Review: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron, with Mark Bryan – Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam – Non-fiction, Contemporary – Buy it here – Our Rating: All the Pipes

The Artist’s Way is the seminal book on the subject of creativity. An international bestseller, millions of readers have found it to be an invaluable guide to living the artist’s life. Still as vital today—or perhaps even more so—than it was when it was first published one decade ago, it is a powerfully provocative and inspiring work. In a new introduction to the book, Julia Cameron reflects upon the impact of The Artist’s Way and describes the work she has done during the last decade and the new insights into the creative process that she has gained. Updated and expanded, this anniversary edition reframes The Artist’s Way for a new century.

I didn’t co-found Word Weary to whinge on about books I hate, dear readers. In fact, I intended to write about books that I loved, so that you could know about them, and love them too. However, in the world of grimy reality, I do a lot more hating than loving, and it saddens me. This week, despite all of the slightly mismanaged or misguided books I’ve had the (dis)pleasure of encountering, I’ve had enough of sadness, enough of hate; I’m inclined to purposefully bring you joy instead. Towards that end, I would like to present you with Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.

The Artist’s Way is a self-proclaimed “course in discovering and recovering your creative self;” in essence, it’s a printed form of a twelve-week program aimed at helping you tap into your creative side. It’s also the mother of interactive self-help books. Cameron, once a blocked creative, guides readers, other blocked creatives, through a much-needed physical, mental and spiritual journey of healing.

At first glance, The Artist’s Way might seem slightly new-age/mystical/hokey, because Cameron asks readers to do something that most of us are afraid to do: admit that we have an impulse to create, and acknowledge that impulse as not only valid, but also integral to living a fulfilled life. Furthermore, although you’re encouraged to give the entity your own name, Cameron insists that there’s a spiritual force that guides and governs creativity, a force she pseudo-religiously terms “the Creator.”

If all of this sounds vaguely uncomfortable, that’s because it is. Some may not like to be told that they are creative because they fervently believe that they are not. I challenge this belief; I see it as fear; I see creativity in even the most “mundane” everyday activities. If you have no intrinsic capacity to create, how do you form independent thoughts? Complete assignments at work? Approach colleagues, children, and lovers in different, appropriate, and effective ways? Cook? The problem with blocked creatives, Cameron posits and I agree, lies in their own minds, in their internalized habits of self-deprecation, self-doubt, and self-sabotage. There’s a reason that the phrase “you’re your own worst critic” receives widespread use.

Frankly, I recommend this book to everyone. Long ago someone recommended it to me, and suggested that I approach this book’s sought-after creativity as a metaphor for living a fulfilled life. I think they underestimated the extent to which I identify as a poet, writer, and artist, but regardless, The Artist’s Way really does have powerful metaphoric power. In learning to allow ourselves to create, we also learn to allow ourselves to live a life of possibilities, honesty, confidence, and imagination. If you learn to paint or play or write or dance in the process, good on you, but vastly more important than the act of creation is the motivation and confidence it takes to create. I have yet to meet someone who has read it whose self-perception has not been radically altered for the better, and indeed, I am no exception. My life and my work have been more complete, more fulfilling, and more inspired since reading The Artist’s Way, and I’m not even done with it yet.

I have every confidence that, if you read this book and follow its advice, you’ll discover something new and powerful about yourself. I would give The Artist’s Way six pipes if I could – it is more than worth the read – it can, and will, profoundly change your life.

-Kristen

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