The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron
In some ways, this book was not something I expected. The author assumes that the reader is somehow a creative person whose creative juices are blocked and the book itself is a twelve-step process on how such creatives can get their mojo back. While I have a lot more to discuss about that, I have to admit that I was struck by the way that this book deliberately sought to mimic the approaches of AA and other related organizations that help encourage creative people to let go and let God inspire them. What was not a surprising was that yet another book about creativity has an interesting agenda attached to it, although it must be admitted (and appreciated) that this author is not like many authors who write about the subject who are hostile to God and religion, but her view of God is full of mysticism and a high regard for the supposed sacred feminine, so it is not the sort of religious belief I can endorse or recommend. In writing about creativity, even more than most subjects, people write not based on the truth of the subject, but based on their own personal perspective.
This volume is a bit more than 200 pages and is designed to be read and followed over the course of twelve weeks where someone seeks to recover some aspect of their creativity that they have lost over the course of their life. After a foreword and two introductions (one of them for the 25th anniversary edition of the book, which I happened to read), the author discusses some basic tools to recovering creativity, namely a free writing exercise of three pages or more every morning and an agreement to take a periodic creative date free from others. Then follows the bulk of the book, which is a series of twelve steps where the reader is meant to recover a sense of safety (1), a sense of identity (2), a sense of power (3), a sense of integrity (4), a sense of possibility (5), a sense of abundance (6), a sense of connection (7), a sense of strength (8), a sense of compassion (9), a sense of self-protection (10), a sense of autonomy (11), and a sense of faith (12). After this the author closes the book with a large set of additional material that includes a creativity contract, an epilogue that includes the artist’s way and some language for describing it, some questions and answers, a creative clusters guide, two appendices that look at “sacred circles” and an artist’s prayer as well as trail markers for artists, as well as a reading list and index.
Will this work be useful for you? It depends. Like a great deal of self-help efforts, much depends on the seriousness of the problem to the reader as well as the commitment of the reader to do something about it. This sort of book is one that one can easily imagine being useful for group therapy for creative people who want to express themselves better as writers or musicians or artists or something else of that nature, or people who feel themselves blocked in their artistic desires as a result of their own resentment towards others and bitterness about their past. Even as someone whose worldview is somewhat distinct from that of the author, there is still a lot in this book to appreciate, and that is a shared understanding that we have been created to create and that in creative self-expression based on our curiosity and interests we serve God in addition to building intimacy with others and expressing ourselves. Whether or not one reads this book with the aim of doing it over 12 weeks or as a way of pondering what would be worthwhile in increasing one’s own creativity and contentment, there is a lot to appreciate here even if some of it overdoes the feminist mysticism.