Sunday, April 8, 2007

The Artist's Way

By Julia Cameron
ISBN 1585421472

Reviewed by Kayo Parsons-Korn

Roger asks that I write a book review of the Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron, since some of you seemed interested in the book.

Let me first say, you needn't be an artist or an aspiring artist to appreciate this book. Subtitled "A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self", this book could be used by anyone wishing to expand creativity in their everyday lives, in business, at home, and with family and friends.

Let me also mention that the author uses the word "God" throughout the book. I know many of you are in SOS because you don't care for the religious approach of AA. Please don't let this stop you from considering this book. Ms. Cameron says herself that no "God" concept is needed to succeed at this course. She suggests you substitute another thought such as goddess, mind, universe, source, etc. Although you may often wish that she had!

The book is actually a 12 week course. (Oh no, another 12 step program!)

Each chapter covers issues which sabotage our creativity, many of them self-imposed. Hang-ups about money, time, virtue, criticisms, destructive friends or lovers, etc. Following each chapter is a list of exercises. You needn't do them all that week. The author suggests you do about half, choosing first the ones that appeal to you and that you most resist, saving the more neutral ones for later. I guess the idea being that the ones that appeal to you will help make the course fun, hence you'll continue doing it, and the ones you resist will provide the break throughs for you. It seems we often resist that which we need most. But I don't have to tell you folks that!

In addition to the weekly exercises, there are two ongoing tasks you will do throughout the course, and hopefully beyond. A daily task, "the morning pages", involves writing three pages in long hand, first thing every morning. These pages should just be stream-of-consciousness writings. Nobody else reads them, not even you for the first 8 weeks. There should be no attempt to edit them. It is literally a brain dump: getting all the mundane and negative thoughts out on paper everyday flushes them from our mind opening us to greater creative thoughts.

The other ongoing task is a weekly exercise, the "artist's date". This can be as short as a lunch hour or all day. Basically this is an excursion you take alone. Something fun, a play date that is pre-planned that you defend against all other intrusions. It could be a trip to a junk store, a movie, walking on the beach, or a visit to an art gallery.

These two tools work in combination. A quote from the book:

"Think of this combination of tools in terms of a radio receiver and transmitter. It is a two-step, two-directional process: out and in. Doing your morning pages, you are sending - notifying yourself and the universe of your dreams, dissatisfactions, hopes. Doing your artist's date, you are receiving - opening yourself to insight, inspiration, guidance."

Interspersed throughout the book are Ms. Cameron's and her associates experiences in the movie industry. Ms. Cameron is a screen writer, playwright and director.. Her writing is easy to read as well as inspiring. I was amazed at how many of the "traps" she described that I’d fallen into time and time again.

Roger and I will begin the course next week, although Roger has already been doing the morning pages for a couple of weeks now. If anybody is interested, perhaps we could check in again at the end of the course and let you know how it has worked for us.

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