The Artist’s Way

I wish I could be disciplined enough to write one post a day instead of churning three or four posts out in one day and then ignoring my wordpress for two weeks. I think if I was a reader I would be confused. My brother-in-law gets confused easily. He likes to follow along on my writing, which is really cool to me, but whenever I write posts all at once, he thinks he has fallen behind. So in advance, Daniel, I do apologize. This is merely the third post I will be writing today. Perhaps it will be the last, though. You might catch up quickly!

The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, doesn’t remind me of the previous books I’ve read. Before I couldn’t stop writing about the book I was reading, whether it was “Fifty Tools” or “On Writing.” Now, though, I am in a little bit of trouble. I am on page 177, and I think I have found only one or two things to comment on.

First, it amazes me how with each writing book, specifically this one, there is an element of spiritualism. Almost each book I have read so far uses a Bible verse as an illustration, and even in this book, Cameron builds her entire premise on “spiritual electricity.” Somehow writers seem to understand two things: 1) the Bible is well written, and 2) writing is not done alone. Writers need Someone bigger–God–to be part of the writing process.

Secondly, The Artist’s Way is more than a writing book. It covers a new part of the creative journey. Instead of offering technical tips to writing better, Cameron says, “Come, go on a journey with me, a journey of recovery.”

Do you like to create but you are afraid to? Do you take time to have fun in a day, treat yourself well, dream big, and actually live the life you would you like to? Julia Cameron walks college students through this book every semester, but she wrote this book specifically with independent students in mind. Laid out in a twelve-week format, there is a brief chapter to read at the beginning of the week and a set of tasks to do throughout the week.

The tasks are not hard; they are actually quite easy, and I think I would enjoy doing a lot of them: “list twenty things you enjoy doing; describe five traits you like in yourself as a child; list five people you wish you had met who are dead,” etc.

They are simple, yet they make a point. How well do you know yourself? Are you living as God created you–free and completely alive–or are you churning through life, addicted to “what gets you by” or numbs you out so you can’t feel, so you don’t have to deal with the black hole you are wallowing in? Are you living life?

The Artist’s Way is about living a journey, about growing, about dreaming, and Cameron has laid out all the steps; I would encourage anyone to read through her book. If life is monotonous and gloomy, think of The Artist’s Way as a helping hand to see sunshine. Try some of the tasks. I started writing “Morning Pages” (write three pages of random everything each morning), and although I don’t end up writing every morning, I love to write them when I do. They give me a voice, and they pin my ideas down on paper.

Yet I would offer one warning. Don’t expect this book to bring about full recovery from discouragement, frustration, co-dependency, or depression. It won’t come. These expectations are too high for a single book written by human hands. We are all only people. God has to be involved.

God is the one who brings healing. Jesus Christ came, died and rose again, offering us freedom, peace and true life. He is holding out life, abundant life, to each of us. All we have to do is accept it, asking Him to save us. We can’t do it on our own, no matter how many well-written books we read or how many growth-processes we have worked through. Jesus Christ, as the true Healer, worked many miracles among the people in Israel, and He’s still in the miracle-business today. Ask Him to help you. He will.

So, do find a copy of Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, and have fun discovering more about yourself. Work through pain and hurts, delight in watching song birds and sunrises again. Write. Paint. Draw. Go horse back riding, scuba diving that trip to Australia you always wanted to make. Delight in being who God created you to be.

Cameron’s book can help; I know it would have helped me over the past three years as I’ve been growing and climbing my own seven-story mountain. Her book helped me today: “Oh, so other people go through stuff like this too!”

It would have been nice reading through The Artist’s Way earlier in my life as God rebuilt this broken reed and helped me learn how to dance again.

“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” -Andre Gide


The L’Amour I Never Knew

This blog’s title isn’t really fair. I am reading a book called, “Education of a Wandering Man,” by Louis L’Amour–one of his memoirs apparently.

I’d like to say I’ve read every one of his books, enjoyed them immensely, and I am a big fan of his works, but I can’t say that I am. In fact, I haven’t read any of them. So I can’t really say I have ever known him . . .

But I am loving his thoughts on education, and I would highly recommend his book. 🙂 It’s a great look at his journey to becoming a writer.

“We do not at present educate people to think but, rather, to have opinions, and that is something altogether different.” (L’Amour wrote this book in the late eighties. I wonder what he would think of American education now?)

“A writer’s brain is like a magician’s hat. If you’re going to get anything out of it, you have to put something in first.”

“As I have said elsewhere, and more than once, I believe adventure is nothing but a romantic name for trouble.”

“What people think of as adventure is something nobody in his right mind would seek out, and it becomes romantic only when one is safely at home.”

“Only one who has learned much can fully appreciate his ignorance.”

“If a person does not ideas, he had better not even think of becoming a writer.”

“It’s important to remember that we are writing about people. Ideas are important only as they affect people. And we are writing about emotion. A few people reason, but all people feel.”

” . . . anyone who attempts to write for western readers had better know, because they do. Having a variety of cactus growing where it is never found will disgust a reader and he will toss your book aside.”

“To write a story of the West, one must have more accurate knowledge than for any other writing I can think of, aside from some kinds of science fiction.”

“One does not, as some imagine, simply ‘dash off a western.’ ”

That is all the further I have gotten so far, but I think if L’Amour was still alive, we could have been good friends.

Many of his good friends–the books and books and books he read–are mine as well.

Half Way There

Reading through 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, I just hit tool 25 today!

Tool 25 ~ Learn the difference between reports and stories.

Just to make sure it’s clear, “reports need not be dull, nor stories interesting” (124).

“Use one to render information, the other to render experience.”

“A wonderful scholar named Louise Rosenblatt argued that readers read for two reasons: information and experience. There’s the difference. Reports convey information. Stories create experience. Reports transfer knowledge. Stories transport the reader, crossing boundaries of time, space and imagination. The report points us there. The story puts us there” (124).

“Who becomes Character. 

What becomes Action. (What happened).

Where becomes Setting. 

When becomes Chronology. 

Why becomes Cause or Motive. 

How becomes Process (How it happened)” (125).

Tool 12 ~ Give key words their space.

Clark throws out a new vocabulary word with this tool: word territory. Give words their own space.

“Do not repeat a distinctive word unless you intend a specific effect.”

I think of a dorm room with see this concept–words crammed into hallways, bickering over who gets to sleep in which garage-sized cubby hole. “Mad” would have a room to himself, I suppose, while “said,” “and,” and “the,” would cram in together somewhere. Of course.

Also, Ernest Hemingway is a great example of intended repetition, someone who doesn’t “strain the writer’s eyes and the reader’s ears” (65).


Tool 10 ~ Cut big, then small.

I’m in the middle of a class assignment–write a letter to someone, anyone, about anything.

Clark says,

“Prune the big limbs, then shake out the dead leaves.”

I grimace. I am almost at the end of page two, single-spaced mind you, and I have worked hard, though rather mindlessly, to get this far.

“When we fall in love with all our quotes, characters, anecdotes, and metaphors, we cannot bear to kill any of them. But kill we must” (50). Clark reminds me, a voice coming out of my foggy haze. Arthur Quiller-Couch echoes him, “Murder your darlings” (50).


I turn back to my assignment, like I must.

Cut the big limbs.


“Midnight In Paris”

Ernest Hemingway, in this brief artsy sketch through the midnight eyes of Paris, said,

“I would hate it . . . “

He was talking about the main character’s writing.

“. . . either because it is no good or because it is good, and I would be jealous.”

These are poor scraps of paraphrase, but they capture my cynical writer’s attitude. What a pain sometimes to be human! Jealousy is such a frustrating hominal trait! Kittens, in jealousy over a bowl of milk, will spat and squall and be adorable. We look at them and laugh. Writers biting one another over audience attention are never adorable.

Oh to be a cat!

On The Writing Life

It’s compelling somehow, painted, abstract, intuitive, and purely inspiring. Her words are not deep nor large, but they hold a meaning, and as Annie Dillard tours me through her writing cabin, block of wood, and the inchworm, I’m left with wanting to write–and yet knowing how hard it is to capture the vision and conquer the page.

From chapter four, Dillard says,

“But you are wrong if you think that in the actual writing, or in the actual painting, you are filling in the vision. You cannot fill in the vision. You cannot even bring the vision to light. You are wrong if you think that you can in any way take the vision and tame it to the page. The page is jealous and tyrannical; the page is made of time and matter; the page always wins. The vision is not so much destroyed, exactly, as it is, by the time you have finished, forgotten. It has been replaced by this changeling, this bastard, this opaque lightless chunky ruinous work.”

And that is the frustrating part. I may see the vision, but it will not go on paper for me — at least not half the vibrancy I know is there. Writer’s frustration. Yes.