The Artist’s Way with Julia Cameron

Julia Cameron is an artist and writer, with over 20 years of experience as a film director and producer. Her book The Artist's Way (Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1992) is a guide to discovering the “spiritual path to a higher creativity.” A former writer-in-residence and teacher at Northwestern University, Julia Cameron has taught and refined her creativity techniques in many workshops over the post ten years.

Sounds True: Do you believe that everybody is blessed with the gift of creativity? Can anybody be an “artist”?

Julia Cameron: It's impossible to be human and not be creative. I believe that a lot of collective sorrow comes from our culture's belief that to be creative is to be different—that there are only a chosen few who are truly creative people. The rest of us are just imposters and pretenders.

This thinking comes from our general confusion about creativity. We confuse the product of creativity with the process. We confuse “Did your book get published?” with whether or not it was worth writing. We confuse merchandising with whether or not it was worth painting. We talk about art as product. We don't talk about creativity.

Sounds True: What are the core principles of “the artist's way”?

Julia Cameron: The essential principle is that creativity is part of the natural order of life. Life is energy, you see—pure creative energy. And this indwelling creative energy or force infuses all of life, including ourselves.

When we open ourselves to our creativity, and begin to follow the artist's way, we are opening ourselves to the Creator. Creativity is God's gift to us, and the only way we can repay this gift, really, is to use it.

So often people fear that creativity is an act of the ego, but another principle of the artist's way is that it is willful and egotistical to refuse your creative gifts. When we open ourselves up to our creativity, we are opening a creative channel for an enormous amount of good in the world

Our creative dreams and longings do come from a divine source, not from the human ego. As we move toward our dreams, we are actually moving toward our own spiritual center. I don't really differentiate between the experience of creativity and the experience of spirituality, or for that matter, the experience of sexuality—what we are really talking about here is creative energy. As we open to the creative spirit's way, a great flowering follows.

Sounds True: Don't you think it is arrogant for someone who has never been published to call himself or herself a “writer”? Or for someone who has never sold a painting to announce that he or she is a “painter”?

Julia Cameron: No. I don't think it is arrogant. It's like the story of “Rumplestilskin”: if you are waiting for someone to come along and say “Rumplestilskin, you're an artist,” you might wait a very long time. I'm thinking of the writer William Kennedy; his book Iron Legs was submitted to 49 publishers and rejected by them all. On the fiftieth try, it was accepted. Now, was Kennedy not truly a “writer” during the years he was submitting his manuscript for publication? He did not yet have our culture's validation. But he was an artist already.

What makes you an artist is connected to how you practice and exercise your creativity—not the label society pins on you.

Sounds True: Aren't certain people more creatively gifted than others?

Julia Cameron: That might be true. But it is more important to look at the enormous number of people who have been taught to ignore their creativity. The seed of creativity sometimes falls on fertile ground: a supportive family, a mentor, friends to provide support and guidance.

It also happens that the seed is trapped in someone from a family that is terrified of creativity. And that person may even be punished for expressing creativity. It has nothing to do with how gifted the person is.

One of our culture's great myths is that there exists a “tribe of real artists.” These are supposed to be people who are born knowing that they are artists; who have no doubt at all, ever, that they were meant to be artists. It is my experience that such a mythological tribe of real artists does not, in fact, exist. What I am trying to do is encourage people to act as if they have real talent. We do a wonderful job of acting as if we don't!

The real question you need to ask yourself is: “What if I am genuinely gifted? What if the tragedy of my life is that I never had the courage to act on my dreams and use my gifts?”

Sounds True: You have been using the creativity techniques in The Artist's Way for more than 25 years. Where did your faith come from that your process would work for people?

Julia Cameron: My faith is that God is an artist. So are we. And we can cooperate with each other. Creativity is what we are meant to be doing. And when we are living creatively, doors DO open. We are not given dreams in order to be thwarted and frustrated. We are given dreams as guides. As we are willing to follow the guidance of our dreams, we are moved into the territory of our heart. I have watched it work over and over, for myself and thousands of others who are following The Artist's Way.

Julia Cameron

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Julia Cameron is the author of the national bestselling book, The Artist's Way. An award winning writer and director, she has created feature films, movies of the week and episodic television, six ful...

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