Updated: Jul 26, 2020
We describe ACSAS as a support group for creative people.
Of all the ways I’ve heard ACSAS described, this one resonates most deeply with me. Which makes sense, since ACSAS as it stands today borrows heavily from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
I personally owe a lot to AA. Going to 75 meetings in 70 days during the summer of 2010, I gained a new understanding of myself and my drinking problem. I haven’t had a drink in a decade, and the rooms of AA have a lot to do with that. There’s something both strange and special about a group of people convening to solve their individual problems together.
Let's consider how AA and ACSAS are similar.
1. In AA, they tell you to take it one day at a time. Same thing in ACSAS. Just as the alcoholic faces a daily battle against the bottle, the creative person faces a daily battle against Resistance, as Steven Pressfield describes in the The War of Art.
2. In AA, alcoholism is described as cunning, baffling, powerful. The Resistance that tries to keep us from doing our creative Work is also cunning, baffling, and powerful.
3. In AA, they say willpower is not enough. That’s often true in the battle to create as well. Willpower can help, of course. But too often, the bottle or the Resistance manages to turn our willpower against us, like a martial artist allows an attacker to approach so as to use the the aggressor's momentum against him.
4. In AA, they only offer suggestions. No commands. No punishments. No shaming. As the saying goes, Don’t try to teach a pig to sing—you just waste your time and aggravate the pig. When I went to my first AA meeting, I wanted to get a handle on my drinking, but I was not ready to do the 12 steps or read the "Big Book" of AA. Had they told me I HAD to do those things, I might never have gone to a second meeting. Because those were only suggested to me as helpful tools for getting sober, I was able to shrug them off until it became clear that, after months of trying to hedge, I still wasn’t figuring it out on my own. I took their suggestions. Then I got sober. We take a similar approach in ACSAS. People who come to ACSAS want to do more creative work. We suggest ways to make that happen. Typically, a person struggles in their first cohort. If you come back for a second cohort, and a third, you learn to take suggestions. Then you learn how to make more work.
5. AA meetings feel good when done right. I believe it’s the feeling of 1) showing up authentically and 2) sharing that experience with other people doing the same thing. We do that in ACSAS, and ACSAS feels good.
6. Finally, let's consider final products. People go to AA because, ultimately, they want to live a better life. For the alcoholic, living that better life requires not drinking. The creative who comes to ACSAS also wants to live a better life. For us, that requires doing our work. Just as AA creates sober people, ACSAS creates joyfully stone-cold creators.
I could list another 10 ways ACSAS mimics AA, but we'll save that for another post.