Author Julia Cameron on Her New Book and the Essence of Creativity

Focusing on guidance and inspiration

"When I heard I was getting a phone call from the Clio Awards, I was familiar with it," says Julia Cameron, author of the iconic self-help book for creative people, The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. "I come from an advertising family."

Turns out her father was on the Dial soap account at Foote, Cone & Belding. One of her sisters worked at J. Walter Thompson, and another sister served at Needham.

Cameron, who grew up in a suburb of Chicago, says she didn't go into advertising because she got hooked on writing short stories, but adds: "I think advertising is a profoundly creative field."

We're chatting because she has a new book to promote. It's called Living the Artist's Way: An Intuitive Path to Greater Creativity.

The Artist's Way, published in 1992, contains exercises and techniques that artists of all stripes can use to tap into their creativity. Now, Living the Artist's Way teaches readers how to seek and accept the spiritual and intuitive guidance that can inspire creativity and take inspiration to a new level.

"Guidance is information that comes to us from what seems to be a higher source," Cameron explains.

The new volume helps creatives through six weeks of writing prompts that center on grounding, strength, calm, optimism, stamina and commitment.

It's also a personal book. Cameron, who lives in an adobe home in Sante Fe, writes about her day-to-day existence and how she invites guidance into her own life.

"The original Artist's Way as sort of a toolkit. I think of Living the Artist's Way as being more of a diary. And you get to know everything about my dog." (Her adorable, lizard-obsessed terrier Lily is name-checked throughout the book.)

Here, Cameron talks about how how to thrive when you have to be creative for a living.

MUSE: Before we get to guidance, let's go over the tools for creativity you share in The Artist's Way. One is "morning pages." You say people should write three pages of thoughts by hand when they wake up in the morning. What should they write about? hy is it important to do this free writing in the morning as opposed to after lunch or in the evening?

Julia Cameron: They are pages where you're sort of poking. You're sort of sending a telegram to the universe and saying, this is what I like, this is what I don't like, this is what I want more of, this is what I want less of. You do them first thing in the morning because we have about a 45-minute window before our defenses are up.

You also encourage people to treat themselves to "artist's dates" once a week. Can you share some suggestions for artist's dates and explain why we should go on these solo outings?

I'd like to backtrack for a second: When I am teaching, and I assign "morning pages," people take to them readily because they understand the concept of working on their creativity. We're a very work-oriented society.

When I assign "artist's dates," they fold their arms skeptically and tilt their heads to one side and say, "What does play have to do with working on our creativity?" And I tell them, "Well, play has everything to do with working on our creativity." We have an expression—the play of ideas. And we don't realize that's a prescription. Play, and you will have ideas.

My favorite "artist date" is going to a pet store where they have a big bunny named George, and if I pet George, I get a sense of well-being, and evidently George gets a sense of well-being, too.

In The Artist's Way, you also prescribe two walks a week, 20 minutes long, and you tell us not to bring our headphones or dogs. We are supposed to walk without distractions. What does walking do for creativity?

It wakes up our endorphins, so we get a heightened sense of well-being. And it puts us in touch with our environment, so we begin to have a feeling of connection, a feeling that there's sort of a benevolent something that's overseeing things. And walking is something that's free. All of my tools are free tools.

They are free, and they are simple. You don't complicate things. Is that approach intentional?

It's very intentional. I recently had a review of the current book, which said, "Julia's tools are simple and repetitive," and I think it might've been intended as an insult, but I was delighted. I think tools should be simple and repetitive.

The fourth essential tool for creativity is guidance, which is the focus of the new book. You wrote about it in The Artist's Way, though not as explicitly.

In The Artist's Way, I tell people, "Write for guidance," and my tone is very matter of fact. And then I went 30 years without mentioning guidance again, and I was using it all the time, but I wasn't laying it out as often as I had the other three tools. So I decided, "Julia, you need to stop being afraid of being woo-woo."

A lot of people who read Muse by Clio work in advertising, and it is their job to be creative. They have to deliver, and they have to make deadlines. Any advice for copywriters, art directors and others on how to deal with that pressure?

This is where I think the "morning pages" are so valuable, because they teach us to write freely and without censorship. And we tend to find ourselves starting to trust what I call our first thoughts. And so when we are presented with a deadline, we are able to brainstorm. And I think that deadlines work two ways. There are people who love deadlines and are grateful for them, and there are people who dread deadlines and are afraid of them, but in either case "morning pages" open the door.

In the advertising world, people work on teams. How can creatives keep the people around them inspired so everyone can tap into their creativity?

The tools are contagious. If you are doing "morning pages," you begin to have a sense of well-being and benevolence, and that's contagious.

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