Top critical review
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Good if you need a push; Don't bother if you're on firm footing.
on April 21, 2008
Three years ago I was required to purchase The Artist's Way as a textbook for a class. Following Julia Cameron's 12-week method was part of our curriculum and training, which in itself seemed like a good idea.
From the outset, I noticed several things about this book that a potential reader should probably consider:
1. This book would be best for you if you're creatively blocked, or if you feel that you need help and support in getting more creativity into your life with the aim of bringing it to your art. Ms. Cameron assumes that her typical reader grew up in (and still resides in) an environment unsupportive of creative growth and uses this premise as a starting point for writing and artist date exercises. Inner and outer creative blockage is assumed. This may or may not match up with your own life experience.
2. The content, writing and exercises prescribed in this book are repetitive, which means they will net results for some. For others, the repetition can get tiresome.
3. The tone is what a lot of folks would call "new agey." I'm not sure that I would use that term exactly, but some of Ms. Cameron's affirmations and meditations do recognize a generic "higher power," so if you're uncomfortable with that in any way, be sure to adapt her text accordingly. It isn't invasive, but it may cause some persons to bristle.
4. Some of Ms. Cameron's suggestions for artist dates are a bit tony, as they are based on her own experience living in New York City among other high-visibility creative people. Not everyone has composer friends penning scores for Broadway musicals or fellow NY Times bestselling author friends with which to walk their dog in Central Park. These are all wonderful examples, but remember to tailor your artist dates to whatever YOU like to do, in the time and budget that you have for such a weekly appointment with yourself.
I did not personally find that this book was a perfect match for me. As a very confident, productive and creatively secure visual art professional, I didn't get as much out of this book as I had expected to. However, I have recommended this book to friends who were blocked or struggling with getting back to their own regular art or creative practice and they loved it. Ultimately, I followed along with Ms. Cameron's methods through about step or week 5, and then I only did the journalling and artist dates. My copy of this and her other books were donated to people that really needed them after my class was over.
Ultimately, my advice is:
- If you have a creative block, unsupportive family or friends, or you just need a little extra nudge to get your creative self back up and running, this book might be for you. Maybe all of it, maybe some of it, maybe just a smidge.
- If you've already got a good creative routine, you're unblocked, you are surrounded by supportive people (including yourself!), and you're feeling productive with your creative work, this book might be redundant or non-applicable to you.
- The morning pages journal exercise is helpful to almost everyone, even in an abbreviated format. I no longer practice the morning pages, but I know other artists who have kept doing them for years after reading this book. I think that points to something that gets results.
- The idea of artist dates, if you don't already have something like this in your life, are a good idea... just tailor the artist dates to YOUR life and budget.
I would have given this book more stars for better organization, more concise and less conversational tone, and less "new agey" tactics on some exercises.