July 18, 2019

The Simple Inspiration of Julia Cameron

“On any given day, someone somewhere is likely leading an Artist’s Way group, gamely knocking back the exercises of “The Artist’s Way” book, the quasi-spiritual manual for “creative recovery,” as its author Julia Cameron puts it, that has been a lodestar to blocked writers and other artistic hopefuls for more than a quarter of a century. There have been Artist’s Way clusters in the Australian outback and the Panamanian jungle; in Brazil, Russia, the United Kingdom and Japan; and also, as a cursory scan of Artist’s Way Meetups reveals, in Des Moines and Toronto. It has been taught in prisons and sober communities, at spiritual retreats and New Age centers, from Esalen to Sedona, from the Omega Institute to the Open Center, where Ms. Cameron will appear in late March, as she does most years. Adherents of “The Artist’s Way” include the authors Patricia Cornwell and Sarah Ban Breathnach. Pete Townshend, Alicia Keys and Helmut Newton have all noted its influence on their work.

So has Tim Ferriss, the hyperactive productivity guru behind “The Four Hour Workweek,” though to save time he didn’t actually read the book, “which was recommended to me by many megaselling authors,” he writes. He just did the “Morning Pages,” one of the book’s central exercises. It requires you write three pages, by hand, first thing in the morning, about whatever comes to mind. (Fortunes would seem to have been made on the journals printed to support this effort.) The book’s other main dictum is the “Artist’s Date” — two hours of alone time each week to be spent at a gallery, say, or any place where a new experience might be possible.

Elizabeth Gilbert, who has “done” the book three times, said there would be no “Eat, Pray, Love,” without “The Artist’s Way.” Without it, there might be no adult coloring books, no journaling fever. “Creativity” would not have its own publishing niche or have become a ubiquitous buzzword — the “fat-free” of the self-help world — and business pundits would not deploy it as a specious organizing principle.”

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