“There’s no such thing as a non-creative person,” says Julia Cameron. She is the author of The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. This optimism reflects Ms. Cameron’s belief that there’s an artist (like a writer) in each of us, and in the Artist’s Way she outlines the steps a person can take to unleash their creativity, and become the writer (or other type of creative artist) they want to be.
Ms. Cameron’s optimism served her well. After some initial success in the movie industry in the early 1970s, she became addicted to alcohol. In 1978, after particularly brutal scotch-and-cocaine binge, she found the strength and courage to quit abusive drugs and began teaching people how to unblock their creative ways. Along the way, she learned the tips and hints that helped other creative artists. Combining these with a system loosely based on Alcoholic Anonymous’ 12-step program, Ms. Cameron wrote the Artist’s Way as guide for people to unlock their inner creativity. Published in 1992, it also has a spiritual component, espousing the belief that artistic expression is an effective way to connect with our inner selves. There are 12 themes, with exercises, to help readers identify their core values and ultimately get better at expressing what’s important to them.
Many of the themes, such as integrity, strength, compassion, and faith provide ideas to budding writers. The exercises help turn the abstract themes into tools for improvement. One of is called “filling the well.” The reader is directed to stop reading for a week and just focus on observing the world. This provides an opportunity to wake up to what’s going on around the reader, and possibly trigger creative thoughts.
Another exercise is called the “three morning pages”. First thing in the morning, using longhand, the reader writes three pages of stream of consciousness writing. There’s no structure, and this lack of structure allows the reader to be provoked or cajoled into organizing the upcoming day.
The book also recommends an “artist date”, which is a once-a-week private time to seek out something interesting. Perhaps there’s a new exhibit at the local museum, or a drive in the countryside during autumn will amaze the reader with a colorful display. This time alone, peacefully enjoying something of interest in an otherwise chaotic day, can spark the imagination and recharge batteries for a creative endeavor (such as writing).
Another theme in the book is self-protection, meaning that busy people need to protect their inner artist self from workaholism. Too often, exhausting, treadmill-like endless hours of drudgery produce little, while great writing can occur from a few hours of energetic and creative work. The key is abstaining from destructive behaviors that turn positive work output into wasted time. Checking email every 10 minutes or starting to plan dinner are examples.
The themes, tools, and exercises from the Artist’s Way probably may seem abstract. However, it’s not possible to distill such a groundbreaking book into a few paragraphs. To really benefit from Ms. Cameron’s successful advice, get a copy of her book. Don’t just read it, pore over it and put serious effort into the exercises, and with time the creative juices should flow and improved writing should follow.
It’s understood that not everyone does well learning from a self-help book. They need a more interactive and engaging source of education and inspiration. There’s good news for these people. First, Ms. Cameron has produced a series of videos that covers the concepts in her book. Second, the author’s concepts have been so successful that workshops are available that cover the ideas. Finally, if money is no object, then Ms. Cameron herself is available for private consultation!
Regardless of how the concepts in the Artist’s Way are learned, they can help turn budding writers into published authors.