The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron Changed My Life… and it still is
There are plenty of books that I love, and many of those have heavily influenced me and the way I relate to the world. But Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity is one that I would say actually changed my life.
It influenced me so much that I’ve alluded to it here several times since I first immersed myself in her book in 2002 and came up for air as a new person. In fact, my first reference to it was only a couple of months after I started my blog in 2006 (http://beradiantsquared.com/doing_your_own).
A Self-Help Program
This is more than an interesting book that you’ll sit down to read quickly – it’s a self-help program. Cameron structured the material like a 12-step method for addiction recovery, except that it’s for creative recovery. As you move through the 12 major modules over 12 weeks, you focus on healing your inner creative person.
Apparently, your inner artist derives its creativity from a child-like part of yourself. Cameron assumes that if you’re blocked creatively, then an aspect of your inner child isn’t being allowed to come out and play. Consequently many of Cameron’s exercises include drawing pictures, writing poems and prayers, and making play dates with yourself…or, rather, with your inner artist. So much of what she gives you to do and write seems silly on the surface. Yet, it all serves an important purpose. Your overcritical grown up self will resist, of course. She urges you to ignore that and do it anyway.
Freeing My Inner Artist Worked
In 2002, the 12 weeks of reading and activities made me confront and conquer demons that had been holding me back from writing for more than a dozen years after college. (In case you didn’t know, I have a degree in creative writing.)
For example, I realized then that in addition to an inner child/inner creative person, I also have an inner critic. Doing the work in this book made me finally notice that I’d been thinking for way too long, “You’ll never be good enough so why even try?” Acknowledging the inner critic, as well as the other critics from college that I’d allowed to block my creativity, was the first step to overcoming my fear about trying and failing. Eventually, it led to having the courage to start my blog.
Since then I’ve also published three books and hundreds of articles; I’ve developed 100+ online and in-person classes, workshops, and presentations; and I’ve written, produced, and hosted live virtual programs and podcasts. Proof, of course, that Cameron’s program worked for me.
Here We Go Again
Clearly, I’m no longer a blocked creative person, and another great result is that some of what I’ve been producing is actually contributing to my income.
And yet, here I am going through her book again.
This time it’s for an entirely different reason. Well, maybe it’s for more than one reason now that I think about it. I say that because at first it was just to help some friends. Now I think it’s also because it was time to take my creativity to a new level.
One of my friends is a fiction writer, and his wife told me one day that she wasn’t having any success in urging him to write. She let me know that he had several interesting projects in mind, including one that could get published immediately. A colleague who’s already published something similar has been waiting on him to complete it so it can be submitted.
I’m pleased to report that he’s already made progress, and we’re not even finished the book yet! He’s doing research and has been working on making time to write. Can I just say that I’m proud of him? I don’t think he’ll mind.
I know his wife is pleased to see him in action, too. And though I have often teased her about how she might regret having agreed to do this program with us, I admire how she keeps digging into the work herself… and not just for her husband’s sake. It’s made us all pretty emotional to reveal our baggage and vulnerabilities to each other. We’ve stopped short of calling our discussions each week “group therapy,” but it sure feels like it.
When I see their breakthroughs, I remember my own from the first time, as well as the resistance I felt with each exercise as I got further into the book. And let me say that this second time through is cracking me open in yet new ways (yowza! didn’t expect that!). I keep finding myself thinking, “What? I still have baggage around that?” And the answer comes, “Yes, my dear, you sure do.” Then I hunker down and clear out yet something else. At least this time, it’s a little bit easier since I already know what to do and expect.
Still Changing My Life
If I could sum it up, I’d say that I embarked on the spiritual path of the artist’s way years ago, and it made a huge difference in my life. During this go round, I seem to be getting worked over again, though it’s more along the lines of the “Higher Creativity” part of the book’s subtitle.
I also feel sort of like a mentor to my friends, but a very, very vulnerable one as I must acknowledge that my position on the path is not even close to mastery! They trust me, and they trust that it works because they see what I’ve been able to do because of it. But obviously, I’m only slightly “ahead” of them. I have a long way to go and anticipate having lots more interesting discoveries to make.
This book is still changing my life, and I’m grateful for that.
Not For the Fainthearted
If you’re thinking that this book is not for the fainthearted, I’d say you’re right. But that’s because being creative isn’t for the fainthearted either. Especially if you are going to make your creative work public in any way.
What I have learned is that it takes courage to step into your power and reveal your authentic, creative self to the world. And it takes courage to grow, gain confidence, and sharpen your saw. Mastery doesn’t come easy. Even naturally-gifted prodigies need to work and practice their craft.
Being yourself is risky – being creative is risky. Yet, it’s oh, so worth it!
Angela Loëb is into self-development… learning it, teaching it, and supporting others who do too. More at http://angelaloeb.com