Book Review: The Artist’s Way

Cameron, Julia. The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. 10th anniversary ed. New York: J.P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2002.

With the basic principle that creative expression is the natural direction of life, Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan lead you through a comprehensive twelve-week program to recover your creativity from a variety of blocks, including limiting beliefs, fear, self-sabotage, jealousy, guilt, addictions, and other inhibiting forces, replacing them with artistic confidence and productivity.

This book links creativity to spirituality by showing how to connect with the creative energies of the universe, and has, in the years since its publication, spawned a remarkable number of support groups for artists dedicated to practicing the exercises it contains.

I can not even begin to tell you what an amazing journey this book has been for me. At first I resisted… a lot. I wanted to snap my fingers and be “cured” of my creative blocks. That was not possible, however, or I would have done it years ago, and TAW would not be a twelve week program. I had heard of this book many times over the years, but what finally started me on the path to creative recovery is a group I’m in online, with a group of us deciding to work through it together. I don’t think I would have completed the course were it not for the women I was doing it with.

So yes, resisting. The biggest thing I wanted to skip was doing Morning Pages, three handwritten pages that should be done in the morning, before doing anything else. In the end, I completed the twelve weeks being able to count on one hand the number of days I skipped. And since the last day, it has now been exactly four weeks and I have not missed a single day (though I don’t always write first thing in the morning). HOLY MOLY! If you told me in January that this habit was going to stick around, I would never have believed you. But I very quickly learned how helpful it is in clearing the clutter from my mind and helping me sort out my feelings and thoughts about things.

Morning Pages are a tool Cameron says is important for any “recovering creative.” She also recommends a weekly Artist Date. This is a scheduled weekly event that can be anything that nourishes and supports the artist within you — who she says is a child, and loves the same things you loved as a child. An Artist Date can be almost anything, like a hike with a camera, coloring in a coloring book, or spending an hour browsing an art supply store. The Artist Date does not have to involve doing art. It simply keeps your inner artist happy and inspired. I have not been keeping up with these officially, but I have been thinking of starting an Artist Date log to track them, which will help me to ensure that I do them every week.

Each chapter encompasses one week and includes essays to read and tasks to do. You can pick and choose which tasks you do, but Cameron suggests that you do whatever you most want to do, and whatever you least want to do, because if you have a strong urge against it then you probably have a very good reason to avoid it, therefore it would be most beneficial to actually do it. In the beginning I tried to do as many tasks as possible. By the end I was getting a bit lazy and skipped more, but I did read every essay and do at least some of the tasks every week.

Not all of the essays made sense to me. In fact, my book group and I spent much of the course struggling with things that Cameron says. While she says early on that when she says God you can feel free to substitute whatever deity you choose to believe in, it doesn’t work so easily once you get to the actual essays sometimes. Many of us found it hard to connect our personal spirituality to the apparently Judeo-Christian God/Great Creator that she speaks of. There were many things she seemed to be saying about ALL recovering creatives that we just didn’t agree with, like that the only reason artists are ever “struggling” is that they aren’t trying hard enough or putting enough belief in their desires. (If you loved The Secret by Rhonda Byrne or have otherwise encountered the Law of Attraction, you will have no problems with this aspect of TAW.)

The proof of the method is in the pudding. For me, I can say for a fact that I have been more creative in the past four months than I had been for the previous four years. I have another blog where I post things I do creatively, and the other day I posted some Recent Art. I don’t think I would have created any of these pieces were it not for TAW. I am still walking the path to creative recovery, and I can say for certain that this book has changed my life (as dramatic as that sounds, it’s true). I look forward to working through more of Cameron’s books in the future.

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  1. Pingback: Book Review: The Creative Fire (Book 7) « 120 Books

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