The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

Beef stew with root vegetables is cooking on the stove, along with a teapot of water for some chai tea.

Now that I feel my traumas are resolving and my husband and I are in a stronger place, I’m feeling a little bit more at peace and want to work more on becoming more creative.  I’ve been thinking about creativity for quite some time now.  My top two creativity mentors are Julia Cameron and Eric Maisel.   I’ll be talking about both in coming posts, but today I’ll be focusing on Julia Cameron.

A few weeks ago, on a trip to the thrift store, I came across Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.  I’ve known about her work for a while now.  Some time ago it was suggested to me, and I got the book from the library but I never followed the steps.  I didn’t have enough time in the two weeks I had borrowed the book.

I’ve bought a few of her books, including The Right To Write, How to Avoid Making Art (or Anything Else You Enjoy) and Letters to a Young Artist.  But I think I’m in a good place to start the Artist’s Way work now.

I wasn’t able to commit to the “morning pages“, because it seemed so hard for me to write the first thing in the morning, and they seemed to be so negative, though in this video clip, she says to think of this in Jungian terms as if “you were meeting your shadow and taking it out for a cup of coffee”. What she finds is when “you put the negativity on the page it isn’t eddying in your consciousness all day.”

I have tried to employ her “Artist’s Dates“.

“The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic” — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play.”

Her program is both a spiritual path as well as a way to unblock creativity.  What she realized by teaching this course to others, she witnessed many students undergo a transformation.  She said that “students faces often take on a glow as they contact their creative energies”, giving a literal meaning to the word “enlightenment”.

I have known my own healing begin to take on a new dimension when I incorporated art work into my life.  I don’t just mean writing, but mixed media, doodling and art journaling.

It’s a little known fact that Art saves lives.  It’s saved mine.

For those of you who have PTSD, it’s a valuable tool in your toolbox.

Over thirty years of scientific investigation have demonstrated that creative expression can alter not just moods, attitudes and emotions, but influences neuro-endocrine pathways that control physiologic outcomes as varied as blood pressure, sleep and the immune response. We are learning how creative expression can:

  • reduce blood pressure while boosting the immune system and reducing stress
  • promote relaxation and a sense of well-being
  • reduce anxiety, depression and pain
  • promote general quality of life

By putting individuals in touch with their feelings and providing a means to express this to others, creative self-expression helps to engage one in all aspects of treatment, empowering a person with a sense of purpose, accomplishment, and possibility. While the quantification and full description of how creative expression heals PTSD and other trauma-related conditions is still in its early stages, the healing opportunity is real and significant. Compared to other treatments and interventions, creative engagement is relatively inexpensive and can be made widely accessible through online resources and interactive solutions, as well as in-person community-based settings.

I really want to start talking more about this wonderful healing modality.  I’ll be starting on her 12 week program (using the book, not the website) and I’ll try to incorporate some of what I learn.

For some ideas for your own art-making, you can visit my blog The Heartful Artist.

About Casey

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ~ Jack Kerouac, On The Road Again
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2 Responses to The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

  1. I am aware of her books – I think my wife has one or two of them. I wasn’t much on step work (how ironic is *that*? says 12-step recovery boy) I didn’t know much about them, other than they were “spiritual” and kind of popular. I forgot about them until you mentioned it now. I think we may have them. Sounds like something I would be interested in this point of my life. I don’t know if I have time for morning rituals, unless I get up at 6 am to avoid the maniacal morning that normally happen (that’s what two young boys does!)

    But I know for me, to not write is to die, so there is something intrinsically powerful about art.

    Thank you for this 🙂


    • Casey says:

      You know, I was thinking about you when I wrote this post for some reason. I really do like her, and she’s very encouraging.

      The nice thing about her work is that it’s spiritual, but she defines spirituality very broadly. She even suggests if the idea of God is difficult, to substitute “Goddess” or “Mind” or “Universe” or “Source” or “Higher Power” or even something like “good, orderly direction” or “flow”. I like that.

      Most artists do say their inspiration isn’t their own. Something comes through them, not because of them.

      Oh, yeah, with 3 girls and one bathroom with only one sink, I totally know the manaical mornings…

      And yes, I totally understand this idea “to not write is to die, so there is something intrinsically powerful about art.”

      And if I say totally one more time, just gag me with a spoon!

      I have to say, Paul, there is just something so powerful about the way you write. I can’t quite articulate why, except maybe that I can tell it comes from your soul.

      I think there have been people who have used her program that didn’t do it first thing in the morning as I’m sure there have been people to get up early to do that. I’ll tell you what, if you don’t do it first thing in the a.m. I won’t tell. 😉

      Mainly, I just want to try and develop a creative habit. Right now it’s pretty haphazard. I haven’t even done any artwork in about 3 weeks other than gesso a few art journal pages and put some basic colors down and one doodle today while waiting for my daughters in the pickup line at school and I really miss making art.

      And yeah, I hear ya on the 12 step program. The first time my friend mentioned to me I should go to Adult Child of Alcoholics meetings, I ranted about it for a few weeks, telling him how I did NOT need to do anything like that, that they’d make me drink the kool-aid and I don’t need anyone telling me I need help and I don’t need anyone making me say I’m powerless and all that. And, I ended up really, really enjoying it and feeling safe and cared about. And I’m actually feeling more powerful being able to admit I don’t always have the answers…and it’s okay!

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