How to Live a Creative Life: Advice from Julia Cameron

I have been reading Julia Cameron’s book The Creative Life: True Tales of Inspiration. It’s a charming insight into her life, friendships and struggles to create. Julia Cameron is the bestselling author of The Artist’s Way, one of my all-time favorite books on rediscovering creativity that I am called to revisit every few years. In her book, she describes her life and it’s a beautiful example of how to live a creative life.

Journaling has always offered a powerful outlet for me to grow, explore, play and dream but it is only one part of my creative life. It forces me to slow down and focus on the page for a few precious moments. In the book Cameron writes, ” I don’t enjoy a speeded-up life. There is no time for savoring people or events.” I realize that I feel the same way. I spent the past 12 years running a business and raising two kids, and oh yeah, having a husband (poor guy, I am grateful he’s still around, he often fell to the bottom of the to-do list in those early years.) I didn’t spend time being creative, journaling or slowing down in ways that were healthy for me, my kids and my marriage. I learned some lessons the hard way and discovered that when I am not living a creative life, I am miserable.

I have actively worked to create more space in my life for creative expression. I miss my friend Tina dreadfully. For the last year or so that I was in Texas, we would faithfully get together a few times a month for creative play dates. It didn’t matter what we created and sometimes we just doodled or chatted or painted backgrounds for collage pages… we discovered SoulCollage® together, a powerful tool for self-discovery that we both adore. These times were so precious and helped me realize that as an entrepreneur, it was okay to take time out. Yes, we met during business hours at my kitchen table, putting everything else on hold and not sacrificing our family time which was and still is sacred to us both.

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We were emailing back and forth today and missing our time together. This is what Tina had to say about me, “You are the only person I know who truly values creative space and makes it a very high priority. Everyone else slides in creativity ‘where there’s space’ and that is very different.” I hadn’t thought of it that way. It’s always so powerful to see ourselves through the eyes of others, isn’t it?

We used to giggle, we had such different working tempos. I would speed through projects and doodles while Tina slowly planned and played and took her time. Yet our intention was the same: we were there to enjoy the creative process. It wasn’t about the outcome or the value of what we created, it was about the journey.

For me that enjoyment of the journey is the juice that powers a creative life.

In another part of the book, Cameron writes, “Putting my pen to the page, I begin to understand my own culpability: I hadn’t put first things first. Days passed in which no writing was done. Writing now, I glance out the window at the soft, gray fog, and I begin to find it beautiful. All that is required for this transformation is my focused attention. If I slow down, life is beautiful.”

The Creative Life requires you to slow down

“If I slow down, life is beautiful.” I love that quote, so powerful and so true but it took me so long to realize it. I had to sell my business and move across country to fully acknowledge the role that creativity plays in my own life. Tina helped me to see that I love to have others to play with, too. Since I moved to Santa Barbara I started a Meetup for women who love to make art and journal, I am teaching SoulCollage® through my church and I have a dedicated craft room in my house that makes it easy to carve out a few minutes or a few hours for creative time.

Yet the act of making something is just part of living the creative life. For me, living a creative life is about seeing the world, seeing into life, not just looking at it as Anne Baxter says. It’s about slowing down long enough to breathe it all in: to watch the gentle unfolding of the pink camellia blooming in my backyard, the flight of the red shouldered hawk I see on my daily walks, the hills that are suddenly green after the winter rains, my daughter’s giggles, my son’s sweet hugs and the sparkle in my husband’s eyes. My conscious awareness of what is happening around me feeds my creative spirit.

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When I stop paying attention, I feel disconnected, lost, alone and really grumpy. Like Julia Cameron returning to her writing, an hour in the craft room can work wonders in lifting my spirits.

Cameron’s simple memoir describing the small details of her life: her piano lessons, lunch with a friend, the dogs’ reaction to a thunderstorm, a hotel room in London all show how she lives her craft simply by being aware and present in the moment.

Here are some writing prompts to inspire your creative life this week:

1. Sit in a chair by a window or go sit in your backyard. Set a timer for 15 minutes and describe what you see.

2. What did you eat for lunch today? Describe the who, what, where, when and why of the lunch.

3. Grab some crayons or markers and just start doodling, fill a page with words, shapes, colors. Then pick one shape, word or color and write about it for 15 minutes.

It doesn’t take hours of being tied to a desk or computer to live a creative life. It just takes a shift in focus and a slowing down. If you like writing prompts as a way to get started, check out some of my other posts, too.

If you need some help, support and guidance on your personal journey to the creative life, consider joining my HeartWise™ Sister’s Circle, a membership group for women who want to remember how to be creative and how to create a vibrant vision for their lives that support all of who they are.