The Artist’s Way

A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity 

by Julia Cameron

I. Creative ability—Problems, exercises, etc. 2. Self-actualization (Psychology)—Problems, exercises, etc. 3. Creation (Literary, artistic, etc.)

The Artist’s Way- A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity
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Book Details
 431 p
 File Size 
 1,552 KB
 File Type
 PDF format
 1992, 2002 by Julia Cameron
 The Artist’s Way is a registered
 trademark of Julia Cameron

About the Author
Julia Cameron has been an active artist for more than thirty
years. She is the author of seventeen books, fiction and
nonfiction, including The Artist’s Way, The Vein of Gold and
The Right to Write, her bestselling works on the creative
process. A novelist, playwright, songwriter, and poet, she
has multiple credits in theater, film, and television. She
divides her time between Manhattan and the high desert of
New Mexico.


ART IS A SPIRITUAL transaction.
Artists are visionaries. We routinely practice a form of
faith, seeing clearly and moving toward a creative goal that
shimmers in the distance—often visible to us, but invisible
to those around us. Difficult as it is to remember, it is our
work that creates the market, not the market that creates our
work. Art is an act of faith, and we practice practicing it.
Sometimes we are called on pilgrimages on its behalf and,
like many pilgrims, we doubt the call even as we answer it.
But answer we do.
I am writing on a black lacquer Chinese desk that looks
west across the Hudson River to America. I am on the far
western shore of Manhattan, which is a country unto itself,
and the one I am living in right now, working to cantilever
musicals from page to stage. Manhattan is where the singers
are. Not to mention Broadway. I am here because “art”
brought me here. Obedient, I came.
Per capita, Manhattan may have a higher density of artists
than anywhere else in America. In my Upper West Side
neighborhood, cellos are as frequent and as ungainly as
cows in Iowa. They are part of the landscape here. Writing
at a typewriter, looking out across the lights, I too am
something Manhattan knows very well. I write melody on a
piano ten blocks from where Richard Rodgers, a gangly
adolescent, climbed a short stoop to meet a short boy who
became his longtime partner, Larry Hart. Together they
dreamed through drought and flood.
My apartment is on Riverside Drive. At this narrow end of
the island, Broadway is a scant block behind my back as I
face west across the river, inky black now as the sun sets in
colored ribbons above it. It is a wide river, not only dark,
and on a windy day—and there are many—the water is
choppy and white-capped. Cherry-red tugboats, as
determined as beetles, push their prows into the waves,
digging their way up and down the river, pushing long
barges with their snouts. Manhattan is a seaport—and a
landing for dreams.
Manhattan teems with dreamers. All artists dream, and we
arrive here carrying those dreams. Not all of us are dressed
in black, still smoking cigarettes and drinking hard liquor,
still living out the tawdry romance of hard knocks in tiny
walk-up flats filled with hope and roaches in neighborhoods
so bad that the rats have moved on. No, just like the
roaches, the artists are everywhere here, tenements to
penthouses—my own building has not only me with my
piano and typewriter but also an opera singer who trills in
the inner canyons like a lark ascending. The neighborhood
waiters are often—not always—actors, and the particularly
pretty duck-footed neighborhood girls do dance, although
you wouldn’t imagine their grace from their web-footed walks.
I drank a cup of tea at Edgar’s Cafe this afternoon, the
cafe named for Edgar Allan Poe, who lived down here and
died farther uptown, all the way in the Bronx. I’ve looked
up into Leonard Bernstein’s ground-floor windows at the
Dakota, and gone a little numb each time I pass the arched
entryway where John Lennon was shot. In this apartment, I
am a scant block from Duke Ellington’s haunts, and there’s
a street named after him too. Manhattan is a town full of
ghosts. Creative power—and powers—course through its
vertical canyons.
It was in Manhattan that I first began teaching the Artist’s
Way. Like all artists—like all of us if we listen—I
experience inspiration. I was “called” to teach and I
answered that call somewhat grudgingly. What about my
art? I wondered. I had not yet learned that we do tend to
practice what we preach, that in unblocking others I would
unblock myself, and that, like all artists, I would thrive more
easily with some companionship, with kindred souls making
kindred leaps of faith. Called to teach, I could not imagine
the good teaching would bring to me and, through me, to others.
In 1978 I began teaching artists how to “unblock” and
“get back on their feet” after a creative injury. I shared with
them the tools I had learned through my own creative
practice. I kept it all as easy and gentle as I could.
“Remember, there is a creative energy that wants to
express itself through you”; “Don’t judge the work or
yourself. You can sort it out later”; “Let God work through
you,” I told them.
My tools were simple and my students were few. Both
tools and number of students grew steadily and hugely for
the next ten years. At the beginning and, for the most part,
always, my students were chiefly blocked or injured artists
—painters, poets, potters, writers, filmmakers, actors, and
those who simply wished to be anything more creative in
their personal lives or in any of the arts. I kept things simple
because they really were. Creativity is like crabgrass—it
springs back with the simplest bit of care. I taught people
how to bring their creative spirit the simple nutrients and
nurturance they needed to keep it fed. People responded by
making books, films, paintings, photographs, and much,
much more. Word of mouth spread and my classes were easy to fill.
In the meanwhile, I kept making my own art. I wrote
plays. I wrote novels and movies. I did feature films, TV,
and short stories. I wrote poetry, then performance art. From
doing this work, I learned more creative tools, wrote more
teaching essays, and, at the urging of my friend Mark
Bryan, I got the essays assembled into teaching notes and
then into a proper book.
Mark and I stood elbow to elbow, printing and
assembling the simple book that I could send out to people
needing help. We mailed it in this form to perhaps a
thousand people, who in turn photocopied and passed it on
to their friends. We began to hear amazing stories of
recovery: painters painting, actors acting, directors directing,
and people with no declared art who began doing the art
form they had always wished to do. We heard tales of
sudden breakthroughs and slow awakenings.
Jeremy P Tarcher, the noted creativity and human
potential publisher, read an early draft of the work and
decided to publish it. Meanwhile, I divided the book into a
twelve-week course, each section dealing with some specific
issue. This simple book was the distillate of twelve years of
teaching and twenty years of making art in many forms. At
first I called it Healing the Artist Within. Finally, after much
thought, I decided to call it The Artist’s Way. It explained
and explored creativity as a spiritual issue. I began to
witness my own miracles.
I often traveled to teach, and at book signings and public
venues people began to hand me CDs, books, videos, and
letters conveying this thought: “I used your tools and made
this, thank you so much.” My most frequent compliment
was, “Your book changed my life,” and I heard it from
artists of little fame and great fame, in backwaters and on
the international frontlines. Using the tools, painters went
from being blocked to winning large, juried exhibitions.
Writers went from not writing to winning Emmy and
Grammy awards for their work. I found myself humbled by
the power of God, the Great Creator, to restore strength,
vitality, and inspiration to individual creative paths, diverse
and divergent. One woman, a blocked writer in her midfifties,
became an award-winning playwright. A longtime
sideman conceived and executed a bravura solo album.
Long-harbored dreams bloomed everywhere the Great
Creator turned a gardening hand. I received thank-yous that
properly belonged to God. I was a spiritual conduit for the
central spiritual fact that the Great Creator loved other artists
and actively helped those who opened themselves to their creativity.
Artist to artist, hand to hand, The Artist’s Way began to
spread. I heard about groups in the Panama jungle, in the
outback, and at that other heart of darkness, The New York
Times. Druid groups, Sufi groups, and Buddhist groups all
found common ground in its simple creative precepts. The
Artist’s Way reached the Internet, forming groups or, as I
call them, “clusters” that were like large melon patches
sending feeders and tendrils out to form now a group in
England, now in Germany, now a Swiss Jungian contingent.
Like life itself, The Artist’s Way, which began to be called a
“movement,” did indeed move onward tenaciously, and
even voraciously. Artists helping other artists proliferated.
Works of art blossomed and careers took off and steadied,
surrounded by supportive friends. I was a willing witness.
A hundred thousand people bought and used the book.
Then two hundred, then a million, then more. We heard of,
and occasionally helped initiate, The Artist’s Way’s use in
hospitals, prisons, universities, human-potential centers, and
often among therapists, doctors, AIDS groups, and battered
women’s programs, not to mention fine-arts studios,
theological programs, and music conservatories, and, of
course, always passed hand to hand, mouth to mouth, heart
to heart, artist to artist, as a form of first aid and gentle
resuscitation. Like a miraculous garden, The Artist’s Way
continued to grow, grow, and grow. It is still growing. Just
this morning I received in the mail a newly published book
and a thank-you. To date, The Artist’s Way appears in nearly
twenty languages and has been taught or recommended
everywhere from The New York Times to the Smithsonian,
from Esalen to elite music studios at Juilliard. Like AA,
Artist’s Way clusters have often gathered in church
basements and healing centers, as well as in a thatched hut
in Central America, and in a python-surrounded shack in
Australia. Did I mention that many therapists run facilitated
groups? They do. People “heal” because creativity is
healthy—and practicing it, they find their greater selves.
And we are all greater than we can conceive.
I wanted The Artist’s Way to be free and, like the twelvestep
movement, largely leaderless and self-taught, growing
through simplicity and lack of control, performing its
expansion through an easy-does-it series of natural, call it
seasonal, self-evolving checks and balances. “It will guard
and guide and fix itself from abuses,” ran my approach.
As we passed the million mark, I feared for the necessary
time and privacy to make my own art—without which
personal experience I could not continue to help others.
How could I write a teaching book if I had no fresh insights
as to what to teach? Inch by inch, I retreated to the solitude
of my personal creative laboratory—the still, quiet place
within myself where I could make art and learn from the
making of it. Every piece of art I made taught me what to
teach. Every year I worked taught me that creativity was
open-ended. There was no upper limit, although some
growth was slow. Faith was the required ingredient.
I began to write dispatches, short, pointed books aimed at
disarming the real and present dangers of trying to make a
sane and gentle creative life. I wrote The Right to Write,
Supplies, and other, more homely and gentle guides such as
The Artist’s Date Book, The Artist’s Way Morning Pages
Journal, and my prayer books aimed at creating a sense of
safety and well-being for those who tread the creative path
in this world. I wished for people good cheer and good
companions. Although art was a spiritual path, it could best
be trod with fellow pilgrims. People listened.
Meanwhile, Artist’s Way books were mandatory on
certain tour buses in the music scene, included as savvy set
decor on films, mailed off to and from grandmothers
blooming brightly in their sturdy dotage, and served as a
bridge for many successful artists to change creative habitats and genres.
As for myself, a novel, a short-story collection, and three
plays found firm footing amid my publishing seventeen
books and continuing, carefully, to both make art and teach.
My students won prizes, and so did I. Utne Reader chose
The Artist’s Way as a masterpiece, the poetry album I made
with Tim Wheater was selected for best original score, and
my teaching books continued to appear on bestseller and
editor’s choice lists throughout America and the world. Is it
any wonder I often felt dazed and confused, overwhelmed
by the velocity of people and events? It is one of the ironies
of a celebrated writer’s life that our natural inclination to sit
alone behind a desk becomes more and more difficult to
pursue. My own morning pages were an invaluable,
continuing source of guidance. I was told both to seek
solitude and to reach for the companionship of other artists
who believed, as I did, that we were always led both by the
Great Creator and by those who have gone before us,
treading their Artist’s Way and loving the same art forms we
do. Higher powers stand ready to help us if we ask. We
must remain ready to ask, open-minded enough to be led,
and willing to believe despite our bouts of disbelief.
Creativity is an act of faith, and we must be faithful to that
faith, willing to share it to help others, and to be helped in return.
Outside my window, out over the Hudson, a very large
bird is soaring. I have seen this bird for days now, sailing,
sailing on the fierce winds that are the slipstream around this
island. It is too large to be a hawk. It is not shaped like a
gull. The Hudson Valley is full of eagles, higher up. I
cannot believe this is one, but it seems to know exactly what
it is: eagle. It doesn’t tell its name. It wears it. Maybe, as
artists, we are such birds, mistaken by ourselves and others
for something else, riding the current of our dreams, hunting
in the canyons of commerce for something we have seen
from higher up. For artists, a wing and a prayer is routine
operating procedure. We must trust our process, look
beyond “results.”
Artists throughout the centuries have spoken of
“inspiration,” confiding that God spoke to them or angels
did. In our age, such notions of art as a spiritual experience
are seldom mentioned. And yet, the central experience of
creativity is mystical. Opening our souls to what must be
made, we meet our Maker.
Artists toil in cells all over Manhattan. We have a monk’s
devotion to our work—and, like monks, some of us will be
visited by visions and others will toil out our days knowing
glory only at a distance, kneeling in the chapel but never
receiving the visitation of a Tony, an Oscar, a National
Book Award. And yet the still, small voice may speak as
loud in us as in any.
So we pray. Fame will come to some. Honor will visit all
who work. As artists, we experience the fact that “God is in
the details.” Making our art, we make artful lives. Making
our art, we meet firsthand the hand of our Creator. 


IN ENDING THIS BOOK, I yearned for a final flourish,
some last fillip of the imagination that would sign the book.
This was a small and harmless conceit, I felt—until I
remembered the number of times I have enjoyed a painting
and been distracted by the outsized artistic signature of its
maker. So, no final flourishes here.
The truth is that this book should probably end with an
image from another book. As I recall it, and this may be my
imagination and not my memory at work, an early edition of
Thomas Merton’s Seven Story Mountain featured a
mountain on its book jacket—the seven-story mountain, no doubt.

Maybe it did and maybe it didn’t. I read the book many
years ago, a precocious twelve-year-old. What I conjure
now is a mountain of Himalayan proportions with a path
winding upward to its height. That path, a spiral path, is how
I think of the Artist’s Way. As we pursue climbing it, we
circle back on the same views, over and over, at slightly
different altitudes. “I’ve been here before,” we think, hitting
a spell of drought. And, in a sense, we have been. The road
is never straight. Growth is a spiral process, doubling back
on itself, reassessing and regrouping. As artists, our progress
is often dogged by rough terrain or storms. A fog may
obscure the distance we have covered or the progress we
have made toward our goal. While the occasional dazzling
vista may grace us, it is really best to proceed a step at a
time, focusing on the path beneath our feet as much as the
heights still before us.

The Artist’s Way is a spiritual journey, a pilgrimage home
to the self Like all great journeys it entails dangers of the
trail, some of which I have tried to enumerate in this book.
Like all pilgrims, those of us on the Artist’s Way will often
be graced by fellow travelers and invisible companions.
What I call my marching orders others may sense in
themselves as a still, small voice or, even more simply, a
hunch. The point is that you will hear something if you
listen for it. Keep your soul cocked for guidance.
I finally discovered the source of all movement, the unity from which all
diversities of movement are born.

Creation is only the projection into form of that which already exists.

A painting is never finished—it simply stops in interesting places.

When Mark Bryan began cornering me into writing this
book, he had just seen a Chinese film about Tibet called The
Horse Thief. It was an indelible film for him, a classic of the
Beijing school, a film we have since searched for in Chinese
video stores and film archives, to no avail. Mark told me
about the film’s central image: another mountain, a
prayerful journey up that mountain, on bended knee: step,
lie prostrate, stand and straighten, another step, lie prostrate
In the film, this journey was the reparation that a thief and
his wife had to make for damaging their society by
dishonoring themselves through thievery. I have wondered,
since then, if the mountain that I see when thinking of the
Artist’s Way isn’t another mountain best climbed in the
spirit of reparation—not to others, but to ourselves.

I wish I could take language
And fold it like cool, moist rags.
I would lay words on your forehead.
I would wrap words on your wrists.
“There, there,” my words would say—
Or something better.
I would ask them to murmur,
“Hush” and “Shh, shhh, it’s all right.”
I would ask them to hold you all night.
I wish I could take language
And daub and soothe and cool
Where fever blisters and burns,
Where fever turns yourself againstyou.
I wish I could take language
And heal the words that were the wounds
You have no namesfor.

The Artist’s Way- A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity
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This book is printed on acid-free paper.
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