here are many ways a writer can live a creative life. Whether you are feeding your muse by having lunch with a fellow creative, or tapping out the next scene on your keyboard, creative inspiration can strike anywhere—if you are open to receiving it.
By making time for yourself and your craft, you nurture your creativity and allow it to grow. That’s the key principle behind the creativity work of Julia Cameron.
Julia has been an active artist for more than thirty years and is the author of more than thirty books, fiction and non-fiction, including her bestselling works about the creative process: The Artist’s Way, Walking in This World: The Practical Art of Creativity, and Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance. A novelist, playwright, songwriter, and poet, she has multiple credits in theater, film, and television. Julia lives in New York, NY.
WOW: As the go-to creativity expert for writers, how would you suggest they harness their creativity and channel it onto the page?
JULIA: I would suggest they start by doing Morning Pages: three pages of longhand, morning writing about absolutely anything. Because there is no “wrong way” to do Morning Pages, you simply write about what strikes you. The Pages train your inner critic to stand to one side and let you write freely.
WOW: You are so wonderfully prolific! Having written more than 30 books, plays, poetry, and even a feature film, what is your secret to so much successful production?
JULIA: I believe the secret to my productivity, again, lies with Morning Pages. I have learned to allow the Great Creator to write through me. I am a conduit more than anything else.
WOW: In your book, The Creative Life: True Tales of Inspiration, you chronicle the process of developing a musical with two partners. What tips do you have for writers who are considering a collaborative project?
JULIA: I believe collaboration can move us to new and higher levels of creativity. As we take in the input of our colleagues, we may find ourselves honing our ideas and perfecting them. It’s important to choose our collaborators with care—the wrong collaborator brings discouragement. What we want is someone who respects and appreciates our work, and we theirs.
WOW: “Write what seems to want to be written” is a piece of advice you gave one of your students. Should that always be the practice or should some consideration be made for writing what is marketable?
JULIA: “Write what wants to be written” is sound advice, guaranteeing we will have passion and enthusiasm for our subject matter. When we write with such fire, our work is persuasive and often marketable. When we try to write “to the market” with no thought given to our enthusiasm, we run the risk of sounding stale. But it’s important to note that what we want to write, and what the market wants to buy, may well be the same thing.
“I believe that when we write from a spirit of service, it frees our writing and allows us to write with clarity, precision, and passion.”
WOW: Discipline can be both a writer’s best friend and her antagonist. In your opinion, how can commitment (planned writing) and creativity (inspired writing) co-exist?
JULIA: It is important to write for the love of writing, and that love may well be exercised on planned writing as well as our creative forays. It is important to realize that we can write salable work, and that our inspiration may come quite freely when working on a commercial piece. I believe that when we write from a spirit of service, it frees our writing and allows us to write with clarity, precision, and passion.
WOW: You talk about the importance of having an emotional compass. How does that help with your creativity and your writing?
JULIA: I believe that we all have a source of inner guidance that moves us in right directions if we are willing to listen to it. I call this inner guidance “True North,” and it is a strong, inner sense that we are moving in the right direction.
WOW: In The Creative Life, you say the key to success lies with open-mindedness—being willing to change and improve a piece rather than being stubborn and insisting on its genius. How does employing that open-mindedness affect your personal creativity?
JULIA: Early in my career, I was not very teachable. I had a lot of ego invested in being “good.” As I matured, and my work matured, I became willing to be open-minded. I found colleagues whose opinion I valued. I would show them my work and listen carefully to their feedback. Now, it is routine for me to show my work to a close circle of friends whom I call “Believing Mirrors.”
WOW: The philosophies “easy does it” and “one day at a time” have changed the way you write. What are the ways you’ve incorporated them into your writing routine?
JULIA: I had to learn to do a small, doable amount daily rather than binge on my writing. I found that doing writing as a daily practice actually allowed me to build up pages rather rapidly. In addition, the slogans you mentioned kept me from panicking on a project and stalling out. In effect, I learned to lower my creative jumps.
“There is great freedom to be had if we are willing to let ourselves write imperfectly.”
WOW: “It’s a process” is a gentle reminder from your collaboration partner, Emma, and has become a mantra for you. How does embracing that phrase affect your creativity?
JULIA: One of the things that I had to learn was the value of the rough draft. It allowed me to write freely, and it allowed me to recognize that a piece of work might go through multiple drafts before being ready for public consumption. There is great freedom to be had if we are willing to let ourselves write imperfectly. The imperfect can always be perfected, but it is, as Emma notes, a process.
WOW: When a writer’s muse takes an unexpected vacation (or goes out to lunch), how do you suggest the writer overcome that creativity block?
JULIA: It is important to realize that we do not need to be “in the mood” to write. The act of writing calls forth inspiration. Some of our best writing may be done on the days when we feel the most stifled. The important thing is to turn up at the page and begin.
I recommend reading Ernest Holmes, the founder of Science of Mind. His short book, Creative Ideas, teaches that creativity is the natural order of life. I believe this. Additionally, I have written four prayer books that I believe give help and encouragement. They are compiled now under a single cover as Prayers to the Great Creator. I read them daily and find them hopeful and helpful.
“Some of our best writing may be done on the days when we feel the most stifled. The important thing is to turn up at the page and begin.”
WOW: For your students, you recommend finding a “Believing Mirror.” Please share that concept with our WOW! readers.
JULIA: A “Believing Mirror” is someone who reflects back to you your genuine possibilities as an artist. Optimistic, enthusiastic, and generous, such people are friends to our work. They bring us courage to go forward.
WOW: What final words of wisdom can you share with readers about living a creative life?
JULIA: Leading a creative life is really very simple. If you write Morning Pages, take a weekly Artist Date, and make a habit of walking, you will be led to new creative vistas. The tools are simple, and the rewards enormous.
For more information about Julia and her creativity work, visit www.theartistsway.com.
Annette Fix is the author of The Break-Up Diet: A Memoir. She speaks at national writer's conferences and hosts online and in-person workshops: “Online Author and Book Promotion,” “How to Get the Right Agent for Your Manuscript,” and “Memoir 101: Drawing from Your Life to Create Your Story.”
Annette blogs about writing and book marketing at www.annettefix.com. She is the former senior editor of WOW! Women On Writing.
Enjoyed this interview? Check out some of Annette’s other interviews on WOW!:
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Secrets for Your Success: An Interview with Literary Agent Wendy Sherman
Time to Write: An Interview with Kelly L. Stone
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Storytelling in a Reader’s Theater with Wendy Kamenoff
The Voice of Comedy: 20 Questions with Lori Alan
Humor in the 10 Items or Less Lane: An Interview with Hillary Carlip
Book Groups Unite!: An Interview with Book Group Expo Founder Ann Kent
Give Children Their First Book: An Interview with Kyle Zimmer