I finished reading Julia Cameron's Walking in This World this past week. This is the third in her series that started with The Artist's Way. I've written about The Artist's Way and how much it has influenced me in my writing journey before. It's been several years since I read that book and, as I was struggling with plotting the sequel to Faith, Hope, and Murder, I thought I might benefit from more of Julia's wisdom.
I was right.
Creatives are different from other people. On the one hand, they feel the need to make things, whether that be a song or a novel or a painting or a sculpture or a recipe. They feel restless and uneasy when they do not create. On the other hand, they often reach a point in that new creation--sometimes even before they start--where they feel that it's not working, that they'll never be able to create a work of art again. Creative people are filled with fear and doubt.
Julia Cameron addresses those fears and doubts in her books on creativity. I think one of the most important results of this is knowing you're not alone in how you feel. We're surrounded by people who don't understand our need to create. A spouse questions why we need to go to the computer or the studio after dinner instead of watching TV with him or her. Friends think writers who write full time during the day don't "work" and so ask them to pick up the kids at school or volunteer for a project that will suck up writing time or just call to chat. We resent this, but feel we're wrong to feel that way.
She also gives you specific tasks to complete that address the issues creative people face. Feel stuck? Make a list of small creative things you could do. These include putting photos in an album or re-potting a plant. Feeling down on yourself? Make a list of ten positive adjectives to describe yourself. Feel like it's wrong to be selfish about taking time for yourself and your art? Make short lists of what you'd like to try, to own, to be if you allowed yourself to do so.
In addition to her creativity tools of writing morning pages and taking an artist's date once a week to "fill the well," Julia Cameron adds the artist's walk in this book. This is a walk once a week in a quiet place to be alone with your thoughts and listen.
Listen to whom? The Great Creator, as Julia calls that spiritual power. Because, in this book, she develops the idea that all creative endeavors come from somewhere outside yourself. This is often referred to as the Muse, or, as Stephen King puts it, the boys in the basement. Every writer knows that their ideas are not entirely their own. While you might start with something as logical as a writing prompt, at some point in the process, art flows from God into you.
We used to have a more conscious recognition of this. From cave paintings that expressed the prayer for a successful hunt to the masterpieces of the Renaissance, art was created for the glory of God. I often think that the fact that I started writing again at the same time I began to rediscover my faith was no coincidence. I didn't realize it at first, but it's become obvious that once I started listening to God, I was able to hear the stories I wanted to tell.
Thinking of it in these terms, that, as Julia says, all art is a form of prayer, takes the ego out of the creative process. I want to write. I want to be published. I want to make money from my writing. All of those sound selfish. But thinking of writing as communion with the Great Creator and knowing that is what really drives me is a revelation. A calling, if you will. I've started to think of my writing as an act of the soul. And a gateway to the divine.