re/VIEW: Julia Cameron

re/VIEW: Julia Cameron

Robert Stivers

“Cameron has not only nurtured her own creative life over decades, but she’s also sparked that of countless others through the use of down-to-earth tools.”

“We are not created to be thwarted. Rather, we were made for full flowering,” creativity doyenne Julia Cameron writes in her new book, Seeking Wisdom: A Spiritual Path to Creative Connection. And Cameron’s career is testament to this: Beginning with The Artist’s Way, the creative unblocking primer she published in 1992 (it’s sold more than four million copies since), Cameron has not only nurtured her own creative life over decades, but she’s also sparked that of countless others through the use of down-to-earth tools such as daily writing and weekly Artist Dates—practices that, in her case, have led to more than 40 books of nonfiction, fiction, and memoir; four poetry collections; seven plays; and a feature film.

In Seeking Wisdom, Cameron focuses her attention particularly on the symbiotic relationship between spirituality and the creative process, with a special emphasis on prayer in its various forms: petition, gratitude, and praise. She notes that we can “all call on the creator,” and “we can all connect to the creator by practicing our creativity.”

“I’ve come to see that if you work on your creative life, you develop a spiritual one—they feed each other.” —Julia Cameron

“The point is to be willing to ask, and then be open to receiving,” she writes. The book builds on The Artist’s Way framework, which was crafted in part out of Cameron’s painful struggle with alcohol in her 20s, her early attempts at recovery, and the new spiritual life that she discovered in the process. As she tried to stop drinking, she was encouraged to find a Higher Power of her own understanding, and “was advised that if I wanted to stay sober, I should pray.”

Cameron found expression of this Higher Power through the titular line of Dylan Thomas’s poem, “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower.” This energy, she writes, “powerful and benevolent, strong and yet tender” became “a doorway for me to a loving God—and all we both would create.”

“To this day, I’ve never come up with a better definition of God than that line of poetry,” she says.

In Cameron’s view, a key part of developing and maintaining a creative life involves broadening one’s understanding of God.

“We start with what we’re brought up with: often an authoritarian, male, ill-tempered, competitive, jealous God,” she says. “So we ask ourselves, ‘Okay, what kind of God would you like to have?’ People think the idea that they could ‘design’ a God is heresy, but I say, Do it anyway. Because when our concept of God changes, there’s this deep sense of relief—we realize it’s okay to dare to experiment.”

The book also adds a new tool to Cameron’s tried-and-true creativity kit, which includes Morning Pages (three longhand pages written on awakening about “anything and everything”) and the Artist Date (a solo, playful weekly outing to explore a new interest). Cameron calls the new tool Writing Out Guidance. She uses it to bring questions to Spirit—“Dear God, what should I do about X?”—and then to journal the response she senses in the silence.

“I have long used prayer as a creative tool, and I wanted to urge my readers to try that,” she says. “I’ve come to see that if you work on your creative life, you develop a spiritual one—they feed each other. And I’ve learned that when I ask for guidance in prayer, what I hear back is a benevolent, gentle, and supportive voice that encourages me to try something I haven’t before.”

Most of us have negative ideas about both the creative process and the spiritual journey, Cameron notes.

“What if instead of the story that it’s a beautiful day in Paradise, uppity Eve bites the apple and gives it to codependent Adam for a taste, and a voice from the sky thunders ‘How dare you?!’—the story is that it’s a beautiful day in Paradise and Eve takes a bite of the apple and the voice says, ‘Far out!’?” she asks.

“As we dig deeper into our God concept, our chest expands,” she says. “We find ourselves taking a deep breath and releasing—that’s what I mean by ‘full flowering.’ The combination of Morning Pages and Artist Dates helps us craft this new concept of God and build a spiritual radio kit that allows for the sending and receiving of creative energy and encourages a sense of benevolence, optimism, and glee. Then when we do the Guidance Writing we find that God responds, and that we’re led carefully and well.”

The negative stories we carry about the creative life are why it’s so important to practice gentle ways of countering them.

“If we find that creativity is fun, we judge that as bad,” she says. “We tell ourselves, ‘I shouldn’t be trying this, it’s too good to be true.’ But when we pursue creative practice anyway, we find ourselves experiencing more synchronicity. We’re more often in the right place at the right time, and we’re more open to that loving flow.”

Cameron Credit Robert Stivers

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