Authors: Julia Cameron
A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity
WISH TO ACKNOWLEDGE
my creative colleague, Edmund Towle, who faithfully road-tested these principles, and whose feedback I found invaluable. I wish to thank Julianna McCarthy, Gerald Ayres, John Nichols, and Sir Anthony Hopkins for their personal creative courage and their generosity in the encouragement of others' creativity. I salute Timothy Wheater for creating a body of sound that encourages and creates a body of light. His healing music has proved invaluable to this work. I thank my agent, Susan Schulman, for her astringent wit and perspicacity. Additionally, the Reverends Sara and Mike Matoin of Unity, Chicago; Michele Lowrance, Laura Leddy Waldron, Ginny Weissman, Michelle Citron, Kathy Churay, and Marilyn Lieberman; Howard Mandel and Gayle Seminara of Transitions Bookstore, Chicago. Most especially I wish to acknowledge my students and the inspired editorial guidance of Jan Johnson, Rick Benzel, and Jeremy Tarcher, publisher and rainmaker. It's my belief that the Great Creator led us all.
HEN PEOPLE ASK ME
what I do, I usually answer, “I'm a writer-director and I teach these creativity workshops.”
The last one interests them.
“How can you teach creativity?” they want to know. Defiance fights with curiosity on their faces.
“I can't,” I tell them. “I teach people to
themselves be creative.”
“Oh. You mean we're all creative?” Now disbelief and hope battle it out.
“So what do you do?”
This book is what I do. For a decade now, I have taught a spiritual workshop aimed at freeing people's creativity. I have taught artists and nonartists, painters and filmmakers and homemakers and lawyersâanyone interested in living more creatively through practicing an art; even more broadly, anyone interested in practicing the art of creative living. While using, teaching, and sharing tools I have found, devised, divined, and been handed, I have seen blocks dissolved and lives transformed by the simple process of engaging the Great Creator in discovering and recovering our creative powers.
“The Great Creator? That sounds like some Native American god. That sounds too Christian, too New Age, too â¦” Stupid? Simple-minded? Threatening? â¦ I know. Think of it as an exercise in open-mindedness. Just think, “Okay, Great Creator,
and keep reading. Allow yourself to experiment with the idea there might be a Great Creator and you might get some kind of use from it in freeing your own creativity.
is, in essence, a spiritual path, initiated and practiced through creativity, this book uses the word
This may be volatile for some of youâconjuring old, unworkable, unpleasant, or simply unbelievable ideas about God as you were raised to understand “him.” Please be open-minded.
Remind yourself that to succeed in this course, no god concept is necessary. In fact, many of our commonly held god concepts get in the way. Do not allow semantics to become one more block for you.
When the word
is used in these pages, you may substitute the thought
What we are talking about is a creative energy.
is useful shorthand for many of us, but so is
â¦. The point is not what you name it. The point is that you try using it. For many of us, thinking of it as a form of spiritual electricity has been a very useful jumping-off place.
By the simple, scientific approach of experimentation and observation, a workable connection with the flow of good orderly direction can easily be established. It is not the intent of these pages to engage in explaining, debating, or defining that flow. You do not need to understand electricity to use it.
Do not call it God unless that is comfortable for you. There seems to be no need to name it unless that name is a useful shorthand for what you experience. Do not pretend to believe when you do not. If you remain forever an atheist, agnosticâso be it. You will still be able to experience an altered life through working with these principles.
I have worked artist-to-artist with potters, photographers, poets, screenwriters, dancers, novelists, actors, directorsâand with those who knew only what they dreamed to be or who only dreamed of being somehow more creative. I have seen blocked painters paint, broken poets speak in tongues, halt and lame and maimed writers racing through final drafts. I have come to not only believe but know:
No matter what your age or your life path, whether making art is your career or your hobby or your dream, it is not too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity. One fifty-year-old student who “always wanted to write” used these tools and emerged as a prize-winning playwright. A judge used these tools to fulfill his lifelong dreams of sculpting. Not all students become full-time artists as a result of the course. In fact, many full-time artists report that they have become more creatively rounded into full-time people.
Through my own experienceâand that of countless others that I have sharedâI have come to believe that creativity is our true nature, that blocks are an unnatural thwarting of a process at once as normal and as miraculous as the blossoming of a flower at the end of a slender green stem. I have found this process of making spiritual contact to be both simple and straightforward.
If you are creatively blockedâand I believe all of us are to some extentâit is possible, even probable, that you can learn to create more freely through your willing use of the tools this book provides. Just as doing Hatha Yoga stretches alters consciousness when all you are doing is stretching, doing the exercises in this book alters consciousness when “all” you are doing is writing and playing. Do these things and a breakthrough will followâwhether you believe in it or not. Whether you call
a spiritual awakening or not.
In short, the theory doesn't matter as much as the practice itself does. What you are doing is creating pathways in your consciousness through which the creative forces can operate. Once you agree to clearing these pathways, your creativity emerges. In a sense, your creativity is like your blood. Just as blood is a fact of your physical body and nothing you invented, creativity is a fact of your spiritual body and nothing that you must invent.
I began teaching the creativity workshops in New York. I taught them because I was
to teach them. One minute I was walking in the West Village on a cobblestone street with beautiful afternoon light. The next minute I suddenly knew that I should begin teaching people, groups of people, how to unblock. Maybe it was a wish exhaled on somebody else's walk. Certainly Greenwich Village must contain a greater density of artistsâblocked and otherwiseâthan nearly anyplace else in America.
“I need to unblock,” someone may have breathed out.
“I know how to do it,” I may have responded, picking up the cue. My life has always included strong internal directives.
I call them.
In any case, I suddenly knew that I did know how to unblock people and that I was meant to do so, starting then and there with the lessons I myself had learned.
Where did the lessons come from?
In 1978, in January, I stopped drinking. I had never thought drinking made me a writer, but now I suddenly thought not drinking might make me stop. In my mind, drinking and writing went together like, well, scotch and soda. For me, the trick was always getting past the fear and onto the page. I was playing beat the clockâtrying to write before the booze closed in like fog and my window of creativity was blocked again.
By the time I was thirty and abruptly sober, I had an office on the Paramount lot and had made a whole career out of that kind of creativity. Creative in spasms. Creative as an act of will and ego. Creative on behalf of others. Creative, yes, but in spurts, like blood from a severed carotid artery. A decade of writing and all I knew was how to make these headlong dashes and hurl myself, against all odds, at the wall of whatever I was writing. If creativity was spiritual in any sense, it was only in its resemblance to a crucifixion. I fell upon the thorns of prose. I bled.
If I could have continued writing the old, painful way, I would certainly still be doing it. The week I got sober, I had two national magazine pieces out, a newly minted feature script, and an alcohol problem I could not handle any longer.
I told myself that if sobriety meant no creativity I did not want to be sober. Yet I recognized that drinking would kill me
the creativity. I needed to learn to write soberâor else give up writing entirely. Necessity, not virtue, was the beginning of my spirituality. I was forced to find a new creative path. And that is where my lessons began.
I learned to turn my creativity over to the only god I could believe in, the god of creativity, the life force Dylan Thomas called “the force that through the green fuse drives the flower.” I learned to get out of the way and let that creative force work through me. I learned to just show up at the page and write down what I heard. Writing became more like eavesdropping and less like inventing a nuclear bomb. It wasn't so tricky, and it didn't blow up on me anymore. I didn't have to be in the mood.
I didn't have to take my emotional temperature to see if inspiration was pending. I simply wrote. No negotiations. Good, bad? None of my business.
wasn't doing it. By resigning as the self-conscious author, I wrote freely.
In retrospect, I am astounded I could let go of the drama of being a suffering artist. Nothing dies harder than a bad idea. And few ideas are worse than the ones we have about art. We can charge so many things off to our suffering-artist identity: drunkenness, promiscuity, fiscal problems, a certain ruthlessness or self-destructiveness in matters of the heart. We all know how broke-crazy-promiscuous-unreliable artists are. And if they don't have to be, then what's my excuse?
The idea that I could be sane, sober, and creative terrified me, implying, as it did, the possibility of personal accountability. “You mean if I have these gifts, I'm supposed to use them?” Yes.
Providentially, I was sent another blocked writer to work withâand onâat this time. I began to teach him what I was learning. (Get out of the way. Let
work through you. Accumulate pages, not judgments.) He, too, began to unblock. Now there were two of us. Soon I had another “victim,” this one a painter. The tools worked for visual artists, too.
This was very exciting to me. In my grander moments, I imagined I was turning into a creative cartographer, mapping a way out of confusion for myself and for whoever wanted to follow. I
planned to become a teacher. I was only angry I'd never had a teacher myself. Why did I have to learn what I learned the way I learned it: all by trial and error, all by walking into walls? We artists should be more teachable, I thought. Shortcuts and hazards of the trail could be flagged.
These were the thoughts that eddied with me as I took my afternoon walksâenjoying the light off the Hudson, plotting what I would write next. Enter the marching orders: I was to teach.
Within a week, I was offered a teaching position and space at the New York Feminist Art Instituteâwhich I had never heard of. My first classâblocked painters, novelists, poets, and filmmakersâassembled itself. I began teaching them the lessons that are now in this book. Since that class there have been many others, and many more lessons as well.
began as informal class notes mandated by my partner, Mark Bryan. As word of mouth spread, I began mailing out packets of materials. A peripatetic Jungian, John Giannini, spread word of the techniques wherever he lecturedâseemingly everywhere. Requests for materials always followed. Next, the creation spirituality network got word of the work, and people wrote in from Dubuque, British Columbia, Indiana. Students materialized all over the globe. “I am in Switzerland with the State Department. Please send me â¦” So I did.
The packets expanded and the number of students expanded. Finally, as the result of some
pointed urging from Markâ“Write it
down. You can help a lot of people. It should be a
”âI began formally to assemble my thoughts. I wrote and Mark, who was by this time my co-teacher and taskmaster, told me what I had left out. I wrote more and Mark told me what I had
left out. He reminded me that I had seen plenty of miracles to support my theories and urged me to include those, too. I put on the page what I had been putting into practice for a decade.
The resulting pages emerged as a blueprint for do-it-yourself recovery. Like mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or the Heimlich maneuver, the tools in this book are intended as life-savers. Please use them and pass them on.