Commiting to lead a more creative life seems to be a good way to start the New Year.
I would like to launch the New Year with a tribute to Julia Cameron. The good she has done for this country and the world may be incalculable. What is creativity worth, anyway?
Cameron, who has recently moved to Santa Fe and whom I do not know personally, is the author of The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. Cameron initially had to finance the self-help book herself; but with its popularity rising, she found a publisher in 1992. It has now sold millions of copies worldwide and has been inducted into the “Self-Publishing Hall of Fame.”
Cameron believes that we are all creative and that it has its source in the divine, however each of us may frame it. She asserts that when one commits to being more creative, synchronicities will open all sorts of doors. Her book provides a series of activities to be followed over the course of three months to discover one’s possibilities, many of them extremely enjoyable and some that are kind of like undergoing therapy.
Commiting to lead a more creative life seems to be a good way to start the New Year. After all, creativity will be essential to resolving the challenges the nation faces. However, the more important reason to commit is because creativity is such a joy. The ways to express it are infinite, from weaving a blanket to designing new software, and there is probably no activity on earth that is more soul-satisfying.
In fact, it is possible that each of us is creative in multiple ways. I have been through the curriculum of The Artist’s Way three times and emerged with different inspiration on each occasion. One of the exercises led me into a very happy experience I would never otherwise have imagined possible, and perhaps sharing it will give others ideas.
One of the early exercises in the book is to think about people in your “monster hall of fame.” These are the individuals who discouraged creative endeavor by withholding encouragement or by administering a deliberate or unwitting put-down. The person who came to mind for me was a college professor.
As a freshman, I intended to minor in music and soon registered for a class in music theory. At some point in the curriculum, we were required to compose a piece for the piano. Excited by the challenge, I spent weeks of hours locked up with an upright piano in a room the size of a closet, emerging with a melody of which I was very proud. In fact, I was one of the few students who volunteered to have the professor play my composition for the class.
The lecture hall was large as I remember, and on the big day the professor walked to the baby grand, announced my name, and sat down to play. The sound that emerged was jangled and discordant. My face must have gone pale as I sat there, stunned. After a while, the professor seemed to collect himself. “Oh, excuse me,” he said. He rotated the composition and began to play again. Everyone laughed, but I realized instantly that the comedy had been inspired by the naiveté of my work.
A “C” in the class (I just checked) confirmed that I didn’t have the background to be a music minor, and I immediately retreated. I rarely touched the piano after that until I was given a baby grand for my birthday some thirty years later and began to take lessons again from a very good teacher. Around the same time, I went back through Cameron’s book, and the awful memory surfaced.
Due to a commuting marriage I was alone most of the time, and I decided I had unfinished business with composition. I worked very hard on my music for two years, bought an electronic keyboard, learned how to compose with a software program, and proceeded to write the music and the lyrics for five different songs. They weren’t great, of course, but my teacher was amazed. This was 1998, and one song was about Monica Lewinsky. (“Monica, far more important than you knew.) I had fun. Screw you, music professor.
Life moved on, and now writing takes up virtually all my time while the beautiful piano sits patiently awaiting further attention. Every now and then I sit down and play one or more of those compositions, and I will never forget how much I enjoyed my time at the keyboard during those two years.
I hope I’m not in somebody else’s monster hall of fame, because I think bad karma can come from squelching anyone’s creativity, even unwittingly. Retrieving it even late in life is thus the victim’s way to absolve the guilty party.
So thanks to Julia Cameron and her book, my music professor has been relieved of bad karma, and I really don’t hold a grudge. The vibration of forgiveness takes things up a notch, and how interesting that the personal joy of creativity is amplified by an even greater good. I highly recommend The Artist’s Way. It is still a big seller, continually creating a better world.