Three weeks ago, in the question-and-answer segment of a reading here in San Miguel de Allende I participated in, a woman in the audience asked each of us readers to share the secrets of our writing practices. With limited time, we three authors – Cynthia Claus, Ellen Akerman, and I — couldn’t say much. But, I realize now, I should have at least credited Julia Cameron with one important aspect of my writing process, my Morning Pages.
Like countless others who read Julia Cameron’s 1992 bestselling book, The Artist’s Way — which has been translated into forty languages and sold more than five million copies to date — I was inspired to make a lifelong habit of writing every morning soon after waking. This is writing not for publication but as an exercise in thinking, observing, reporting, inquiring, imagining, ruminating, and praying on paper.
To me, this practice is akin to a pianist’s daily finger exercises — a way to “stay in shape” for the real creative challenge of writing for others’ consumption. And, I’ve found, it’s sometimes possible that snippets of these morning notes and observations can later be incorporated into a publishable essay or book.
Julia Cameron, who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a WOW role model. Now 74, she is the author of more than forty books – fiction and nonfiction – as well as a poet, songwriter, filmmaker, and playwright. She has recently published a new book, titled Seeking Wisdom: A Spiritual Path to Creative Connection, which I’ve just finished reading and I highly recommend to WOW readers.
In her praise of Seeking Wisdom, legendary singer-songwriter Judy Collins states, “… I promise you will come away from reading [Cameron’s] new book, as I did, with renewed creative zest and energy, as well as insight into your own spiritual possibilities as a creative person.”
The thrust of Seeking Wisdom is unapologetically spiritual. In a word, it’s a book about prayer — the importance of praying to a benevolent Higher Power to achieve strength and creative fulfillment in our lives. Julia Cameron – and all of those she interviews for this book – believes deeply that regardless of one’s religious (or irreligious) background or current affiliation, praying from the heart, in a personal and conversational way, throughout the day, to a caring, listening God makes all the difference in one’s creative life.
“All of us,” Cameron writes, “have a direct line to the divine. The Great Creator is interested in supporting our creative endeavors of all sizes – from redecorating the bathroom to shooting a feature film.”
Her approach isn’t lofty, it’s practical, just as in The Artist’s Way: do your Morning Pages daily, take yourself on an adventurous “Artist Date” each week, go for contemplative daily walks alone, ask for guidance in writing, and pray, pray, pray – prayers of petition, prayers of gratitude, prayers of wonder and praise.
The book is structured as a six-week program (but I read it in two days). At the end of each chapter she gives exercises, headed “Try This…” I’m envisioning women’s book clubs choosing this book and having lively exchanges over the exercises they’ve tried.
“Over the years,” Cameron shares, “my creativity has expanded. Working with the Great Creator in tandem, I have written a book a year. Each text is, for me, the proof that spirituality and creativity go hand in glove. As I have prayed to be led, I have been led. As I have asked for guidance, I have been guided.
“Row upon row of books grace my library, their leather-bound spines announcing that the Great Creator works through me. When asked how I have been able to be so productive, I pause, considering, and then answer, ‘I listen.’ As the universe unfurls a word at a time, I find myself marveling that I am an instrument. As I strive to be of service, I find myself fulfilled.”
So I’m hoping that the woman who asked the question at my recent reading here in San Miguel reads this WOW post. Perhaps my answer will be more clear to her: Thanks to Julia Cameron, my writing practice includes writing every morning and praying throughout the day.
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If you’d care to see the YouTube video of our reading, please go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cr6qDUeISw4.