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How 'The Artist's Way' by Julia Cameron Changed My Perspective on Creativity"

Updated: Mar 2

Is there such a thing as a spiritual path to higher creativity?

'The Artist's Way' written by Julia Cameron, simply put, is one of the books that changed my life. It was given to me by my aunt in New York during a particularly challenging time in my life. I had just lost my father at 21 and had recently graduated from a prestigious London Art School. I felt broken from grief, disconnected with my art practice and intimidated about what my art 'should be'. Reading this book over the following years helped me piece together many of these fragments, it helped me find a way back to myself and create some inner frameworks in which to start anew. If anyone has ever felt disconnected to their creative life or to themselves, this is the first book I always think about. After all, your creative voice is the expression of your relationship to self, the journey to both, is simultaneous.

‘Art is the artists brain pursuit, it is a language of felt experience’ - Julia Cameron

Julia reflects on her creative path as a writer and her struggles to express creativity. She talks about how if creativity was spiritual, it would resemble a crucifixion. Falling on hard times forces one to reevaluate choices and habits. Struggling with an alcohol dependency Julia decided to turn in another direction. The idea that your struggles can no longer be your excuse, suggests that you are in fact responsible for your freedom and in turn your creativity. She explains that by learning to ‘get out the way’ she could let the creative forces work through her. This is something that over the years tested me, often feeling very much in my own way. Over the years I have had to consciously practise stepping aside, trusting the process and remembering creativity is in fact a conversation with your heart.

“When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the creator within us and within our lives”. - Julia Cameron

Julia talks about engaging in a creative recovery, a withdrawal process from life as we know it. That we ourselves are the substance we withdraw to, not from. We pull overextended and misplaced creative energy back into our own core. We mourn the ‘nice’ self we have been making do with. She says that when you learn to recognise nurture and protect your inner artist you will be able to move beyond pain and creative constriction. You will learn to recognise and resolve fear, remove emotional scar tissue and strengthen confidence. Through her book, she sets exercises that invite you to question and reflect on where some of these inner thoughts and feelings stem from in order to release them. I found these to be deeply moving and insightful. It also created a cushion of empathy towards myself which gave me strength against my 'Inner Critic'.

Her two fundamental daily practices are 'Morning Pages' and 'The Artists Date' both of which I have incorporated into my creative practice for over 8 years since reading her book. Here is the idea behind both:

"1. 'Morning pages' - The purpose is for your brain to move past critical thoughts from the left side of the logical brain. Its aim is to teach you that mood does not matter. The logical left side of the brain are our first, second, third and fourth layers of thought. For the left side of the brain to step aside is to allow our artistic right side, which enables play to move forward. To move from one to the other is to move from the shallow into the deep."

"2. 'The Artists Date' - The purpose is to actively receive and open yourself to experiences of insight, inspiration and guidance. To learn and listen to what your artistic child has to say."

This brings me to one of her quotes that I love the most. “ART IS BORN IN ATTENTION”. - Julia Cameron

I love this because it highlights the quality of our thoughts, observations that is a direct translation into our creative work.

Over the course of her book she talks about a creative sense of death and rebirth. Her chapters cover a sense of recovery, to include fundamental roles in our lives such as safety, identity, power, integrity, possibility, abundance, connection, strength, compassion, self protection and autonomy. Her questions and exercises are powerful tools to open your ideas behind how some of these areas may hold you back and the key in moving forwards.

Julia Cameron makes her position clear about the creative path, which caught me attention at 21. She describes it as a restless appetite in need for exploration that if ignored leads us with a deep inner discontent. This is the creative cycle and process which keeps us longing and hungry for more. For some of us this sensation is too much to bear, too emotionally bound and alive deep in our subconscious to ignore. I recognise that in so many creative people I know, I see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices. I often think of the 'Artist's Way' as a spiritual path towards our sensitivity and a connection to that hunger that comes from the soul. The cycle of birth, death and rebirth lives inside and outside of us.

 "Creativity is a spiritual practice, ever ongoing and in direct relationship to ones deep inner life and just as we get there, 'there' disappears. Dissatisfied with our accomplishments we are one again faced with our creative selves and we hunger. What is next?" - Julia Cameron

This I believe is what daily creative practice looks like, the deep inner work that takes place in order for us to translate our inner world. An alchemy of the human experience of our heart and soul crafted into outward expression. This is where it all begins.

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About Me

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I am an Artist and Expressive Arts Facilitator ​working from my home studio on the Welsh Borders in Hay on Wye. Working from home I run my own online business, whilst training in London for my MA in Integrative Arts Psychotherapy. I also run creative and therapeutic workshops locally and very soon, online! 


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