She looked sad as she moved to the front of the room. For a moment I thought I saw tears in her eyes. Turns out I was right. As author and teacher Julia Cameron took the stage, she opened by telling us about a long-time colleague of hers who had died two days before. She asked us to send prayers and then bravely began the weekend workshop.
This is the level of authenticity I have respected and admired for more than twenty years. Julia has written more than forty books, and she has never tried to present her life as perfect. In her searing memoir Floor Sample, for example, she details her challenges with mental health issues. Yet her honesty never feels self-serving or pitying. It’s life, baby, and the cure for the pain is self-compassion and making art. On that she never waivers.
Having practiced The Artist’s Way all these years, I have experience firsthand how it changes lives. When I first pulled the book off the shelf in the summer of 1997, I was a writer who didn’t know how to start writing. Previous attempts had resulted in a great deal of creative wounding, even from so-called writing teachers.
Seeing Julia again (my third time), I was still surprised at how the simple tools of Morning Pages, Artist Dates, and fill in the blank exercises could pull so much out of me. Late in the weekend I felt breathless, stripped bare. Several days later, I am still processing what happened, noticing subtle and not-so-subtle shifts…everything from deciding to order a decent blender to digging in deeper to my novel-in-progress.
As a long-time veteran, I was pleased to meet so many people who were new to the book. Some had been given a copy years before and felt like the time is now. I was able to share the many changes life had brought as a result of doing this work: several books, with more in process; a college degree at age 45; multiple new interests, including gardening; an amicable divorce (a direct result of doing Morning Pages); and a happier, healthier marriage.
For an entire weekend I got to have “real” conversations with people, tossing aside small talk and pretense in favor of what was in our hearts. We laughed, we cried, we hugged, and we rooted for each other’s success, regardless of our chosen art form(s).
At the end of the weekend, I felt renewed. And Julia no longer looked sad. Her blue eyes were bright and merry in spite of her grief.
For me, the workshop was a chance to see the master in action once again, and to bring my love and gratitude. I came to The Artist’s Way because I wanted to write. What I gained was that and so much more.