The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

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Any blocked artist, be he or she a painter, writer, or actor, can benefit from the positive course of action suggested by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. The Artist’s Way is the most powerful call for self-nurturing and creativity that I’ve ever read. I wish I’d found it years ago, because I feel it came into my life at the wrong time.

The Program

Julia Cameron’s premise in The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity is that creativity is a spiritual issue. By nurturing your inner spiritual needs, you are able to unleash the God-given creativity within you.  For me, it seemed Cameron’s “spirituality” was synonymous with “positive self-worth.” The Artist’s Way, then, was a much-needed reminder that I am an artist and that I do have creativity within me already.

Cameron’s definition of spirituality is not the same as mine; I consider myself “spiritual,” yet I wonder if her constant referral of “creativity” as a God-given spiritual power would be a “turn off” for those that don’t. If you are turned off by the “spiritual” reference in the subtitle, I’d say still give this book a try.

But The Artist’s Way is not just a book: it is a twelve-week program for recovery of creativity. We are to write our daily fears, worries, and joys down on pages every day; we recite affirmations to ourselves; we eliminate from our lives the destructive people who might hinder our creativity; and we rely on God to heal our broken creativity.

Each week, the program participant focuses on recovering creativity in the following categories:

  1. Safety
  2. Identity
  3. Power
  4. Integrity
  5. Possibility
  6. Abundance
  7. Connection
  8. Strength
  9. Compassion
  10. Self-Protection
  11. Autonomy
  12. Faith

What’s to Like

A main recovery for blocked artists is to write “morning pages.” The morning pages are to be written by any recovering artist (potter, architect, film-writer, etc.) and are stream-of-consciousness rambles and nonsense not intended to be read. This is to give voice to negativity of your life so you can focus on what really matters. I think this could work well: it’s a great idea.

The Artist’s Way also encourages artists to take risks and to let themselves have the luxury of being creative. As the reader progresses through the program over the course of the twelve weeks, the artist is continually challenged to do and be more. It takes work to be an artist, and the artist needs to make sure to take opportunities before they are lost. The Artist’s Way can help you see the opportunities around you.

Cameron seems to urge the reader to leave the jobs and people who discourage away from creativity, and move forward toward his or her dreams. It’s never too late!

Her words are definitely inspiring and helpful to artists afraid to take a step. It is a book to help artists re-find the self-esteem that teachers, parents, and others inadvertently discouraged away.

What I Didn’t Need

When I first started reading this, boxes were piled in every room from our international move, and the baby was still adjusting to a USA time zone (in other words, awaking at 5 a.m.). Now, my baby is just learning to walk, and we are perfecting a post-move new budget. The wonderful ideas Cameron suggests cannot possibly work for me right now. I wish I’d found this book lat year when I had more “abundance” in my life! Yet, her point is that we always have abundance if we allow ourselves.

Julia Cameron encourages artists to take the time to write in the morning pages each day, write for another hour every day, and take a break every week for an “artist’s date.” Get a sitter if you have children, stop serving other people, and serve yourself for once! If you don’t let yourself do these things, she suggests, you aren’t giving yourself the luxury you deserve.

After about 50 pages, I realized why I disagreed: My baby is my luxury. I waited a long time to be a mother. I have the further blessing of staying home with my baby, and to me, it is a blessing. Serving others, particularly my baby, is a great way that I feel spiritual; if I only served myself all the time, I’d feel very depressed. My life must be about service to others!

Cameron would suggest that I’m afraid to start being creative, so I’m using my baby as an excuse. Maybe. But she does ask the reader to ponder what gives us true joy (page 110), and we are encouraged to pursue that. I realized that I already am pursuing it: my baby gives me true joy.

By reading The Artist’s Way, I’ve been inspired to seek moments of creativity. I won’t write a novel this month, but I’ll start writing the morning pages.

Toni Morrison (quoted on page 97) says:

We are traditionally rather proud of ourselves for having slipped creative work in there between the domestic chores and obligations. I’m not sure we deserve such big A-pluses for that.

I completely agree. I try to slip in my creativity, but that’s not how it’s nurtured. If I’m serious about writing, I must be serious when I write. It should be my career.

But writing is not my career now, and I don’t resent that at all. I don’t want to give up the life I love.

Someday, I’ll revisit The Artist’s Way to properly rekindle all of the creativity within me.

Have you read The Artist’s Way? What did you think about Julia Cameron’s ideas for creativity and indulging your own creative spirit?

Reviewed on October 8, 2008

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • I haven’t read The Artist’s Way but I have not one but two copies in my house!  When I was going to school for photography this was one of the recommended books on our book list.  I feel guilty every time I look at it because I haven’t read it yet.  I recently picked up a second one thinking that when I finally read it I could give the second one away on my blog giving me the motivation to read it.  I don’t think it will happen this year.  But sometime!

    I do feel like I’ve let my creativity slip big time.  Especially since I’m not using my talents to even take great photos of my children.  I really could use some creativity back in my life.

  • I’m impressed that you keep up such an excellent blog with a baby in your life!  I was pretty brain dead when my kids were babies (I have had 4).  Your blog is an expression of your creativity as well as a way of serving others.  I had not even heard of this book, and while I have not been creative over the years in such an artistic way, I have had to be very creative in parenting, which has been very fulfilling.  I wonder if her plan could be helpful in that respect.  I’m still trying to come up with a way to get my kids to flush the toilet!

  • Natasha, I think the point of this book is there are many ways to be creative! I think her emphasis is how to make creativity your career, but even for a non-career woman myself, I was inspired!

    Chain Reader, Thank you! What a nice compliment. My reading and this blog are my way of fending off that “brain dead” feeling! It’s my spot for creativity right now.

  • I think everyone has to find their own method for overcoming the creativity hump.  I’ve never read books like these.  I’ve had other people give classes on this sort of subject, and I’ve actually felt my creativity dampered.  That’s why I have, thus far, avoided any and all books that tell me about writing, how to write, how to overcome blocks, etc.

    Unlike you, I did not find a lot of joy in being a stay at home mom to my babies.  I found the situation very stressful, and I’m no where near as patient as I should be.  Unfortunately, getting a babysitter wouldn’t have been an option (especially for three kids).  Thankfully, my kids have gotten a little older, and I’ve been able to carve out time to myself, which keeps me from going insane.  And my production and creativity have both flourished because of this.

  • The god-given stuff really was a turnoff, you’re right. But I still found the book useful in several ways when I read it a few years ago.

  • Amanda, yes, everyone needs their own method. I tend to enjoy hearing how other people “make it” so I like reviewing self-help type books sometimes. As for the stay-at-home thing, I know others don’t enjoy it as I do, so maybe Cameron was right to encourage them to get out. What I took exception to was her glib way of saying “get a sitter” and “go shopping for new clothes” in every chapter as if money is not and should never hinder creativity. It does because this is life! As a mom, at this point, I’m still able to carve out some time for myself: that’s what my reading and this blog is all about! I also happen to have a perfect child, thus far, so that helps….

    dew, Yes, and the ironic thing is I agree that creativity is God-given: I just think Cameron forgot her audience and it really felt over-the-top!

  • So,I decided to go get this from the library last week. Just from skimming through,I see that there are a lot of things that are going to be very helpful to me (and I think I’m going to have to buy the book now). I am in serious need of repairing my creative process *sigh*

    I’ve done the same idea of The Morning Pages for years now. I had no idea it was supposed to be so therapeutic for me haha!

    And yes…the God-given is a bit of a turn off . I’m Pagan,though…and used to mentally substituting or erasing spiritual terminology to suit my own ideas/needs so it’s not that huge of a deal to me but still….

  • Jupiter, yes, I think it’s very useful. I used to journal all the time, but I’ve stopped. I think the morning pages are more rambling than even a journal. I wish you luck in your creative endeavors!

  • This book fell into my lap and yet I’ve barely cracked it open.  I saw a Cameron quote, liked it, checked bookmooch and it was available.   and now I’m seeing it everywhere.   I think I need to dedicate some time to it.  Thank you!

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