julia knocked the wind out of my sails and in the same instant gave me something to consider.  She writes,  “A day job is not something to ‘outgrow.’ It is something to consider…As artists, we need life or our art is lifeless.”

I think we’re both right. I have grown beyond being defined by my day job, but I do need to pay the rent, and I have to admit that my days are full of inspiration and characters, they are full of life.  I think her point is that we aren’t meant to live in isolation we are meant to thrive in community and when we embrace living our art will shine.


Reprinted from Beth Lee-Browning’s Blog, it’s a whole new world on October 30, 2011.


Beth Lee-Browning is originally from the Midwest and currently lives in Pennsylvania.  She is a proud mother of three, a full time professional, and an aspiring writer.  Read Beth’s blog at it’s a whole new world.