I read “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron a long time ago. I believe it was over a decade ago when I had to face some deep personal issues. I didn’t read the book for writing purposes. It was recommended by a friend who, at the time, had no idea about my writing aspirations.

Rather than following the usual format of book reviews (if there is such a thing) I like sharing the personal journey of how reading this Julia Cameron book affected my life.

How Reading Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” Healed the Writer in Me

My writing persona has been dwelling in some slow-burning personal parts since I was a child. Today, I am happy to embrace and practice many different identities. The all shaped me and helped me become the person I am now. Now, I call myself a writer. 

Somewhere around the time this book got into my hands, I became vested in psychology, for reasons that were more or less obvious to me. However, I wasn’t quite so aware of the deeply rooted psychological causes of the writer’s block.

I have a lot to be grateful for to the “The Artist’s Way”. It helped me turn writing for healing into a lucrative career. The greatest benefit for me was not just the financial reward. (That came many years after reading the book).

I am now able to earn money from my writing for another reason, which will be more obvious to anyone who has been happily immersed in the flow of writing

Writing Flow: The Most Desired Writer’s State

Csikszentmihalyi’s genius about happiness is extraordinary. What makes people happy is the state of flow. Flow is a psychological state in which you are so deeply immersed that you would do it for the sake of it, expecting no additional reward.

Rather than expecting external incentives, flow gives intrinsic rewards by itself. 

This certainly doesn’t mean writing for free – unless that’s what makes you happy. Ultimately, other needs will win over the state of flow and you will have to go to grab something to eat, drink, or someone to hug. But it does mean something else.

If you are in the flow, you will write easy, and better, to that matter: the ability to surrender to the thoughts on paper will help you become best friends with your writer’s block rather than consider it your arch-nemesis. 

You can befriend your mental state by practicing Julia Cameron’s morning pages.

What Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, the State of Flow, and Gestalt Therapy Have in Common

The flow is something you can connect to the middle mode of the self in gestalt therapy. Middle mode is the space of creativity and spontaneity. This is the spot in your consciousness that emerges when you get rid of:

  • Self-imposed restrictions
  • Limiting beliefs
  • Unfriendly internal voices 
  • Literary critics that get to you
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron book review 2
Image by rawpixel from Pixabay

The middle mode helps you find solutions to problems you may have never thought you had.  Being in the middle mode is like calling upon the creative child within before it was submerged under layers of insecurity ignited by a second-grade teacher who told you your writing lacked something.

Although the middle mode in Gestalt therapy is used in the therapeutic process, once you get to the hang of it, you can access that sweet spot where your creativity bursts and burns with ease every day. 

This doesn’t mean that the middle mode is always pleasant. It often involves hard work – those morning pages won’t fill out by themselves. But it does help you with understanding why and for whom you write, as well as to find your voice for the global audience. 

Working in the middle mode is possible only if you engage both your brain hemispheres. You need to work with your:

  • Emotions
  • Senses
  • Ratio

I’ve found that doing the morning pages from Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” is the best way to ignite this process. At the end, you come up with a piece of yourself sculpted in a uniquely personal yet, at the same time, shareable and relatable way. 

Your Brain on Writing

If you haven’t looked at “The Artist’s Way” closer, here is a short description of the included workbook: it is a set of exercises and accompanying instructions on how they work. The ultimate purpose of doing the exercises is to deeply hug the writer in you. 

The exercises ask for complete surrender.

This is especially evident when you do the one where you have to write the first gibberish that comes to the top of your mind first thing in the morning. You basically need to open your eyes and start filling out those pages with the noise in your head.

And, if I remember correctly, you need to do this for a month or so, repeating the same exercise each morning without stopping yourself. There is a recollection finale to wrap up the exercise and pick up the benefits for yourself, but if you ever decide to try the artist’s way, you’d better go through it yourself. 

The Healing Powers of Writing

My first pages were full of incomprehensible blabber. They incorporated a lot of the emotional stuff I was processing at the moment. But I didn’t really care. I was determined to follow through, possibly because the pages were doing their magic.

In conventional psychotherapy circles, you can call the magic writing therapy. In shamanic, alternative, spiritual, or “whatever-you-like-to-call” circles that don’t carry the preliminary stamp of mainstream healing techniques, this process is often known as a writing workshop or a writing retreat. 

The name is not that important.The common characteristic of the work is that writing heals. Writing heals because it makes you whole. It helps you get in touch with lesser-known aspects of the self and connect to the whole of humanity. 

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron book review 3
Image by Steve Johnson from Pixabay

Whether you believe in a strong ego concept or are more in favor of global unity, you won’t be able to deny the boundaries that connect us all on an archetypal and collective level. 

Now I Can Sit at My Desk for Hours, Writing

Going through the exercises was admittedly a painful process, However, I came up better equipped to dwell in the uncomfortable space where I could use problematic self aspects for the benefit of my writing.

Thanks to “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, I became capable of seating with hours at the desk and enjoying the process. I also learned how important wellbeing is and that wellbeing and safety should be a part of work, flow, and happiness.

Now, whenever I get too safe, I challenge myself with a writing experiment. It is the best way for me to stretch out and connect. It helps me become more honest in my writing.

Writing with honesty and integrity is what keeps readers awake at night with open books in front of them. There is plenty of travel to reach such a destination. It is not for everyone.

Julia Cameron’s morning pages got me closer to the natural feel of the writing flow. I this is where you want to be, I strongly recommend persisting with the exercises. 

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