Julia Cameron’s international bestseller, The Artist’s Way, has been described as “A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self.” A couple of Sundays ago, I was asked to lead the opening prayer at Sunday services. Given that September is National Recovery Month, I felt it fitting to pay my respects in prayer that morning to Julia Cameron and to The Artist’s Way. Beyond helping me to discover and recover my creative self, doing the work in The Artist’s Way quite literally saved my life.
The Best Investment I Ever Made in My Life
A little over 22 years ago, I bought my first copy of The Artist’s Way in the bookstore of the old Unity Church on Del Curto Road in South Austin. At the time, I had about $30 to my name and was in desperate need of a new vision for my life. I hesitated to buy the book because of my financial situation, but something made me spend nearly $20 of my last $30 on it. It proved to be the best investment I ever made in my life.
The year before I bought the book, I had developed adult onset asthma, been diagnosed as clinically depressed, and had walked away from a senior executive position with an entertainment company that I had helped build from an idea into a NASDAQ-traded public company. I had gotten into the entertainment business to be on the creative side of producing music and films. Instead, my job had morphed into managing lawyers and accountants. It was everything but creative and my soul had gone into despair.
Walking Away from My Dream
One morning I reported to work just like any other day, but the heaviness that had been increasingly pervading my life reached a tipping point that morning. After getting a cup of coffee and sitting down at my desk to start the day, I realized I had nothing left in the tank. I found a box in the supply room, packed up the personal things on my desk, and literally walked away. It was one of the hardest things I had ever done in my life, because it felt like I was walking away from my dream, the vision I had for my life.
About two weeks later, it hit me what I had done. I began experiencing panic attacks, which exacerbated my asthma to the point I thought I was going to die. My asthma inhaler was not alleviating the condition, and for all intents and purposes, I had probably overdosed on the inhaler. I was struggling so hard with my breathing that I landed in the ER at Seton Hospital. After a few hours of being checked out and shot up with adrenaline, the doctor told me they could find nothing wrong with me, but suggested I see a therapist for my anxiety, depression and panic attacks.
There Has To Be a Better Way
A couple of months later, I relented and sought out a therapist. After a few sessions, the therapist prescribed Prozac. I have never been keen on pharmaceuticals, but I accepted the prescription and had it filled. I took the Prozac for about a month and continued seeing the therapist, which amounted to nothing more than me telling my life story an hour at a time and paying for the privilege to do so. I wasn’t feeling any progress.
As I was nearing the end of my first prescription, and on the brink of getting it refilled, I had a revelation. One morning, as I was waiting for the coffee to brew, I took my prescription bottle out of the cabinet, spilled out my morning tablet and stared at it in my hand, contemplating taking it. Somewhere in my soul, I heard my higher self say “No! I am not going to accept that I have to take a pill every day to get through my day.” I put the pill back in the bottle, placed the bottle back on the shelf, and then, looking up at the ceiling, I said out loud to God, “You have got to send me another way, because this one is not going to work for me.”
The Artist’s Way Calls to Me
I wasn’t even sure I really believed in God at the time, certainly not in the way I do today. But I had been doing a lot of spiritual “reading” in the weeks and months leading up to that moment. My mother was attending Unity of Houston at the time, and I attended with her a couple of times when I was in town. I enjoyed the services and really liked the bookstore. My mother had been buying me books on spirituality and prosperity, and I had been “reading” everything she sent me, but had not been doing any of the suggested exercises.
Then one Sunday, I attended the old Unity Church in South Austin with some friends. After the service, while everyone was standing around talking and deciding where we were going to go for lunch, I wandered into the bookstore. It was there that I saw The Artist’s Way for the very first time. It seemed to radiate with a palpable energy from there on the bookshelf, beckoning to me to pick it up, which I did.
Somewhere inside of me I heard a voice say, “Buy this book. It’s for you.” Having only $30 to my name, I resisted at first, but the voice was insistent. So, I bought it, brought it home and began doing the work that afternoon. I say “doing the work” because unlike the other “self help” books I had been reading before, I actually began doing the suggested exercises, instead of just “reading” them. Doing the work made all the difference in my life.
Doing The Work Healed My Life
I can’t begin to detail all of the miracles that began occurring in my life after The Artist’s Way, because I don’t have the space here in this modest article. But suffice it to say that as a result of doing the morning pages and taking myself on a weekly artist’s date, I soon began feeling a sense of optimism and buoyancy in my life. I began writing songs again and playing my guitar, which had languished in its case for several years. Life began moving forward again, and a new vision for my life began to emerge.
About six months after I had completed my first pass at The Artist’s Way, I was rummaging around in my backpack looking for something and I noticed my asthma inhaler at the bottom of one of the side pouches. As I looked at it, I realized I had not used it once in over six months. I had even forgotten it was in my backpack. I picked it up, looked at it, realized I didn’t need it anymore, and threw it away. I have never had an asthma attack since.
For over 22 years now, I have made my living as a freelancer, completely on my creative skills. I have recorded three albums of original music, the third of which is being officially released in late October. I am on the brink of completing my first book, and have made it a sideline passion of mine to teach others what I have learned about the importance of creativity in our lives. Since 2007, I have taught songwriting to hundreds of songwriters through the Austin Songwriters Group and have been facilitating the Soul Writers group here at UCOH for the past couple of years. This is just a short list of the ways in which my life changed since The Artist’s Way came into my life. I even met Julia Cameron along the way, which was a nice bonus.
The Artist’s Way Principles
I am an enthusiastic advocate of The Artist’s Way, I call it my “12 Step Program for Creative Recovery.” Each of the book’s 12 chapters uses the word “Recovering” as the foundation for their respective titles. Titles that range from “Recovering A Sense of Safety” and “Recovering A Sense of Power” to “Recovering a Sense of Connection” and “Recovering A Sense of Faith.” The bottom line is that it helped me to recover my soul, my creative soul. It also gave me a set of principles to live by, even before I became an official follower and teacher of Unity principles as a Licensed Unity Teacher.
So, in closing here, I just want to list the 10 Principles in The Artist’s Way that I committed to way back in 1996. They changed my life. They healed my life. They gave me the new vision I had prayed for, and put me on the path that I continue to walk to this day. So here they are. If they resonate with you, then I encourage you to get your own copy and start doing the work today.
- Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative energy.
- There is an underlying, indwelling 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 runs 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 but 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 towards our creative dreams, we move towards our divinity.
In short, if God is the ultimate Creator, and we are created in the image and likeness of God, then we are created to be creators. This is our fundamental spiritual identity, and it is the recovery of this spiritual identity as Co-creators with God to which all modes of recovery work are ultimately dedicated.
In January, I will be shifting the Soul Writers group into a yearlong exploration of The Artist’s Way. Stay tuned for details in the coming weeks about how you can be a part of that experience.