Like your relationship with Creativity? If not, Julia Cameron can help you change it. by Lisa Cooper Ellison

Last Thursday, I attended a gathering of local writing friends where we ate food and gave out lots of hugs, along with cheers of “OMG! I haven’t seen you in so long!!” This was followed by a formal meeting where writers were invited to share updates on their projects.

During many of these meetings, it’s exciting if one publication or big milestone is announced, but this time there were four.

While they were all huge, one was particularly joyous for me. Author Jody Hobbs Hesler and I have spent years talking about the milestones, setbacks, rejections we’ve received for our main projects. During this meeting, Jody announced that she recently sold the book we’d been talking about, Without You Here (Flexible Press, November 2024), AND her short story collection What Makes You Think You’re Supposed to Feel Better (University of Wisconsin Stevens Point Press, November 2023). During her announcement, her face beamed so brightly she could’ve lit all of Charlottesville.

But it wasn’t just her joyful expression that touched me. It was what she said about how this came to fruition. Jody had spent years researching presses, contests, and agents, followed by months where she’d submit, submit, submit, and then commiserate with writer friends about the ongoing silence. One friend shared her long road to publishing, then ended with, “Keep trying.” While this was meant as a kindness, keep trying can sound so discouraging if, like Jody, you HAVE been trying EVERYTHING.

After feeling her feels, Jody made a few decisions. “I let myself grieve that everything I’d done hadn’t gotten me where I wanted to be, then I trusted that this friend believed in my work, and I chose to believe in it, too.”

As she regained her confidence, she realized that “keep trying” might not mean continue with the same tired process. Instead, it meant try something different.

Jody is a reader for the Los Angeles Review. While reviewing submissions, she discovered publishers she hadn’t run across before. Her newly opened eyes then stumbled across a Twitter thread of indie publishers other writers enjoyed working with—two of which bought her books.

Seeing the problem differently, trusting in her work, and staying open to the opportunities she’d yet to imagine, led to her successes.

Lately I’ve spoken with many writers who feel as stuck as Jody once was. Some of their stuckness has been due to the first-of-the-year sludge we’ve been trudging through. For others, fear of success or failure has not just nipped at their heels, but grabbed hold and stopped their forward momentum.

“How do I escape this loop?” they ask.

It’s a question I regularly ask myself.

Fortunately, Julia Cameron has some answers.

In early 2020, I completed her program, The Artist’s Way, along with a group of local writers. The Artist’s Way is a twelve-week program, loosely based on the twelve steps of AA that helps stuck writers reconnect with their joy and creativity. Millions swear by Julia’s approach, including me.

Photo of three woman at kitchen counter with food on it
Photo by Kelsey Chance on Unsplash

This year, I wanted to go deeper, so I pulled her latest book, Seeking Wisdom, off my shelf.

The subtitle for this book is A Spiritual Path to Creative Connection, which is one of the things I plan to cultivate so I can spend more time with my weird voice from nowhere.

The four main tenets of Julia’s approach are morning pages, artist’s dates, empowering walks, and writing out guidance.

If you buy her book, and I highly recommend you do, you can read about her rationale for these activities. You can also listen to this fantastic NPR interview.

This week, I want to dive into chapter one, “God Concept.”

Many of us have issues with the word God, or what I call the G-word. In The Artist’s Way, Julia calls God Good Orderly Direction. But for the sake of this series, let’s replace the word God with Creativity.

Julia tells us our first task is to understand our current relationship with Creativity. At first, I didn’t understand how understanding my relationship with the G word would enhance my creativity, but then I had an epiphany: Our concepts of God are often the same ones we attribute to our Creativity.

Many of us have relationships with a toxic Creativity that requires us to get everything not just right, but perfect. It sneers at anything less, which is what it frequently calls the drivel you’re producing. It labels rejections (and requests for revision) as failures, and simultaneously tells you to push harder and give the fuck up.

As long as we remain in this kind of relationship, our work is bound to be shortsighted.

Once you know what relationship you have, you can design the one you want, which I hope is with a loving, benevolent Creativity that nourishes you and allows you to use your gifts for the betterment of all.

After resetting that relationship, you can explore the many ways it manifests in your life and how you’ll communicate with it. On Sunday, I listened to a talk about the three faces of God—the infinite face, or the God beyond us, the intimate face, or the God beside us, and the inner face, or God Being us.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk “Your Elusive Creative Genius” and Deborah Prum’s blog post, “The Celestial Vault,” do a marvelous job describing the infinite face of Creativity and how to access it. If you write on a regular basis, then you have a conscious connection with the Creativity within you. But how do you connect with the intimate face of Creativity—the one that sits beside you and cheers you on?

For Julia Cameron, the answer is seeing your writing as a prayer: “I’m a writer and I pray by writing. This book is a prayer. I move my hand across the page, and I listen for the ‘flow of words,’ what to write next.”

She invites us to do the same, and promises that as we do this, we’ll begin to see things differently, just like Jody did.

Seeking Wisdom is chock full of fantastic questions that can help you examine your relationship with God or Creativity, or as one person she writes about calls it, peanut butter.

But here are a few I’d like you to consider:
What’s your current relationship with Creativity?
What’s working in this relationship?
What needs to be changed?
What’s one way you connect with the Creativity beside you?

Until next time, keep your eyes open to the possibilities around you. May the new things you see help you always write on.

This post originally appeared on Lisa’s blog on January 30, 2023.

Lisa Cooper Ellison
Lisa Cooper Ellison is a writer, speaker, and coach with an EdS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and a background in mindfulness. She regularly presents and teaches courses on the use of mindfulness in writing, writing about trauma, and all things memoir. A regular contributor to the Jane Friedman blog, her essays and short stories have appeared in HuffPost, Hippocampus Literary Magazine, the New Guard Review, Kenyon Review Online, and Brevity, among others. Ellison is represented by The Bindery and recently completed her memoir Please Stage Dive Carefully: A Memoir of Heavy Metal, Healing, and Hope.

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