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*This is a paid review for BlogHer bookclub.  As always, thoughts and opinions are completely my own.

The Artist’s Way Toolkit is a little different that what I normally review for the BlogHer Book Club.  As in, it is not a book, but an interactive online guide to help with a ‘creative renewal and rediscovery’ of yourself.  When I agreed to this review, I thought it would jumpstart my creativity and get me motivated to tackle some of the paintings I’ve been meaning to start. Spoiler alert: I still haven’t worked on any personal paintings other than commissions.   Turns out The Artist’s Toolkit isn’t really a method for getting you to write or paint, it is much more like a meditative, self discovery to finding a more centered, artistic version of yourself.

The toolkit includes daily affirmations and creative sound bites, which are nice, but not really memorable.    The coolest feature ( in my opinion) of the toolkit, is the  ‘Artist’s Way Exercises’ which sends you on a trip/date each week that you are expected to go on alone.  They are simple things like "go to a place in your city you have never been" or "visit a thrift shop", but they push you to take time for yourself.  There are ‘morning pages’ that are three unprompted pages of writing each morning. In theory, this is great. In reality, I found myself rushing them or skipping them entirely for a shower. It’s an understatement to say that the ‘morning pages’ were a challenge.

What I came to learn about Artist’s Way Toolkit is that it takes time and dedication to actually do it. You can’t just read the prompts and come away with a renewed creative spirit.   This is a process  similar to therapy.  There are writing prompts and, daily journaling and field trips.  It is a process that have to have the desire, and more importantly, time to complete.

I could see The Artist’s Way Toolkit being great for someone with a lot of free time. If I didn’t have a full-time career, a house, garden, dog and marriage to maintain,  I could even see myself relishing in the process.

I wanted to like it, but for me, it was just extra work.  I didn’t take much away from the prompts, but I feel like that is my fault for not devoting the necessary time and creativity.  If you are wanting to work on yourself and are really willing to invest the time and energy it takes to do that, The Artist’s Way seems like a wonderful option.  If you are busy and already overwhelmed and relatively happy with your inner artist, then this really isn’t for you.  I find myself the second category.

We will be discussing the Artist’s Way Toolkit for the next few weeks over at BlogHer.  Come join the conversation!

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Recent Reads: You Have No Idea

The latest book for the BlogHer Book Club is You Have No Idea by Vanessa and Helen Williams – yes, that Vanessa Williams – and her mom. Per usual, here’s the part where I tell you that I get paid for this review and receive a free book, but all opinions stated in this post are my own.

So, what did I think of this book? Well, the cover looks like a 1980s self help book, and in this case you should judge a book by its cover.

The ‘memoir’ felt braggadocious a lot of the time. It seemed like a way for Vanessa to discuss the accomplishments and trials of her life rather than the emotions and reality of it all. The narrative was all over the place, with some random little boxed inserts like “Helen’s Words on…” and “Vanessa’s Favorite Reads” that didn’t lend anything to the overall story. The chapters switched back and forth between Vanessa’s career to her love life, without much in between. There were some poignant stories from her childhood and pageant days, but a lot of the content seemed like filler. Most chapters were written by Vanessa– with Helen throwing in her two cents at the end about how she always knew better.

To be fair, there were definitely some interesting parts – Vanessa being crowned the first black Miss America and all the prestige and threats that came with that, scandalous nude photos, her Broadway career – but the book could have been condensed considerably to focus on those aspects. Also, I will totally admit that I bawled at the section on the death of her father. Any mention of the elderly or the death of a loved one in a book, and you can bet I’ll shed a tear.

In the end, I’m not recommending you run out and purchase this one. If you come across a free or lendable copy, give it a chance. Otherwise, skip it.

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