Julia Cameron is the legendary author of the wildly popular Artist’s Way book series, which made its debut in 1992. With it, she introduced the world to the daily practice of writing Morning Pages (three handwritten pages of stream of consciousness thoughts), in addition to three other tools to boost creativity that she’s described in the series.

Most recently, Cameron has written about a tool she calls writing for guidance, a meditative process she says is a kind of safety net that undergirds the other three tools. You basically write down questions for a higher power, and then when you hear the answers in your head, you write them down, too, as though you were taking dictation. Cameron talks to Unity Magazine editor Katy Koontz about how creativity and spirituality are identical, as well as the roles gratitude, hope, and even humor play in the spiritual journey.

KATY KOONTZ: You’ve described writing for guidance as a creative form of prayer, and it sounds to me as though there’s some mysticism involved. Would you agree?

JULIA CAMERON: When you talk about mysticism, you’re talking about a feeling of connecting to a higher consciousness. And what I find with guidance is that you’re connecting to a higher self or a sense of things that are beyond the rational, although I think people have a tendency to want to avoid feeling too “woo-woo.” So I would say writing for guidance is a potent form of prayer that engages our whole being—body, mind, and spirit. It’s also a powerful form of humility in that when we ask for guidance, we are asking humbly to be led.

KK: Can writing for guidance be done any time of day?   

JC: Yes. However, many people find it’s best immediately after Morning Pages. Morning Pages is also a form of prayer because the process opens you up to receiving guidance. It gets you ready to connect with your higher self. But you can do writing for guidance whenever you have a question, not just in the morning. Some people like to do it at night, and I don’t see anything wrong with that.

KK: I was intrigued that you mentioned people might be surprised by some of the answers they receive from this process.

JC: When we ask for guidance, we open ourselves up to an inner resource that you may or may not want to acknowledge as God. So if the guidance we get isn’t coming from our human minds, then it’s likely what we get will surprise us.

KK: Do you personally see this inner resource as God?

JC: Well, I’ve never been able to get a straight answer when I ask, “Who are you?” I have a friend who says, “Oh, they’re angels.” So I’ve said to them, “Are you angels?” And they respond, “We prefer to remain anonymous.”

KK: I guess it doesn’t really matter, does it?

JC: No, I open myself to higher forces in whatever form they exist.

KK: What kind of surprising answers have you gotten using this tool?

JC: Although I got divorced 45 years ago, I found myself recently saying, “But I still love him.” And then I said to myself, Julia, don’t you think that’s a little bit codependent of you? Surely you ought to be over it by now. I finally went to guidance and asked, “What should I do about still loving X?” and the response was, “Just love him.” And I said, “But doesn’t that seem codependent?” And the answer was, “Love is eternal.” I was instructed to stop fighting that I still loved him and just accept that love was eternal.

KK: You also talk a lot about gratitude as a powerful spiritual tool, in part because it brings us in touch with our guidance. How does gratitude open the way to guidance?

JC: When we are truly grateful, we are humble. We’re saying, “Thank you. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me.” The statements may be something like, “I love my house,” or “I’m grateful my hair is wavy.” It can be anything and everything, and when we open ourselves to gratitude, we find ourselves being led. You might start out intending to write down a list of 10 gratitudes, but by the time you’re done with your list, you end up with 20 or more.

KK: I think one of the benefits of gratitude is that it raises your vibration.

JC: I think it does too. When we’re grateful, we’re stepping up a level.

KK: You also wrote about hope being a powerful force. What makes hope so powerful?

JC: I think hope is sort of like the mystical hidden side of prayer. If we didn’t hope our prayers were effective, we wouldn’t bother to pray. Hope for a better day tomorrow gives us a reason to pray.

KK: It sounds like you’re describing gratitude in advance.

JC: I hadn’t thought of that, but I think that’s a fair way to put it. I do feel that hope, gratitude, and having a sense of an abundant world are all important.

KK: Do you find seeing an abundant world to be difficult these days with all the disturbing news?

JC: That’s one reason I don’t listen to the news. I don’t watch television, and I don’t even do email. Not doing all of those things gives me time for my creativity.

KK: In the book, you share story after story about the use of humor. In one place you wrote, “If I can be funny, I get my power back.” What did you mean by that?

JC: When we are feeling lonely, desolate, or discouraged, it helps if we’re able to write a little rhyme about it. I use rhyme often. For example, in 1998, I wrote a crime novel. I got 19 good reviews, and then unfortunately, the twentieth review (by Bill Kent in The New York Times) was negative. The reviewer didn’t like Carl Jung, and my detective hero loved Carl Jung. I was feeling really down after reading the review, and then I thought, No, there’s something I can do about this. So I wrote a little poem:

This little poem goes out to Bill Kent,
who must feel awful the way
that he spent
his time critiquing Carl Jung
instead of on the work I’d done.

Afterward, I found that I immediately perked up. Funny rhymes like that are very powerful, and they’re fun to write. They always lift me right up.

KK: How do you see creativity and spirituality as related?

JC: Creativity and spirituality are one and the same thing. As we work on our creativity, our spirituality gets stronger, and as we work on our spirituality, our creativity increases.

KK: Is it possible to be spiritual but not particularly creative, or highly creative without necessarily being spiritual?

JC: I think it’s hard. I would say that all of us are creative. All of us are artistic. We may not have a particular creative practice like being a painter, but in a broader sense, we all have the power of creative living.

KK: How would you define creativity? Is it a perspective? Or is it a process?

JC: I see it as an influx of a higher power into our lives. I recently started trying to do more formal meditation, and I find myself using the mantra, God is creativity. It was powerful. I have always loved this line from the poet Dylan Thomas: “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower,” so in this meditation, I found myself saying, God is creativity, God is the force that through the green fuse drives the flower.

KK: When you started writing Morning Pages, creativity was also a survival tool for you, was it not?

JC: Yes, I would say that creativity gave me a way to move forward. When I got sober in 1978 at 29 years old, I worried that I wouldn’t be creative anymore. I thought writing and alcohol went together, sort of like scotch and soda. But people told me, “No, let your higher power write through you.” And I said, “But what if it doesn’t want to?” And they said, “Just try it.” So I tried it, and I found that my creativity flourished, so it definitely became a survival tool.

Creativity and spirituality are one and the same thing. As we work on our creativity, our spirituality gets stronger, and as we work on our spirituality, our creativity increases.

KK: You’ve often talked about Nigel, the clever name you gave your inner critic. Has Nigel changed at all over the years?

JC: Nigel showed up when I first started trying to write seriously. He said things like, “Oh, Julia, you’re boring.” Now, 45 books later, Nigel still says things like, “Oh, Julia, you’re boring.” I have learned to respond, “Nigel, thank you for sharing,” and then I keep right on writing.

KK: Another concept that you’ve written about is prosperity, most notably in the book The Prosperous Heart: Creating a Life of “Enough” (Putnam, 2011). In that book, you write that prosperity is a spiritual matter. Why is that?

JC: We need to learn to think of God as abundance. A lot of us (although perhaps not those in Unity) have a notion of God that has to do with scarcity. But to open ourselves to the idea of a prosperous God, we need only look at the abundance of the natural world. God didn’t create one pink flower, God created hundreds. So there’s evidence of prosperity and abundance all over if we look for it.

KK: In fact, you’ve described nature as being a portal to the Divine. Was that something you didn’t appreciate as much until you left city life for New Mexico?

JC: I think I always knew. When I lived in New York, I would go walking every day in Central Park. The park was verdant and abundant, and not just in the spring when you have the beautiful cherry blossoms, but throughout the entire year. I grew up in the country, and there was a path practically out my front door that led to fields and forests and rivers, so I always had a sense of God being abundant in nature.

KK: One of my favorite quotes from The Artist’s Way is: “The next time you are restless, remind yourself it is the universe asking ‘Shall we dance?’” What inspired that?

JC: I just think the universe does have a way of asking us to dance, and when we open ourselves to that, we feel a sense of merriment that infiltrates everything.

KK: I love how that puts a positive spin on a state many of us would consider negative. I see much of your work as reframing things for people. Would you agree?

JC: Well, I would hope so. I think my work is about considering the possibility of the positive. We live in a culture that is predominantly negative, and as you consider the possibility that the culture is wrong, you begin to move in a positive direction. This is where a community is important. I think Unity is important, for example, and I also think 12-step programs are important.

At first, I had to train myself to be positive. I have a friend named Jeannette who was a tremendous help to me in that regard. She always has me count the positives in my day. She would say, “Did you do your Morning Pages?” And I would say, “Well, yes.” Then she’d say, “Well, that’s a positive, isn’t it? Did you walk on your treadmill today?” And I would say, “Well, yes.” And she’d say, “Well, that’s a positive. Did you have three good meals?” And by the time we were done counting, we had 10 positives. Now it comes more naturally, but it took training.

KK: What was the hardest part of that training?

JC: Starting it. Starting is always the hardest part.

KK: You began writing Morning Pages after you moved to Taos from Chicago. How did the idea come to you?

JC: It was just an inspiration. I was living at the end of a dirt road in an adobe house, and I was lonely. I found that when I sat down and wrote three pages, I was less lonely—I think it was because it gave me a sense of having a witness.

KK: I want to acknowledge your earliest writing work, which started with a job at The Washington Post after college in the 1970s. You were hired in part to open the mail, and then you talked your boss into allowing you to write for the “Style” section. How did you accomplish that?

JC: The editor in chief of my section said to me one day, “Julia, you look depressed,” and I said, “I just finished typing tomorrow’s section, and it’s terrible.” He said, “Well, if you think you could do any better, go ahead!” And then he went out to dinner. While he was out, I wrote my first piece, and when he came back and read what I had written, he said, “It would seem I owe you an apology.” That’s how I started writing for them.

KK: That was quite a feat in those days, especially for a woman.

JC: To tell you the truth, I never thought of it that way. People will also say to me, “You worked for Rolling Stone. That was an old boy’s network,” and again, I just didn’t think of it that way at the time. I think by not thinking about it, it made it easier for me.

The Artist’s Way Tools

Morning Pages are three pages of stream of consciousness writing, done by hand, first thing in the morning. You can write about anything and everything that comes to mind. This is best done as soon as possible after you awaken, and absolutely before you pick up your phone or have a conversation.

Artist’s Date is going on a fun and playful solo expedition for at least two hours once a week with the goal of finding inspiration. You could go to a museum or a gallery, for example, but it doesn’t have to be art-related—it can be any place where you can experience something new.

Walking is going for a 20-minute walk by yourself to integrate. This can often help you work out a problem because it can become both meditative and inspirational and so it opens you to inner guidance.

Writing for guidance is a meditative process of writing out questions, listening for the answers, and writing down whatever you hear from your inner wisdom. It connects you to your higher power through your intuition.

Julia Cameron is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 40 books, as well as a poet, songwriter, television filmmaker, and playwright. Her first book, The Artist’s Way (Tarcher/Perigee, 1992), sold more than 5 million copies and has been translated into 40 languages. She’s given lectures and workshops on creativity around the world and now teaches a 12-week online course. Visit juliacameronlive.com.

This article appeared in Unity Magazine®.

About the Author

Katy Koontz is the editor in chief of Unity Magazine.


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