The Artist’s Way

I love libraries. While at my library a couple of weeks ago, I spotted a copy of THE ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron, for sale among the other books in the lobby, and I grabbed it. I paid my dollar (okay, three dollars because I bought two other books, too) even though I already had a copy at home, a copy which I’d worked through about 13 years ago, a copy which was hugely responsible for all the writing I was able to do while teaching and raising three daughters. I didn’t understand why I needed another copy (it wasn’t all marked up, the cover wasn’t tattered, but–really–why did that matter?), but I felt as though I did.

Then, meeting my friend Shawna for a cup of coffee, I listened to her say, “Why am I doing this? Why am I doing this again?” and I thought, “You should work through The Artist’s Way.” Before I could stop myself, I had volunteered to work through it with her. I rifled through the trunk of my car, found the library-sale copy, and handed it to her. She was initially reluctant, looking a bit like the proverbial deer in the headlights (“You want me to do what?), but after a couple of days (I presume she read the introductions), she texted me and said “Let’s do this.” I had lunch with my friend Carol on Tuesday last week and the same thing happened. It was beginning to look a lot like fate.

The Artist’s Way is, to my mind, the UR-book about using journaling to break through creative blocks. Although Julia Cameron wasn’t the first writer to artistsway1suggest journaling as a spiritual path (see Natalie Goldberg, Dorothea Brande, Brenda Ueland, Peter Elbow or any number of others to find advocates for daily writing–try googling that term), the way Cameron describes the process of “morning pages” in this short video, might convince you of how useful they can become. At the same site, you can sign up for the entire 12-week course. Or you can just find a copy of the book, and do the work.

You could, if you wanted, do the work now, with me. The timing is terrible, I know, I know. And in a way it isn’t fair of me to expect anyone to join me (after all, I already write in a journal and do a massive amount of reading every day, so it isn’t as though it is going to disrupt that schedule, just take it over for a while). But the first time I did this my youngest daughter was a toddler and my twins were in second or third grade; I was teaching full-time plus moonlighting a class two or three times a year (The Artist’s Way gave me permission to stop that nonsense). If you want to do it, you can. I’m thinking of it as a Christmas gift–and commitment–to myself.

A second tool is “the artist’s date.” More about that, later.

So, if you think you would like to join me, send me your email address (mine is and I’ll add you to our small group. Oh, and get a copy of the book and start reading. The first chapter is “Recovering a Sense of Safety.”

And start writing. (Loose leaf paper is fine, or a notebook. Rereading is not allowed, at least at first).

Write three pages or about 750 words. In the morning. Consider it to be like taking a dustbuster to your brain. (Watch the video!)

5 replies
  1. dawnsullypile
    dawnsullypile says:

    So enjoy your posts! The Artist’s Way and all of Julia Cameron’s books line my shelves and I can’t think here enough for how I have developed a non-negotiable morning writing practice for years. I am now journaling in a bit of a different format (you might sometime enjoy Janet Conner’s Writing Down Your Soul), though sometimes writing just as much and in much the same style, but I will cheer you all on as you embark on this wonderful journey with The Artist’s Way. It is transformative.

    • awritersalchemy
      awritersalchemy says:

      Yes — I read Janet Connor this past summer, and am still using her ideas for the journal entry as prayer. I enjoy your blog, too, by the way. What a resource — and thank you for the encouragement on the artist’s way.

  2. Jennifer Bullis
    Jennifer Bullis says:

    So glad to hear you’re revisiting Julia Cameron’s method. Fifteen years ago this month, a friend and colleague of mine gave me a copy of The Artist’s Way and urged me, “Do this.” It got me writing poems again after 12 years of not. I wish you every good thing as you and your friend delve back in!

      • Jennifer Bullis
        Jennifer Bullis says:

        Ah, artist’s dates: those are the BEST. I’d love to offer you my horse to ride, but she’s cranky, and spooky more often than not. Her nickname is Rose the Behavior Problem. However, if you’re willing to settle for arena (as opposed to trail) riding, I could set up a lesson with the manager/trainer, Barb Walton, at my barn. Barb is AMAZING, and could guide you through a fun ride on one of the show or reining horses she works with. Here’s her new website (which features some photos of Justine!): . Let me know what you’d like to do, and I’ll talk with her!


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