The other night I was talking with a friend in Portland who was considering a career change. He had been in Information Technology for 20 years, but felt the need to pursue his creative path – he just didn’t know where that might lead, or how to uncover his passion. I mentioned my experience with The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron – as I have many times in conversations with people interested in creativity. I shared how working through that book – morning pages, artist’s dates, and the exercises throughout, had greatly expanded my concept of myself as a writer, and shed light on the limitations in thinking that had held me back.
When I bought a copy of The Artist’s Way in 1994, I took it home and put it on the bookshelf, where it sat for two years. I would sheepishly glance at it when I passed by. Why? Because I knew on some level that if I took a serious pass at that book, I would be upping the ante on the pursuit of my creativity, and would likely discover things that I didn’t want to see.
In 1985 I had written a book and had publishers interested in it – I walked away from publication. I had no good explanation.
In 1994, I had written a second book, a novel, and in preparing for publication, I had hired a marketing consultant to help me draft a query letter to send to literary agents. During the conversation, it came up that I had walked away from the first book. His puzzled look was very understandable as he asked “How are you going to make sure that doesn’t happen again?” My fumbling response seemed lame to me, and I’m sure to him as well. That’s when I bought The Artist’s Way, but didn’t read it.
By 1996, agents and publishers had responded positively to the second book, and it looked like I was going to once again walk away from publication.
At that point, I didn’t have much to lose and a lot to gain from giving The Artist’s Way a try. The first time, I went through the book on my own, very diligently writing my morning pages each day, going on artist’s dates each weekend, and tackling the next set of very probing and incisive exercises about my creativity, my passion, and my roadblocks.
The second time I went through the book with two other people. The accountability of showing up to our weekly meetings and being able to say “yes, I did my exercises” and the transparency of divulging to the group what resistance I might have dredged up that week – which was sometimes very deep – made the whole experience much more rich. I was taking an inventory of myself as a creative person and a writer, and finding ways to diminish my resistance and allow myself to succeed.
In 2008, when I finally took a memoir to publication, I knew that my experience with The Artist’s Way was a pivotal element in that process. Now I will go back and publish those first two books!