455 of 462 people found the following review helpful
on 17 March 2002
On the flyleaf to this book, Julia Cameron is described as "an active artist". This is very apt because in The Artist's Way we have a very active book with a powerful practical application. Do not expect to read this book and be unaffected by it. I have been personally been amazed by the effect it has already had on my life within under a month of having purchased it. In fact, the impact was almost immediate.
I originally approached this book in a spirit of curiosity, merely to find out what it was about. The structure of the book is a twelve-week course on getting in touch with and unblocking your creativity based upon many years' successful delivery of the course by the author. Significantly, the term "recovering" your creative self is used so the process is likened to that of someone recovering from say alcohol or drug addiction but in this instance you are restoring the connection with a positive energy rather than abstaining from a harmful practice. If any harmful practice is indeed being renounced, it is the denial or suppression of your creativity. Rather than sign up, as it were, for the course right away, I skimmed through the whole book just to discover its main points. However, the two basic tools for creative recovery I adopted straight away. These are the morning ages and the artist date. The first is a commitment to write three pages, long hand, about anything that comes to mind when you awaken. The purpose of this exercise is to stifle your inner critic and clear out any blockages you might have that are holding you back. The second is to keep a date, on your own, every week for a couple of hours with your inner artist, your "artist child" as Julia Cameron refers to it. The purpose of the artist date is to be receptive so as to "fill the well" of your creativity. Both actions together can be likened to breathing, a rhythm of in (artist date) and out (morning pages).
My initial aim in putting these tools into practice was not specifically to realise my potential as an artist. I wanted to see if they would have a general effect on the way I approached my job and the way I lived my life. What I hadn't anticipated was that I would actually start writing creatively again after a block which has lasted 15 years. I am now engaged in writing a novel, which I manage to work on every day despite a busy and demanding job and my head is buzzing with other writing projects too. It is for this reason that I can so enthusiastically endorse this book.
Do not think, however, that you necessarily have to have the desire to write, as in my case, to find this book of value. The Artist's Way is designed to stimulate every type of artistic endeavour. It can also be applied to bring creativity to bear upon all aspects of your life, from major considerations like career and relationship issues to humble activities like cooking or mending clothes. It doesn't matter, too, how seemingly non-creative and left-brained the profession you are engaged in. Cameron cites the example of stockbrokers maintaining Morning Pages and becoming better stockbrokers as a result. The ultimate benefit of the book, though, if you are willing to put its principles into practice, is to feel that one is leading a more positive, purposeful life.
121 of 125 people found the following review helpful
on 3 March 2001
I am not the type to buy any kind of self-help book - I gave it a try with this one and it has quite literally changed my life. It's for someone who has the will to try to look within themselves for their creativity, and it helps you see how to find *your* goals and no one else's. It doesn't tell you what to do, but helps you discover that for yourself by looking at your habits, relationship, beliefs and environment. Not for the meek, it takes some strong soul searching and real effort at things that may seem pointless. I'm now working my way through the book a second time and it's just as relevent a year on.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 1 July 2012
Subtitled A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self and A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, this is not merely a book, but an instruction manual about how to become the artist you truly are.
Okay, so I may already have alienated the pragmatists and those for whom the idea of artistic creativity is anathema. But stay with me. You, too, will benefit.
The book is the culmination of a number of years of work Julia has undertaken first to release her own creativity and then that of friends, and, ultimately, paying students. She is, of course, a well-known film director, amongst other talents. She lives in a world populated by people who use their creative talent to earn their living and to produce many of those things we take for granted in our daily lives. Creativity is not the sole preserve of the isolated artist living in a dream, after all. It is an element in the everyday experience of most of us, if we're willing to discover it. So, there's something here for everyone. And I do mean everyone, regardless of the type of life and the nature of the work undertaken.
The book guides the reader through a series of exercises and explorations of self over a period that is suggested to be 12 weeks. I took a little longer, as I had 2 weeks of holiday already planned and those weeks interrupted the flow. The exercises, or tasks as she calls them, are essential to the course.
Before you make a decision to experience this book - it is more an experience than a reading exercise - I should warn you that you'll need to approach it with commitment. A partial, casual approach will not work. You must be willing to immerse yourself in all that it entails, if you're to gain from it the lasting and increasing benefits it promises.
As you proceed, you'll find all sorts of excuses not to do certain things, all manner of reasons why you, in particular, shouldn't bother with some aspects. You're too experienced, you're too creative already, you're simply too busy, you're above such considerations, you don't have that sort of problem, etc, etc. But allowing yourself to fail, permitting yourself to face those fears you have buried, will, if my experience is any guide, free you from self-destructive influences you're unaware you have acquired.
I learned a good deal about myself during the course of the weeks. Not all of it was good. But most of what I learned was positive in its influence on my development. There were painful recollections, shameful admissions, abortive attempts at justification and some unexpected unpleasant revelations. But these are all part of the healing process that permits the inner artist to develop and flourish in the materialistic age we live in. To compensate for the unpleasant, there were many unexpected plusses along the way. I discovered really good things about myself, came to understand why I have held certain beliefs, why I have been unable to take full advantage of my gifts and talents, why I have rejected certain helping hands, why I have wasted so much time and effort; even, perhaps, why I became ill for so many years.
Sound a little over the top?
That's what I thought when I started. But I grow daily more certain about what I've learned during these few, important, weeks of my life. I've discovered that I have true gifts, real talents, a fantastic imagination, a unique way of seeing and being. Sometimes the journey has been frightening, sometimes it's been tedious, but often it's been exhilarating, exciting, vital, and full of fun.
I never considered myself a `blocked' artist. I seemed to be moving along with my creative life quite nicely, thank you. But the honesty this course forces upon its students woke me to the real reality (yes, I know, a tautology, but a deliberate one). We spend so much of our lives under the cloud of self-deception that escape is not only considered difficult, for many it is never considered at all, since these individuals have no consciousness of their self-imposed imprisonment.
I think it is clear that I would recommend this book to everybody.
There is a `but'; there is always a `but'.
One aspect of the narrative and underlying philosophy of the book threatened, from the start, to undermine the effectiveness of the course for me. I am a committed and self-defined, one might almost say passionate, agnostic. I'll explain what I mean by that, since it's important to your understanding of my position and argument. I believe that if there is a God, such a force, being, presence - call it what you will - is so far above our understanding as to be incomprehensible. I believe any attempt to define a God must, by definition, be an insult to such a concept and result in a counterfeit rather than the real thing. Since I understand the concept to be ineffable, I am left with the only logical alternative; i.e. I remain open to the possibility of a God but can make no description of such a power and, by logical extension, cannot accept any of the orthodox deities currently worshipped by the many religions that exist. These are, patently, constructs of man in a quest to answer the unanswerable questions and, no doubt, serve a useful, if often divisive, purpose in providing a sort of comfort for those who prefer not to think about such issues for themselves.
So, when Julia Cameron talks about accepting that there is an external creative being, that she calls God (using the `Good Orderly Direction' tag to reduce the objections of the sceptics) I find myself resistant. Initially, this very insertion of the idea of faith into the course formed a barrier for me. But I persevered, putting that aspect on the back burner until I could examine it and find a replacement philosophy. And I'm glad I did that. Persevered, that is. Had I allowed my objection to stop me completing the course, I would have missed out on a very positive experience and failed to arrive at the new place I now find myself, creatively speaking.
As to what alternative philosophy I discovered along the way to replace the God aspect: this isn't the place to detail it. Suffice to say that I found such a concept and am happy to employ that in place of the God facet.
So, again, would I recommend this book? Only to everybody on the planet. Go out and buy, borrow, or beg the volume. Make a commitment to do the tasks and exercises. Make a commitment to complete the course, however long it takes. If you follow it with the required open mind and the necessary effort you will come out on the other side a more creative, balanced and happier person.
85 of 89 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 2001
I found this book while recovering from depression and addiction. Friends had been talking about it and I decided to try it for myself. Following the 12 week programme gave me back my love of cross stitch and my creativity. Suddenly I began stitching and designing again when I hadn't done anything for a year. I feel it has given me back that part of my life again plus more as I am now interested in writing creatively. I don't know where it will all lead to but wherever it is it will be better than the place I have been.
189 of 199 people found the following review helpful
on 4 February 2004
The Artist's Way is truly a fantastic book. I started working with it over two years a go and although i tend to dip in and out of it, i do my morning pages every day and for this fact alone, i would like to highly recommend the book. It has helped me focus on my creativity and is encouraging, challenging, but also helps you to relax.
However, my main purpose for writing this review, is to warn people that this tenth anniversary edition is no different from the original Artist's Way except for the introduction. I bought this edition thinking that it may have many more insights and new excersises, but it doesn't - so just be warned! The new introduction basically gives and explanation of what Julia Cameron has been up to since she wrote the Artist's Way, which is interesting, but ultimately all that is different about this edition.
I would not say a word against the Artist's Way as it has totally changed my life and i would encourage anyone who is exploring their creativity to buy it!! Just don't expect anything new in the PA Tenth Anniversary Ed . .that's all - i'll be returning mine! But as a true testament to Julia Cameron, i will be returning mine to swap for her Right to Write!!! Sally Gross
72 of 76 people found the following review helpful
on 21 January 2003
I was rather sceptical when I first bought this book four years ago, it sounded a bit too arty for my liking! however, the book is actually very powerful.The tools of recovery, which are discussed in the book, i.e. morning pages and the artist's date soon became a way of life for me, four years on they are still an integral part of my life.It was by using these tools that I discovered who I was, and just as importantly, who I was not!
I'm not prone to recommending books, but I would encourage people to read this book, buy it if you can't borrow a copy.The journey is yours to discover! Happy travelling.
65 of 69 people found the following review helpful
I am not an artist, and when I read this book I was not hoping to recover my creative self. I was, however, suffering from severe depression and this book was recommended to me. There are many books on depression - I think I must have most of them! - but this is the only one that really helped me on the road to recovery.
It's an easy read, which sets out a simple program that anyone can follow.
Perhaps what it is really about is helping people who feel trapped in a rut make their great escape, by setting out a number of simple, practical steps which are easy to follow. The thinking behind all of the these tasks is explained, but many give additional benefits to the particular person who is reading it.
It contains no mumbo jumbo or pop psychology, just a series of practical things anyone can do in order to move forward. Some may seem odd, but all are easily done.
Above all, this books contains nothing that could harm or mover you backwards.
My personal recommendation is that it cured my depression, and actually made me much more creative.
92 of 98 people found the following review helpful
on 13 October 2006
This is an amazing book, packed full of simple exercises that slowly, gradually transform your life. It's all very straightforward - do a few tasks every week (make a list of things you want to do before you die, etc.) and write a daily "journal" (called the morning pages). Really simple stuff, but gradually you find yourself changing as you dig up stuff you hadn't thought about in years.
I was given this book when I was 31 and in the midst of depression that had lasted for several years. I struggled with the book for a few weeks, but once I got into it I started feeling better about where I was (broke, unhappy, generally lost). I admitted to myself that I'd always wanted to write a book and learn how to play guitar and worked up the guts to do something about it.
3 years after being given the Artist's Way I've written a draft of a novel and I'm playing guitar in my first band (a punk band too - at 34 years of age!) And that's the thing - without this book I never would have had the confidence to say "Yes, I'm in my 30s and I'm a complete guitar beginner but I don't care, I'm going to learn how to play just the same." Even outside of art, I now surf, rock-climb, do a whole load of things I never had the guts to try out before. I'm back in the same living circumstances as when my depression set in but I'm a different person - more positive, more creative, much much happier. I still have bad days and even weeks but now I have something to turn to.
I would say this though - there's a strong spiritual side to this book. I've given it to friends who loved it and got into it just as much as I did, and I've also had friends tell me the religious overtone turned them off. All I know is if you're in a hole like I was this book is definitely worth a shot.
The Artist's Way changed my life 100% for the better. It showed me that I'm a passionate person, that I have something inside I want to express, and then gave me the confidence to do something about it.
Julia Cameron, I owe you one.
205 of 219 people found the following review helpful
on 10 October 2007
The blurb on the back tells us this is the seminal book on the subject of creativity. However, you need to understand one very important thing: this book is not about how to be more creative, it's about freeing your creativity. This implies that your creativity has been blocked, which in turn implies that something has gone wrong which should be put right. Julia Cameron tells you the causes of the block, and the Artist's Way is a course of therapy to help you recover. (In each chapter you Recover a Sense of something, eg Compassion, Possibility).
I think the Artist's Way was developed for women of her generation who as children were discouraged from being creative and as adults expected to always put others' needs first. Such experiences mean that a) one doesn't believe in one's own creative abilities, and b) one doesn't have time or space to be oneself. If this is true for you, you may find the Artist's Way very useful.
It is divided into 12 units, one for each week. Although there is a different theme for each week, they didn't seem particularly differentiated to me. Each unit contains a couple of essays on living a better life, as well as some tasks to do; many of them seem to consist of making lists of what you would do/be/buy if you the had time/permission/money. You are also instructed to write 3 pages every morning on whatever is on your mind, and do something enjoyable by yourself as a "date" with your "artist child" every week. Although she says you don't need any religious belief to follow the course, she does talk a lot about spirituality. It has a New Age feel and I think I gave up at the point where I was expected to build an artist's altar and listen to recordings of myself reading aloud my favourite sermons from her book!
Overall, I was disappointed with this book and don't think it did anything to make me more creative. Some of what she writes is interesting, and I liked doing the morning pages - in fact I still do them. However, for me, developing creativity has really been a case of getting into the habit of painting, drawing and taking photographs regularly. I don't find it particularly helpful to blame other people for discouraging me, or to fragment my life into ever more activities and self-indulgences in order to discover my creative self.
If you are thinking of doing the Artist's Way I would recommend you read several units first to see if what she says is true for you. I didn't, and stuck with it for several weeks, hoping all would be revealed, but in the end decided my time would be better spent developing my artistic skills...
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Do not think, gentle reader, that I didn't give this book a fair trial. I did the whole course, meticulously. I was hoping this book would give me a kick up the pants at a time when I was losing my way with my work. Instead it almost robbed me of the will to live. I did produce plemty of work in the process, but it was meretricious and self-indulgent rubbish; something which was very damaging and harmful. The book didn't boost my self-esteem, it made me doubt my own abilities and I realised the author wanted to you to "buy" HER version of creativity, whatever the cost in your quality of work. Splurging out everything inside you without discrimination isn't creativity, it's Salmonella.
Embedded in this book are one or two useful techniques for ridding your mind of extraneous clutter and taking a metaphorical deep breath. However the surrounding mush of flummery, cod psychology, New Age waffle and fundamentalist Christianity will put off many UK readers, with good reason. I have given it three stars really, because a lot of other people like it and so it must have some virtues, and for the sake of those few useful techniques.
The author has clearly made a very great deal of money in the US running courses and workshops based on her technique. I shall leave it to the reader to decide what they think of this; for me, sadly, it just confirms many of my prejudices. As does the fact that, throughout, the author cites quotations from "great souls" and "artists" which support her arguments. Maybe it's because I'm from the wrong side of the Atlantic, but with a very few exceptions, the ones I'd heard of weren't the sort of people you'd look to as an artist, and the vast majority were people who names had never before crossed my event horizon. Surely there must be many suitable quotes from great, inspirational artists and writers, so why all these nonentities?
Speaking as a "blocked artist", I would say "This is not a book to be put aside lightly. It should", as Oscar Wilde pointed out, "be hurled with great force". I concede that some people feel they have been helped by it, but it is far too mushy and misses the real point of creative work. The "morning pages" idea is the best bit. Much of the rest is counter-productive or self-indulgent. After a while, I found the book unhelpful and I became bogged down in self-pity and self-absorbtion. Not all work is good, and a book which stimulates you to produce a lot of poor quality work hasn't helped you. To produce good work you have to forget yourself, not become obsessed with past wrongs or spend valuable time writing out silly mantras a la "Every day in every way I'm getting better and better" I concede I am not a writer, and it is true the word processor does enable a writer to edit in the way a painter cannot. For blocked painters I'd recommend:
*Going to lots of exhibitions and seeing the work of other artists, great and minor, and if possible talking to them.
*Doing the "morning pages" to clear ones head; this just means sitting down with a notebook and your morning tea, before you do anything else, and writing 3 pages of whatever comes into your head; good for clearing the decks and looking ahead.
*Looking back at stuff you did years ago that you weren't happy with, and analysing what you like, and don't like, about it, and redoing it with the benefit of what you have learned since.
*Listening to artistically-minded friends talk about your stuff; they are more objective than you and will see virtues (and flaws) in your work you are blind to.
*Reading YOU ARE AN ARTIST: A PRACTICAL APPROACH TO ART., written in 1965 before the end of civilisation as we know it.