Har­ness­ing the cre­ative impulse Au­thor Ju­lia Cameron

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - Pa­tri­cia West-Barker I For The New Mex­i­can AU­THOR JU­LIA CAMERON

When Ju­lia Cameron’s first book, The Artist’s Way, was pub­lished in 1992, self-help shelves in book­stores were crowded with ti­tles that cap­tured the public imag­i­na­tion for a while, sold well — re­mem­ber Women Who Run with the Wolves, Iron John, and A Re­turn to Love?— then faded away. But The Artist’s Way not only es­caped that fate, it flour­ished. Never out of print, it has sold more than two mil­lion copies over its long life­span, mostly by word of mouth, and be­come what some call a cul­tural land­mark.

That the 12-week pro­gram out­lined in the book has worked for Cameron is in­dis­putable. De­spite se­ri­ous per­sonal chal­lenges (can­didly out­lined in her 2006 mem­oir Floor Sam­ple), she has pro­duced more than 40 ad­di­tional books — fic­tion and non­fic­tion, in­clud­ing 10 in The Artist’s

Way se­ries — as well as plays, mu­sic, film, and tele­vi­sion scripts; she also leads mul­ti­ple work­shops each year to gen­tly coax par­tic­i­pants through the steps to “dis­cov­er­ing and re­cov­er­ing” their cre­ative selves.

It’s Never Too Late to Be­gin Again, writ­ten with Emma Lively, is Cameron’s new­est ad­di­tion to the

Artist’s Way do­main. Re­leased by Tarcher/Peri­gree this past spring — and fol­lowed by this fall’s pub­li­ca­tion of a 25th-an­niver­sary edi­tion of the book that started it all — It’s Never Too Late specif­i­cally tar­gets peo­ple in midlife and be­yond.

Pasatiempo spoke re­cently with Cameron, a full­time Santa Fe res­i­dent, about both books and their place in a chang­ing cre­ative land­scape. Pasatiempo: Never Too Late came out at the same time as the 25th an­niver­sary of The Artist’s Way. Was that by plan? Ju­lia Cameron: More serendip­i­tous. I think that a lot of the au­di­ence for Never Too Late are the peo­ple who, 25 years ago, worked The Artist’s Way and are hun­gry for a re­newal.

I’m sixty-eight, and when I turned sixty-five, I started get­ting pro­pa­ganda in the mail, which said, “Do you want to have your fam­ily pay your fu­neral costs?” And I found my­self think­ing, surely there’s more to life than that. So I wrote the book for me and my peers. I think a great many peo­ple move here in re­tire­ment with the plan of fol­low­ing a dream, and of­ten they be­come stymied and find them­selves un­able to ac­tu­al­ize the dream. Pasa: So you wrote your first book to help your­self, and had the same kind of im­pe­tus for the most re­cent one — Cameron: I think I write out of ex­pe­ri­ence and not out of the­ory. So The Artist’s Way was a book of tools I had learned that worked. And I think that was what ap­pealed to peo­ple … [the steps] were very straight­for­ward, and it was like, do these few sim­ple things and you’ll have a break­through. And I think the same thing is true with It’s Never Too Late to Be­gin Again. These are the tools that I found my­self us­ing in or­der to re­tain and flour­ish, de­spite my mail. Pasa: You’ve added two more ba­sic steps to Never Too Late.

Cameron: This is be­cause I’m older and wiser. When I wrote The Artist’s Way, there were two ba­sic tools — morn­ing pages [three pages, writ­ten off the top of your head, in long­hand, first thing ev­ery morn­ing] and artist dates [a weekly play date with your­self that in­spires and feeds your cre­ative self]. Then, when you get into week 12, at the very last minute, I say “P.S.: Ex­er­cise.” And now I’ve been teach­ing for 25 years and have re­al­ized that the ex­er­cise tool is one that should be in­te­grated from the very be­gin­ning. Pasa: Why is that?

Cameron: Be­cause what hap­pens with morn­ing pages is that you are send­ing — and what hap­pens with artist dates is that you’re re­ceiv­ing. And what hap­pens with walk­ing is that you’re in­te­grat­ing both tools. … I rec­om­mend walk­ing out­doors. What you’re af­ter is ba­si­cally a spir­i­tual awak­en­ing. And I think that I can’t re­ally talk about my tools with­out say­ing

The Artist’s Way is de­scribed as a spir­i­tual path to higher cre­ativ­ity. And what hap­pens when you write morn­ing pages and take artist dates is that you come in touch with a benev­o­lent some­thing. And that some­thing speaks to you most clearly when you’re walk­ing. Pasa: Mem­oir was the other ad­di­tion to the new book.

Cameron: When I wrote The Artist’s Way, I wrote about stay­ing in the now by writ­ing morn­ing pages. But when peo­ple are older, they some­times feel that they are spent. … So the mem­oir is a tool of dis­cov­ery that gives you clues and cues of the di­rec­tions you’d like to move in next. A lot of times peo­ple will write the mem­oir, and they’ll dis­cover that when they were young, they had a pas­sion for pho­tog­ra­phy, and then they gave it up and went on with their ca­reers. And then they get to writ­ing a mem­oir and they think, “Maybe I still would be in­ter­ested in pho­tog­ra­phy. I could try that.”

Pasa: So the mem­oir’s job is not so much to sum up as to redis­cover —

Cameron: I would say that the mem­oir maybe gives you an over­view. And the morn­ing pages give you a daily path. And when you work with both tools to­gether, you be­gin to have good break­throughs.

Pasa: The world has changed a lot in the past 25 years. Do you think The Artist’s Way still holds value for younger read­ers?

Cameron: I think that we have a very per­va­sive mythol­ogy around cre­ativ­ity — and it’s very neg­a­tive. And I think it’s still in­tact 25 years later. So there’s still a need for books that say cre­ativ­ity is nat­u­ral; cre­ativ­ity is spir­i­tual; cre­ativ­ity is some­thing that we all pos­sess just as we pos­sess blood … al­though I think that the ad­vent of com­put­ers and so­cial me­dia has made it eas­ier to ac­tu­al­ize some of our cre­ativ­ity. Twenty-five years ago there was a stigma about self-pub­lish­ing and now there isn’t. I think that this is a won­der­ful change. And I feel like email has made us free to write again.

Pasa: Yet you still rec­om­mend writ­ing morn­ing pages by hand?

Cameron: Yes. If you write on the com­puter, you get speed and dis­tance. If you write by hand, you’re slowed down.

Pasa: So speed is not nec­es­sar­ily a pos­i­tive thing?

Cameron: That’s right. What we are af­ter is mak­ing a hand­crafted life. And writ­ing by hand helps. I had a rob­bery a few months ago and they stole my com­puter and my back-up sys­tem. For­tu­nately, I write [all my books] by hand … and they didn’t think to steal my note­books.

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