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Customer Review

100 of 113 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Read this book ... with caution, December 17, 2006
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This review is from: The Artist's Way (Paperback)
The practical advice in this book could help a person through an initial stage of getting out of the rut of low self-esteem, and the exercises Cameron gives are strictly structured, but fun. While it's unlikely that the book will be able to help a person to become an artist, it can certainly help a person to become more enthusiastic about life and, possibly, to find more of a sense of purpose and zest in life. Yes, this book could help a person to 'jump start' their dead battery.

So why do I give this two stars and a 'caution'? Here it is: over and over again, the author suggests that, when we follow a 'true' creative path, 'helping hands' tend to suddenly appear to guide us and 'synchronicity' tends to arrive on the scene to bring us serendipitous opportunities we never dreamed of or didn't expect. Well ... sorry folks, but life isn't always like that. Good, focused artistic people with a sense of purpose and drive can get crushed by illness, accidents, or lack of funding or support. Brutal and mean people without any spark of positive creative energy about them can make enormous strides and step on anyone in their way. I expect we have all, sadly, observed this in our lives -- we've all seen it happen. Sometimes, we have great luck in our lives, and sometimes we do not ... Sure, it's great when we are lucky, but I don't think it's wise to promote an idea that following this author's programme will increase the likelihood of good luck coming our way so that our lives will suddenly take off out of nowhere in a flurry of unexpected success and happiness. This is pretty naive -- and it's dangerous. By all means, we should live with joy and courage, and trust our creative intuition, but this needs to be grounded in reality and an understanding and acceptance of life in all its harshness and gentleness - the complete package, for all it is worth.

Another disturbing point: this book puts forward a kind of 'you shall know them by their fruits' attitude -- in other words, if someone is poor and unsuccessful, it is because they are just not being honest with themselves, not believing in themselves, or not having the guts to follow their star. The book suggests that if these unsuccessful people were being truly creative and following their true path, they would be receiving (sometimes out of nowhere, unexpectedly and mysteriously) all the help they need to reach their goal. This is nonsense. Compassion begins when we realise just how random life can be, how precious, and how ephemeral. Maybe knowing this is the beginning of a true artist's way.
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 24, 2006 11:41:49 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 24, 2006 11:43:53 AM PST
The reviewer wrote:

"Sure, it's great when we are lucky, but I don't think it's wise to promote an idea that following this author's programme will increase the likelihood of good luck coming our way so that our lives will suddenly take off out of nowhere in a flurry of unexpected success and happiness. This is pretty naive -- and it's dangerous."

Well, first of all: HOW exactly is expecting good things to happen to you DANGEROUS? He/she makes no explanation how this can possibly be DANGEROUS!

Second of all: I don't know what life experience the reviewer has had, but, you know what? My experience HAS been that, by and large:

When I have been following a correct and true path, helping hands HAVE been there to help me, and my so-called "luck" HAS been better! When I have been making choices not in line with what I am supposed to be doing, then things HAVE been more difficult for me. The author says: "Compassion begins when we realise just how random life can be" But, you know what? Far from being mercurial and random, I have found life to be more or less influenced by my own motivations, and not random at all!!!!

Can folks still get randomly hit by a car or have a random brick fall on their heads? Yeah, I guess. Was this their "fault"? Well, not always--- but even these so-called random events are often influenced by our own state of mind and focus. If you are angry all the time and distracted you are less likely to be paying attention crossing the street.

But, OK, I admit that sometimes bad things DO seem to randomly happen to good people. Yes, I agree.

But the thing that I am saying is that, far from being the way life generally works, these are exceptions to the rules that you get what you expect to get, and that you get back what you give out.

And I think the reviewer is missing the main point. YES it is SOMETIMES true that those who give up everything, "Believe in themselves," and "have the guts to follow their own star" do NOT become famous, rich and successful. Can anyone say "Vincent van Gogh"? The guy is the poster boy for giving up everything for an artistic vision, yet dying destitute anyhow.

But the point he/she is missing is that, far from being random, almost every successful person you are going to meet actually HAS kept that focus of artistic vision before them at all times, and focused greatly upon their goal and believed in themselves. That is, while it won't GUARANTEE your success, keeping these attitudes will GREATLY ENHANCE THE LIKELIHOOD that you WILL succeed-- and NOT having them will GREATLY ENHANCE THE LIKELIHOOD THAT YOU WILL FAIL! You will rarely find a successful artist who doesn't have at least some of these attributes.

That has been my observation anyhow.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 2, 2007 12:34:23 PM PST
gabito says:
thanks for writing that. i totally agree with you and was really annoyed by this person's very negative outlook. it has also been my experience that when one takes action, things occur.

my only disagreement is that success can be measured in many ways, not just by fame and fortune.

all the best,
g

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 23, 2008 1:22:06 AM PST
M.K. says:
Sounds to me like you're not so much disagreeing as screaming at the reviewer, trying to browbeat him into liking the book as much as you did.

That's pretty creepy and controlling of you.

Posted on Jul 14, 2009 3:14:44 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 14, 2009 3:17:02 PM PDT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 26, 2010 4:06:19 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 26, 2010 4:15:41 AM PST
Reader says:
It is very easy to make terrible errors in judgement when we convince ourselves that "helping hands" will help us and guide us to success. For example, we could put all our money into a play we're directing or find ourselves in serious debt pursuing a creative path and find ourselves destitute. This is so sad; however, it is historically true. A number of artists, even outstanding lights from Mozart to Van Gogh, have died destitute, neglected, in penury, following their star. The world may be an artistic playground -- yet we must bear in mind that playgrounds can be dangerous. In my experience, the people who succeed usually do so because they have a lot of support from family and friends. This is reality. We can whip ourselves up into a fury of self-confidence and magical thinking. Most people who do this on their own run into difficulties -- debt being one of the most prevalent hurdles. Money doesn't often come from mysterious "helping hands". It comes from known and understandable sources like supportive parents, friends, investors, welfare, and from the artist working a day job, too. So: to expect that mysterious helpers will come along out of nowhere in the Universe at the eleventh hour is dangerous because sometimes the hands don't come and you can end up in serious debt, etc.

Amother reason why it's dangerous to "expect good" is that it makes us hard-hearted toward people who are not lucky. We end up blaming them and thinking it's all their own fault for failing, instead of seeing that we live in a society that does not encourage artistic endeavour. Or a society that pays lip service to artistic endeavour without supporting it financially. Every artist's failure is our failure for not being those "helping hands" -- we need to be the "helping hands" we've been waiting for! They aren't somewhere out there in the Universe. They are at the ends of our own arms! We need to become a society where we all help each other and help ourselves.

It would seem to me that we need to support artists with our money and our time and not fall into the trap of thinking that they just all need to be positive and go for it and have courage and they'll do just fine. We need to help artists ... and artists who do not come from well-to-do and supportive families need to find ways to keep their heads together, keep positive in a realistic (not magical) way, and support themselves.

This book does not give the artist genuine practical advice. The author does not seem to understand just how tough it is to work in the arts, how much you must have your wits about you and how grounded you need to be. I wish being an artist was as easy as simply believing in yourself, writing in your journal every morning, and taking yourself to the five-and-dime or to a museum or the zoo once a week. I wish it were as easy as understanding that you had some bad parenting. And here's the third reason why "helping hands" are dangerous: Because they negate or deny the grueling hard work and care it takes to be an artist -- a writer, a painter, an actor, whatever. Lucky breaks are certainly a blessing and they come to people randomly -- to the talented and the completely lacking in talent; to the good and the evil both. But what makes an artist is persistent work and toil and effort, whether the lucky breaks come or not. And, as mentioned earlier, "lucky breaks" do not come necessarily to talented people. Just because you are talented does not mean you will be lucky -- though of course we all hope to be lucky and would welcome good luck!

The best thing I can think of is the story of Ganesha, the elephant god of good fortune, when we was writing down the Mahabharata. At the last hurdle, the last phrase, his pen broke. Undaunted, he broke off a piece of his own tusk and used that as his pen to finish the job. That is the artist's way. It's not about visiting candy stores, pointing fingers at your parents, or expecting good things to happen to you. It's about getting on with your work to the best of your abilities, aware of what you owe to Caesar for good or ill, and getting the job done. Cameron's not going to help you to do that.

Posted on Jan 19, 2012 12:57:56 AM PST
I looked up this book as it is - recommended. You have to keep your own mind. I read a few reviews that simply gush, these from people who need confidence, presumably, and someone to give them permission to have ideas and initiative. To these people the book is exciting. When I understood what the exercises in the book are saying, I have to agree with you. I have been a practising artist for years now, and don't want to read her book. Call me too serious people, but, life takes courage, good art takes courage, too.

Posted on Jan 29, 2012 4:37:33 PM PST
These six comments all offer somewhat valid concerns, but let me say that all of you, including the reviewer, are missing a few salient points. This book, which I first read ten years ago, is NOT purported by the author to be the "absolutely complete and ALL-INCLUSIVE manual for ALL aspiring and working artists of EVERY given creative discipline." No, no, no.... It was not meant to apply to every artist out there! And the author says so. Yet, you all seem to be judging it for what it may or may not lack, as a generic how-to that can be applied to ALL artists. This book contains the very thoughtful and useful ideas of a single author, meant to apply to those with whom such ideas resonate. That's all.

This book and other works by the author are directed to those "creatives" who WISH to explore different pathways to their own liberation and individuation, and those artists who might want a reminder or a different articulation of the more "spiritual" aspects of the questions before us. Nothing more. Julia Cameron says as much. The author says, right from the getgo, that some readers may want to skip around or choose the parts they wish to try.... No rules, just the offering. It seems to me that she gives us all plenty of room to do it any which way we choose, simply asking us to give it a fair go. I like the book and find it very useful, but no book can fulfill every artist's needs.... I say, take it for what it is, and use the parts you like or need. I give Julia Cameron two thumbs up!

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 5, 2013 6:53:07 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Apr 5, 2013 6:53:33 PM PDT]
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