Power of the pen: book inspires professor to teach continuing education course

Artist's Way book cover

Sean Shannon knows the power of the pen and how the written word can change lives. Before an 18-year career teaching English, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville associate lecturer was on a very different life path. But then she found the book “The Artist's Way” by Julia Cameron.

"For me personally, “The Artist's Way” helped me turn my life around in my mid-20s," Shannon said.

The book aims to help people find their creative voices through techniques and exercises meant to harness their creative talents and skills. But Shannon said she felt she had lost that artistic voice. After just a year in college, she was forced to leave to deal with family issues. As a result, she said she felt her goals and dreams slipping through her fingertips. But the inspiration she found in the pages of Cameron's book helped Shannon reconnect with herself and her goals.

"I found satisfaction in life. “The Artist's Way” was not just about making those reconnections, but also helping me to advocate for myself to do the things I both wanted and needed to do in my life," Shannon added.

Part of that journey was prioritizing education. She returned to school and earned her bachelor's and master's degrees. Then she chose to use those degrees to help educate others. That led to a nearly two-decade-long teaching career that finds her most recently serving as an associate lecturer at UW-Platteville.

During her entire career, she's continued to utilize the exercises in “The Artist's Way.” So it's no surprise that she crafted a course centered around the book's teachings. Since 2020, she has partnered with the Continuing Education Institute to offer the course and help people across the region unlock their creative potential.

"Sean Shannon is a wise and gentle guide through a landmark book," said Marnie Dresser, a professor of English at UW-Platteville. "Participating in the class helped me prioritize several modes of creativity I had long neglected, and they continue to unfold."

"I have found her to be forthright, affirming, and effective in creating nurturing environments for participants," said former student Liz Bennefeld. "Discussions and interaction arise spontaneously, while individuals are encouraged to maintain their own comfort zones."

During the 13-week course, Shannon leads students through the exercises laid out in the book. She said the course has attracted a diverse variety of students who have taken advantage of its lessons to unlock new creative avenues.

"I certainly emphasize the individual approach," Shannon said. "There is just the incredible amount of personal attention each student gets, which I think is a huge component of the success of the program."

Shannon said the course is perfect for any student looking to reconnect with their artistic side or wanting to explore a creative outlet outside their daily lives. She adds that students can connect from anywhere because the course is offered 100% online. The next cohort of The Artist's Way course begins Sept. 9. For more information and to enroll, contact the Continuing Education Institute at continuing@uwplatt.edu.