Self-Help Books and Creativity

How many of you have read and worked with Julia Cameron’s THE ARTISTS WAY? I was introduced to it a long time ago — before I sold my third book (I’m up to twenty) and found it an amazing resource. My writing pal Judy Yoder and I worked our way through it together, meeting once a month to discuss the previous chapter (or “week” as Cameron calls her sections.) It was an enriching experience and helped me regain my focus and head towards the success that was coming my way.

Now I am taking that ride again with a new writing friend, Linda. I am at the end of my career, if only because of my age, and Linda is just beginning. Her enthusiasm is contagious plus I find that after twenty years Cameron’s words still ring true. I resolved many of the issues that held me back then (all conveniently written in the white space of my original copy) but now there are new ones that need to be addressed.

With Linda’s enthusiasm and the proven value of the exercise, I wonder why I am finding it a challenge to recommit to two elements that Cameron considers essential: morning pages and artist’s dates.

Here is what I have decided. As I age I find that without the time pressure of deadlines my whole life is an artist’s date. I take time every day to enjoy nature, read about a subject that interests me and talk to people who I seek out.

Writing at my own pace, telling the story I have to tell is the greatest treat in the world. If there is no editorial interest then I can consider independent publishing. I wonder what Cameron thinks of that game changing aspect of publishing?

As for Morning Pages, I am not at all sure why I do not make the time to do them. I do make time for yoga most days and I am thinking that the time I spend in meditation, after yoga has taken the place of morning pages.

No matter if those details do not work for me any more there are elements of her work that are in my head everyday when I sit down and have been for all these years. “It’s easier to do the work than to worry about doing the work,” and “It is my job to do the work, not judge the work.”

THE ARTISTS WAY is the single most useful writer’s self-help book I have ever used. Where does it rank on your list? What earns high praise from you, as a reader or a writer? (If we’re talking self-help in general for me it’s a contest between DANCE OF ANGER and SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE. Am I dating myself with those two? )In any case I want to know what works for you . Or if you think the self-help process is pointless. The road to creativity is different for all of us so there are no wrong answers here.

About Mary Blayney

I have been writing both contemporary and regency romances since 1986, first with contemporary romances for Silhouette and later with historicals set in the Regency period. Family will always play a strong part in my books since, for me, family relationships are as fundamental as the love between a man and a woman.

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6 Responses to Self-Help Books and Creativity

  1. diane says:

    I have to confess that The Artist’s Way is yet another book I have not read or used, although I’ve owned it for about 15 years. I have read Dance of Anger and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and bunches of other self-help and motivational books. One of my favorites is Love Is Letting Go Of Fear by Gerald Jampolsky. I also used to listen to motivational tapes when I was commuting to work. Now I listen to Ted Talks and almost anything by Oprah!

  2. I have to second your vote for The Artist’s Way, Mary. Like you, I worked through it many years ago, but I think the help it gave me then has been lasting, permanent. I don’t do morning pages regularly, but I know I can, if I need to, and I know how helpful that process is. It is meditation on paper, essentially, so yes, I can see why your yoga and meditation could fill the same purpose –except for the “writing” connection. Many so-called self-help books I have looked at haven’t struck any nerves, but The Artist’s Way is one that has a permanent place on my shelves, ready any time I feel a need to revisit it.

  3. THE ARTIST’S WAY? I would not be published without it! Truly changed my life. I still do morning pages – don’t know how I would survive without them. And I’m pretty good about the Artist’s Date – or, at least, taking a few hours to play every week. I’ve also read most of her other books. VEIN OF GOLD is among my favorites. Obviously, I’m a fan!

  4. Elaine Fox says:

    I keep meaning to do The Artist’s Way and never get to it. I love the two quotes you mention — so true! — so maybe I just need to find someone to do it with. When I’m needing motivation I love to read books on the craft of writing. And when I don’t have one of those at hand, lately I’ve been looking up author talks on Ted and YouTube. Maybe it’s just procrastination but it’s always entertaining!

  5. I have read parts of Cameron’s works, but never put to practice her processes. I think your quote “It’s easier to do the work than to think about. . .” rings true(r) for me. I fall into that category of “I’ve thought about it; therefore, I’ve done it.” 🙂 I did enjoy reading Twyla Tharp’s “The Creative Habit” and found her offerings more substantial and concrete; her career as a dancer and choreographer prove them true! And there’s one more quote I’d like to share: “It is solved by walking.” (St. Augustine while leading his troops). Taking long walks help me in so many ways. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this!

  6. sandyl says:

    The Artist’s Way is still my main book for creativity. I’ve read other books by her, but they only build on the “Way.” I also enjoyed Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit.

    But even before The Artist’s Way, there was “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg.

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