Julia Cameron has been an active artist for more than thirty years, with fifteen books (including bestsellers The Artist's Way and The Right to Write) and countless television, film, and theater scripts to her credit. Writing since the age of 18, Cameron has a long list of screenplay and teleplay credits to her name, including an episode of Miami Vice which featured Miles Davis, and Elvis and the Beauty Queen, which starred Don Johnson. She was a writer on such movies as Taxi Driver, New York, New York, and The Last Waltz. She wrote, produced, and directed the award-winning independent feature film, God's Will, which premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival, and was selected by the London Film Festival, the Munich International Film Festival, and Women in Film Festival, among others. In addition to making film, Cameron has taught film at such diverse places as Chicago Filmmakers, Northwestern University, and Columbia College.
About Julia Cameron
An Interview with Julia Cameron
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She is an award-winning playwright, whose work has appeared on such well-known stages as the McCarter Theater at Princeton University and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.
From the popular workshops on unlocking creativity and living from the creative center she has taught for two decades, came her book, The Artist's Way (Tarcher/Putnam), which has become an international bestseller, published in a dozen languages with worldwide sales of over one million copies. In the United States, The Artist's Way has appeared on many bestseller lists, including Publishers Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post, The Denver Post, and many others.
She has taught The Artist's Way workshops to such places as The Smithsonian, The New York Times, Omega Institute, Esalen, The Open Center, Interface, Wisdom House, and many others. As a result of her workshops and book, The Artist's Way, creativity groups have formed across America, and throughout the world, from the jungles of Panama to the Outback of Australia.
Her work on the artist's soul includes The Right to Write (Tarcher/Putnam), which was published in January 1999, and appeared on such bestseller lists as The San Francisco Chronicle, The Los Angeles Times, and The Denver Post. Other works include The Vein of Gold (Tarcher/Putnam), an amazing book of tools expressly for the healing and rehabilitation of the artist's soul in us all. This fall, Tarcher/Putnam will publish three new humor/spirituality titles, God Is No Laughing Matter, Supplies, and Dog is God Spelled Backwards.
Cameron has had an accomplished, distinguished, and extensive journalism career, and her credits include writing on the arts for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times. At age 23, Cameron was already writing features and book criticism for The Washington Post and later covered arts as a special correspondent for The Chicago Tribune.
She wrote for Rolling Stone and New York magazines during their most influential years, and was cited in Time magazine for her Watergate coverage in Rolling Stone. Hand-picked by legendary editor Jim Bellows, she wrote an OpEd column for Vogue magazine. Cameron has been a frequent columnist and contributor for American Film magazine for more than a decade. Her newspaper and magazine articles, essays and reviews on the arts number well into the hundreds. She won the prestigious Maggie Award for Best Editorial Writing for a story in American Film magazine on the danger of the intersection of sex and violence in movies.
She is a published poet, novelist and essayist. Her essays have been collected in several anthologies, including The Rolling Stone Reader and The Dark Room (Carroll and Graf), a novel about violence and child abuse. This fall, Cameron will also release Popcorn: Hollywood Stories (Really Great Books), inspired by her days in The Business.
In addition to writing words, Cameron writes music. She has taught at the National Songwriter's Association in Nashville. After being a lyricist for others for several decades, Cameron recently began writing her own compositions. A main focus for her in the last three years has been music and sound healing, including writing Avalon, a musical based on the Arthurian legend and set in modern times.
Although creative recovery is a highly individual process, there are certain recurrent themes and questions that we have encountered over and over in our teaching. In the hopes of answering at least some of your questions directly, we include the most commonly asked questions and answers here.
Is true creativity the possession of a relatively small percentage of the population?
No, absolutely not. We are all creative. Creativity is a natural life force that all can experience in one form or another. Just as blood is part of our physical body and is nothing we must invent, creativity is part of us and we each can tap into the greater creative energies of the universe and pull from that vast, powerful spiritual wellspring to amplify our own individual creativity.
As a culture, we tend to define creativity too narrowly and to think of it in elitist terms, as something belonging to a small chosen tribe of "real artists." But in reality, everything we do requires making creative choices, although we seldom recognize that fact. The ways in which we dress, set up our homes, do our jobs, the movies we see, and even the people we involve ourselves with—these all are expressions of our creativity. It is our erroneous beliefs about creativity, our cultural mythology about artists ("All artists are broke, crazy, promiscuous, self-centered, single, or they have trust funds") that encourage us to leave our dreams unfulfilled. These myths most often involve matters of money, time, and other people’s agendas for us. As we clear these blocks away, we can become more creative.
Can I expect dramatic results to begin occurring right away?
The answer is both yes and no. While dramatic changes will occur within the twelve-week course, much more dramatic changes occur when Artist’s Way tools become life tools. The shift over a two- to three-year period can feel like a downright miracle: blocked filmmakers who make one short film, then a second and then a feature; blocked writers who began with essays, reviews, and articles moving into whole books and plays. If the basic tools of morning pages and the artist date are kept carefully in place, you can expect to experience large life shifts.
What factors keep people from being creative?
Conditioning. Family, friends, and educators may discourage us from pursuing an artist’s career. There is the mythology that artists are somehow "different," and this mythology of difference inspires fear. If we have negative perceptions about what an artist is, we will feel less inclined to do the diligent work necessary to become one.
On a societal level, blocked creative energy manifests itself as self-destructive behavior. Many people who are engaged in self-defeating behaviors, such as addicts of alcohol, drugs, sex, or work, are really in the hands of this shadow side of the creative force. As we become more creative, these negative expressions of the creative force often abate.
How does this book free people to be more creative?
The primary purpose — and effect of - The Artist’s Way is to put people in touch with the power of their own internal creativity. The book frees people to be more creative in many different ways: First, it helps dismantle negative mythologies about artists. Second, it helps people discover their own creative force, access it, and express it more freely. Third, it provides people with an awareness about their self-destructive behaviors and allows them to see more clearly what the impediments on their individual path might be. Finally, the book helps people identify and celebrate their desires and dreams and make the plans to accomplish them. It teaches people how to support and nurture themselves as well as how to find others who will support them in fulfilling their dreams.
The Artist’s Way is the link between creativity and spirituality. How are they connected?
Creativity is a spiritual force. The force that drives the green fuse through the flower, as Dylan Thomas defined his idea of the life force, is the same urge that drives us toward creation. There is a central will to create that is part of our human heritage and potential. Because creation is always an act of faith, and faith is a spiritual issue, so is creativity. As we strive for our highest selves, our spiritual selves, we cannot help but be more aware, more proactive, and more creative.
Tell me about the two central exercises in the book — the morning pages and the artist dates.
The morning pages are three pages of stream-of-consciousness longhand morning writing. You should think of them not as "art" but as an active form of meditation for Westerners. In the morning pages we declare to the world—and ourselves—what we like, what we dislike, what we wish, what we hope, what we regret, and what we plan.
By contrast, the artist dates are times for receptivity, preplanned solitary hours of pleasurable activity aimed at nurturing the creative consciousness. Used together, these tools build, in effect, a radio set. The morning pages notify and clarify—they send signals into the verdant void; and the solitude of the artist dates allows for the answer to be received.
The morning pages and artist dates must be experienced in order to be explained, just as reading a book about jogging is not the same as putting on your Nikes and heading out to the running track. Map is not territory, and without reference points from within your own experience, you cannot extrapolate what the morning pages and artist dates can do for you.
The Artist’s Way is a twelve-week program that requires daily commitments. How much time do I need to devote to it each day, and what can I accomplish in these twelve weeks?
It’s a daily commitment of a half hour to an hour. One of the most important things we learn during the twelve weeks is to give up our ideas of perfection and to see a new perspective, to change our focus from product to process.
Participants enter the program with certain unstated expectations and preconceived notions of what will happen and what they will get out of it. And often, just as in a great short story, they are profoundly surprised and thrilled to discover something entirely different. Therefore, to predict what someone will learn from this course would undermine the very principle on which it was built. It is experiential, and the results are something to be discovered, not explained.
What can I do to overcome my self-doubts about being a good artist?
The point is not to overcome your self-doubts about being an artist. The point is to move through your self-doubts. Many of us believe that "real artists" do not experience self-doubt. In truth, artists are people who have learned to live with doubt and do the work anyway. The exercises in the book will help you dismantle the hypercritical inner Censor and perfectionist. You will learn that part of being fully creative means allowing for an "off" day. Because the Artist’s Way focuses on process rather than product, you will learn to value your "mistakes" as part of your learning.
Why do artists procrastinate, and what is procrastination really about?
Artists procrastinate out of fear, or because they try to wait for the "right mood" in order to work. The Artist’s Way will teach you how to separate mood from productivity. It will also teach you to value a self-loving enthusiasm over mechanistic discipline.
How can I expand my ability to derive new ideas?
Learn to miniaturize your critic, your Censor. While you may not fire your critic entirely, you can learn to work around the negative voice. When we use the morning pages and the artist dates—specifically designed to put us in touch with our nonlinear intuitive selves—we expand our ability to derive new ideas. As we lessen the static, the interference caused by old habits and blocks, and become clearer and more able to listen, we become more receptive to creativity and its sometimes subtle arrival in our consciousness.
What is the most common misconception about creativity?
The most common misconception is that we would have to leave our current lives in order to pursue our dreams. It is easier for us to use our jobs, families, financial situations, time obligations, etc., as a way (or ways) to keep us "safe" from the anxiety caused by stepping out of our comfort zones into the creative process. When we allow ourselves to be thus thwarted, we deny ourselves tremendous joy. The most effective way to center confront blocks is to form creative cluster groups in the lives we’re already leading. A guide to creative clusters follows.
A GUIDE FOR STARTING CREATIVE CLUSTERS
When The Artist’s Way was first published, I expressed a wish for Artist’s Way groups to spring into being. I envisioned them as peer-run circles—“creative clusters”—where people would serve one another as believing mirrors, uniting with the common aim of creative unblocking. It was my vision that such circles would be free of charge, that anyone could assemble one, using the book as a guide and a text. Many such peer-run circles did form and many more are forming still. Such artist-to-artist, heart-to-heart help and support are the heart of The Artist’s Way and The Vein of Gold.
Not surprisingly, many therapists, community colleges, wellness centers, universities, and teachers soon began running facilitated Artist’s Way groups, for which they charged a fee. The Artist’s Way groups were led rather than simply convened. To the degree to which they adhered to the spiritual principles of creative recovery and introduced people to the use of the tools, they were—and are—valuable. Any group that starts with such a leader should, however, rapidly become autonomous, "graduating" to a peer-run, nonprofit status.
There are no "accredited" Artist’s Way teachers. I chose not to franchise The Artist’s Way but to offer it as a gift, free of charge. It is my belief that creative recovery at its best is a nonhierarchical, peer-run, collective process. In this it differs from the academic and therapeutic models. Any professional using The Artist’s Way should realize that autonomous, peer-run creative clusters must remain the eventual goal. Facilitated groups can serve as a sort of bridge to this end.
In my years of teaching and traveling, I have frequently encountered excellent results from peer-group clusters. On occasion, I have encountered situations where The Artist’s Way has been unduly modified. Whenever there is a misplaced emphasis on intellectual "analysis" or therapeutic "processing," there is the risk of undermining creative unfolding. Very often, what could be interpreted as "neurosis" or a deep-seated problem is simply creative resistance.
The Artist’s Way and The Vein of Gold and all my other "teaching" books are experiential books. They are intended to teach people to process and transform life through acts of creativity. Both books and all creative clusters should be practiced through creative action, not through theory. As an artist, I know this. The Artist’s Way and other books are the distillate of thirty years of artistic practice.
It is my belief and my experience as a teacher that all of us are healthy enough to practice creativity. It is not a dangerous endeavor requiring trained facilitators. It is our human birthright and something we can do gently and collectively. Creativity is like breathing—pointers may help, but we do the process ourselves. Creative clusters, where we gather as peers to develop our strength, are best regarded as tribal gatherings, where creative beings raise, celebrate, and actualize the creative power which runs through us all.
1. Use a Twelve-Week Process with a Weekly Gathering of Two to Three Hours. The morning pages and artist dates are required of everyone in the group, including facilitators. The exercises are done in order in the group, with everyone, including the facilitator, answering the questions and then sharing the answers in clusters of four, one chapter per week. Do not share your morning pages with the group or anyone else. Do not reread your morning pages until later in the course, if you are required to do so by your facilitator or your own inner guidance.
2. Avoid Self-Appointed Gurus. If there is any emissary, it is the work itself, as a collective composed of all who take the course, at home or otherwise. Each person is equally a part of the collective, no one more than another. While there may be "teachers," facilitators who are relied on during the twelve-week period to guide others down the path, such facilitators need to be prepared to share their own material and take their own creative risks. This is a dialectic rather than a monologue—an egalitarian group process rather than a hierarchical one.
3. Listen. We each get what we need from the group process by sharing our own material and by listening to others. We do not need to comment on another person’s sharing in order to help that person. We must refrain from trying to "fix" someone else. Each group devises a cooperative creative "song" of artistic recovery. Each group’s song is unique to that group—like that of a pod or family of whales, initiating and echoing to establish their position. When listening, go around the circle without commenting unduly on what is heard. The circle, as a shape, is very important. We are intended to witness, not control, one another. When sharing exercises, clusters of four within the larger groups are important: five tends to become unwieldy in terms of time constraints; three doesn’t allow for enough contrasting experience. Obviously, not all groups can be divided into equal fours. Just try to do so whenever you can.
4. Respect One Another. Be certain that respect and compassion are afforded equally to every member. Each person must be able to speak his own wounds and dreams. No one is to be "fixed" by another member of the group. This is a deep and powerful internal process. There is no one right way to do this. Love is important. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to one another.
5. Expect Change in the Group Makeup. Many people will—some will not—fulfill the twelve-week process. There is often a rebellious or fallow period after the twelve weeks, with people returning to the disciplines later. When they do, they continue to find the process unfolding within them a year, a few years, or many years later. Many groups have a tendency to drive apart at eight to ten weeks (creative U-turns) because of the feelings of loss associated with the group’s ending. Face the truth as a group; it may help you stay together.
6. Be Autonomous. You cannot control you own process, let alone anyone else’s. Know that you will feel rebellious occasionally—that you won’t want to do all of your morning pages and exercises at times in the twelve weeks. Relapse is okay. You cannot do this process perfectly, so relax, be kind to yourself, and hold on to your hat. Even when you feel nothing is happening, you will be changing at great velocity. This change is a deepening into your own intuition, your own creative self. The structure of the course is about safely getting across the bridge into new realms of creative spiritual awareness.
7. Be Self-Loving. If the facilitator feels somehow “wrong” to you, change clusters or start your own. Continually seek your own inner guidance rather than outer guidance. You are seeking to form an artist-to-artist relationship with the Great Creator. Keep gurus at bay. You have your own answers within you.
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