If you’ve been around self-help books or creative people any time in the last 30 years you’ve probably heard of Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. It’s subtitled, “A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity”, and to hear people talk the book causes everything from successful sobriety to religious enlightenment. Even fast-talking tech bros get in on the action by touting the benefits of the “Morning Pages” that The Artist’s Way made famous.
If you’ve never undertaken The Artist’s Way program yourself you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. My book study club recently started it together, so let me give you the run down!
What is The Artist’s Way?
Julia Cameron published this book in 1992 to help people recover their artistic and creative selves. While she's an artist herself who also hung out with lots of artist types, the book is not just for capital-A Artists. It’s meant for anyone who wants to silence their inner critic and explore a more creative life.
The book teaches techniques and assigns exercises to help people be more confident expressing their creativity. Along the way, there’s lots of spiritual exploration and personal introspection.
Some people approach the book on their own. It’s also very common to go through it as a group. Collaboration with other people can supercharge the flow of creative ideas. Plus, a little accountability goes a long way in helping you stick to the program!
How long does The Artist’s Way take?
The Artist’s Way is designed as a 12 week program. Cameron says that the program takes about 7-10 hours a week, or a little more than an hour a day. Of course, this is pretty customizable to any individual schedule. However, it’s not a book to simply pick up every now and then. It works best as a focused, devoted effort to move through the program.
The Artist’s Way schedule is laid out in a weekly format. Each week includes a bit of reading and then some exercises and tasks to do throughout the week. I find that this weekly schedule makes it easy for me to follow along and keep up the momentum. And it works well for a group. My book study club meets once a week to go over the previous week’s reading and tasks and to encourage each other for the week to come.
What are the steps of The Artist’s Way?
To give you a sense of the program, here are the weekly chapter subjects and some of the key points of The Artist’s Way.
- Week One: Recovering a Sense of Safety
- Week Two: Recovering a Sense of Identity
- Week Three: Recovering a Sense of Power
- Week Four: Recovering a Sense of Integrity
The first 4 weeks are about building yourself up, examining your fears, and creating a sense of stability for yourself.
Key points: Breaking down the big barriers in the way of your creative life. Developing a consistent practice. Exploring your identity.
- Week Five: Recovering a Sense of Possibility
- Week Six: Recovering a Sense of Abundance
- Week Seven: Recovering a Sense of Connection
- Week Eight: Recovering a Sense of Strength
Weeks 5 through 8 develop your security and resilience. This continues the themes of the earlier chapters and also dives into some new obstacles that tend to come up during the program.
Key points: Accepting the source of creativity. Navigating ups and downs. Addressing perfectionism.
- Week Nine: Recovering a Sense of Compassion
- Week Ten: Recovering a Sense of Self-Protection
- Week Eleven: Recovering a Sense of Autonomy
- Week Twelve: Recovering a Sense of Faith
Weeks 9 through 12 emphasize gentleness with yourself and trust in yourself.
Key points: Facing our own negative thoughts. Finding balance. Defining success.
The Artist’s Way Basic Principles
In an introductory chapter, Cameron offers 10 basic principles to read every day, whether you “believe” in them or not.
- Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative energy.
- There is an underlying, in-dwelling creative force infusing all of life--including ourselves.
- When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the creator’s creativity within us and our lives.
- We are, ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves.
- Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.
- The refusal to be creative is self-will and is counter to our true nature.
- When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to God: good orderly direction.
- As we open our creative channel to the creator, many gentle though powerful changes are to be expected.
- It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity.
- Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward our dreams, we move toward our divinity.
One task of the program is to see how your feelings about these principles change throughout the work.
The Artist’s Way Morning Pages
If you’ve heard anything about The Artist’s Way, you’ve probably heard about the famous Morning Pages.
The Morning Pages are 3 pages of long-hand writing every morning right after waking up. They aren’t meant to be “good”. They aren’t even meant to be “writing”. They are simply a brain dump of the miscellaneous crap that’s cluttering up your mind.
Some people love Morning Pages. Some people hate them. But everyone who gives them a serious try can attest that they work to clear out your mind and give a little breathing room to your days.
Morning Pages benefits can’t be overstated! They are like meditation. They make life easier. They make decisions clearer. They make emotions smoother.
Many people who start the Morning Pages never stop. I know several people who have been doing them for over 20 years. They are just that good!
The Best Notebook for Morning Pages
I’m going to end by talking about notebooks and journals, because I love the ones in the shop here. But skip it if you don’t want to be sold to - understandable! The best notebook for Morning Pages is whatever notebook you’ll use. That’s the truth!
I get a lot of joy out of choosing the right notebooks for things! I like about an A5 for my Morning Pages notebook size. That’s big enough for my words and small enough to carry with me through the day. I do my Morning Pages and my weekly tasks writing in the same notebook or journal.
I design nature-based notebooks for the Idylissa shop, and I like to pick out a new one each month.
If you’d prefer a hardcover journal, I’ve got those, too! Your Artist’s Way Morning Pages journal is the keeper of precious thoughts, and it’s fitting to hold them in something beautiful.
See all our beautiful hardcover journals here. Any one would make a lovely home to your Artist's Way notes or Morning Pages writing.