For the last twelve weeks (or fifteen, I had two weeks holiday and one week off sick) I have been working with Julia Cameron, and her course on how to balance the creative process: "Walking in this World" (Sw. "Konsten att vara kreativ. På vandring genom livet."). Her most famous book is perhaps "The Artist´s Way", which I have also read, some years ago. Cameron started out as a journalist, married Martin Scorsese in the 70´s and got into writing for film. She has also published novels, poetry, written plays and musicals (yes, music! which I find super-impressive), but perhaps she has been most successful as a teacher.
Cameron doesn´t exclusively adress writers, but writing "morning pages", a kind of warm-up exercise to any type of creative craft, is a practice that she calls "the bedrock tool of a creative recovery". The second tool that she advocates is the "artist date", where one goes out, alone, once a week, to play in a way that pushes one´s comfort zone a little. It´s like filling your fuel tank with inspiration. Some of the blog posts I have written lately has been reflections on such exercises. Playing, or allowing oneself to play, is not easy, though. As she points out, either in the book or perhaps somewhere on her website, the work ethic often over-rides the need for such frivolities.
It´s interesting how the layout of the book seems to anticipate what´s going to happen in the consciousness of the student. Cameron is a recovered alcoholic, and no doubt her partiality to the twelve-step method is based on some real profound insight into how we overcome ourselves. She writes a lot about the Great Creator, and how making art, any art, good and bad, makes us more human. I totally think she is right. And honestly, from a rational standpoint, making art is the most useless occupation in the world. A bit of faith - a lot of faith! on whatever it is founded - is essential. I found myself caught up in a wave of syncronicity and flow, and have made some surprising discoveries about how I work, and, perhaps more importantly, how I sabotage for myself.
A writing friend of mine has this book also, she keeps it in her bathroom and reads a bit of it every day. When I said I have started working with it again, she said "shit! that woman is wise!". I can´t say it any better, really. Julia Cameron is very, very wise, and any creative, ambitious, aspiring artist can learn a great deal from her. She offers courses over the internet, and that may suit some, but I also find that there such a thing as too much sitting in the classroom. In the end, practice is the best teacher of all, and one must get one´s feet wet at some point. I know a lot of people who get stuck in the self-help swamp (for whatever reason), and that´s no good either. Some, I think, even become teachers because they feel so comfortable in that situation. Or so the number of aspiring teachers I have met over the years lead me to believe.
Bottom line, I have learned that a good teacher is her best when I allow her to teach me at her own pace. Because a good teacher knows a thing or two about my pace as well. And most of us are lacking in the patience department. I certainly know I am.