I first read Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way back in the early 90s. I still have that original copy and freely admit how one part of it transformed my life for the better. Because of Julia, I started writing, by hand, three pages of random thoughts each and every morning and continue today nearly 25 years later. Those Morning Pages, as Julia calls them, have helped to make me not only the writer I am today but the person I’ve become. So when I discovered Julia had published a new book titled, It’s Never Too Late To Begin Again—Discovering Creativity & Meaning at Midlife and Beyond, I bought it and prepared myself to be re-inspired and potentially transformed.
Julia’s new book puts Morning Pages front and center once again. Certainly, the consistent action empowers anyone who wants to embrace the artist or writer within. But Julia also finds them to be perfect for anyone at or nearing retirement. Calling them a “spiritual radio kit,” Julia believes those pages connect us deeply with what lies inside us while at the same time allowing us to hear what the Universe wishes us to know. When a person approaches them as an “active meditation,” they provide a daily window into what we truly think and believe about life, ourselves, and everything else.
I’ll confess that I don’t typically try every suggestion, or even do most of the exercises, but when I first read about Morning Pages something clicked. Julia insists that Morning Pages be done by hand because the very act of handwriting slows down our thoughts and forces us to think at a pace that is far more introspective. As with meditation that can’t be rushed, slowing down also allows us to get in touch with ideas and to feel emotions lurking below the surface. Likewise, she asserts that morning pages are private and not for public consumption. After all, how honest can you be with yourself if you have even the tiniest hesitation about how someone will view what you write?
Morning Pages taught me something else as well. They showed me that even if I don’t feel like I’m in the mood, even if no one ever reads my writing, or even if I never receive a dime for anything I write, I am still a creative being at my core. Once I began to get in touch with my inner creative self, I was gradually able to accept myself as a writer and hone the creative gifts I wanted to offer to the world.
How do Morning Pages help those who don’t care about being writers? Again, the daily connection to what’s going on inside connects people to their inner creative self. And yes, Julia believes we are all creative. We all have something to offer the world, and it is that that makes us uniquely special. Regrettably, most people block their creative nature until something like Morning Pages awakens it and makes it impossible to ignore. Maybe that’s why Julia calls Morning Pages “spiritual chiropractic.”
In the same way, that The Artist’s Way offered ongoing tools for transformation, Julia offers three more in her new book.
- Artist’s Dates—a once a week solo-expedition doing something that interests and entrances you.
- Walking—Julia admits that the very action of walking can stimulate us into movement and is an exercise in “receptivity.”
- Work on a Memoir—by slowly taking the time to develop and work on a memoir of our life we discover and revisit many of the things we knew but forgot along the way.
With the major tools at hand, Julia’s new book takes us through a series of topics over a recommended twelve-week period. Like taking a workshop, Julia provides us with exercises and ideas that offer us the benefit of gradually awakening our creative nature. Again, like with her first book, I found myself skimming through the commentary and only occasionally doing the actual work involved. If you’re anything like me, you might best benefit by doing it in a group or ongoing workshop.
But make no mistake, this new book offers insights into the creative life that make it a worthwhile read. With a focus on those who are near or in retirement, Julia is convinced that this process is as valuable and necessary as ever. Some of the key takeaways I discovered are:
- No matter what age, we all need to connect with that inner sense of wonder and the timelessness we had as children. At that core is a wealth of creativity.
- As we age, our inner-censor usually gets stronger and more crafty at making us doubt ourselves and anything we create. Through undertaking conscious techniques, we can learn to silence that voice and continue to offer the world our gifts.
- Skepticism is another issue that grows as age. The way I understand it, skepticism is the way we view the world and others around us. That returns to the ongoing Einstein quote, “Do we believe we live in a friendly supportive Universe or the opposite?”
- Structure and discipline are necessary for the creative life. Julia believes that ongoing routines quiet and focus our mind, allowing inspiration to come forward.
- Boredom is often a sign that we are stifling our creativity. Even better, it asks us, “What am I doing (or not doing) with my life and what needs to change?”
- One of the most empowering things we can ever do is to be honest and authentic with ourselves and resist the urge to create, write or do anything to please others.
- Self-doubt festers with inactivity. The more doubt you have, the more you need to get busy and do something!
- Crazymakers are people we invite into our lives to make us doubt ourselves and to distract us from our goals and creativity. Let them go!
- Julia believes that the biggest block to creativity is a lack of humility. In other words, if we are afraid to be beginners, or anything less than perfect, it is our ego running the show and attempting to resist failure. Our ego or grandiosity asks, “What if my art is irrelevant? What if I do all that work, only to find that my art is beside the point?” Instead, humility recognizes that making something—anything at all—is a process of unfolding ourselves and contributing to the Universe. From that perspective, no art is ever irrelevant.
- Exercising and eating right are both essential for enhancing our creative nature.
- As we age, and especially after retirement we would do well to redefine productivity. According to Julia, “It can take courage to find that activity that will feed us, and not just ‘get busy with busyness.’”
- Many of us need to develop a level of “healthy selfishness” where we put boundaries between our desire to help others and at the same time nurture our creativity.
- Art is an act of faith. According to Julia, “No matter what form our creativity takes, it boils down to making something from nothing.”
- The act of creation makes us “ageless.” Julia offers, “The paradox is that when we share our ‘senior savvy’ with those around us, we connect to a younger and more vibrant part of ourselves.”
Twenty-five years after reading The Artist’s Way I didn’t find much surprising in her new book. But what I did appreciate were the many reminders of the fundamental truth that I now deeply believe to be true—that we are all creative beings with a purpose to continually create at any age, regardless of what anyone else thinks of it. Julia confirms it with, “We are all creative, and we all have an unlimited supply of creative energy. As we act on it—or spend it, so to speak—in positive ways, we expand and improve our surroundings. But if we contract instead of expand we run the risk of wallowing in our own negativity.”
I also find it helpful to know that even successful authors like Julia Cameron struggle with many of the doubts and discouragements that all artists feel at times. Admitting that with honesty, being humble, staying open to inspiration in its many forms, and “staying the course” are all part of the creative life. And if you aren’t already feeling creative, it might be SMART to challenge yourself to give Morning Pages a try. So, why not start tomorrow morning?
A question for you: Are you currently, or have you ever, done Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages? If yes, what have you gotten from the process? If you’ve stopped, why?