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Julia Cameron's 'Seeking Wisdom' goes deeper than 'The Artist's Way'

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Sitting in meditation, repeating a mantra or talking out loud to a higher power - writer Julia Cameron says it all counts as prayer and it's the key to unlocking creativity. In 1992, Cameron published her bestselling book "The Artist's Way." Her new book goes deeper. It's called "Seeking Wisdom." Cameron herself set out on that path decades ago after a friend told her flat-out that she was an alcoholic and she needed help.

JULIA CAMERON: Well, what happened to me the day that I got sober was that they said, now, if you want to stay sober, you have to pray. And I was offended. And I said, you don't understand. I have 16 years of Catholic education. That's the greased slide to agnosticism.

MARTIN: In other words, prayer wasn't going to be the antidote for you, or so you thought.

CAMERON: Right. So they said, well, you must believe in something. And I thought about it. And then I said, yes, I do believe in something. I believe in a line of poetry from the poet Dylan Thomas - the force that through the green fuse drives the flower. I said, I could pray to that creative energy. It wasn't an anthropomorphic God. It was a God that captured my imagination. They said, now, when you get up in the morning, say, please keep me sober. And when you go to bed at night, say, thank you for keeping me sober. I felt like I was being cornered into praying. But I was so worried about drinking again that I decided to do what they told me to do.

MARTIN: And when did it start to feel like you were getting something out of it?

CAMERON: I wanted to remain a writer. And so they said to me, let your higher power, your creative energy, your line of poetry - let that write through you. Before that, I had always tried to be brilliant, to write the very best thing that could be written. Once I started letting the higher power write through me, I put up a little sign near my writing station. And it said, OK, God, you take care of the quality; I'll take care of the quantity. That was when prayer began to feel effective to me.

MARTIN: You also talk about prayer in the form of praise - and gratitude, in particular. How does gratitude play into your daily prayer practice?

CAMERON: When we talk about prayers of gratitude, we're talking about something very personal. It might be, I'm grateful for my curly hair. I'm grateful for my dog. You start out with a small list, and as you write, more things come to you. And prayers of gratitude move you from pessimism into optimism.

MARTIN: And do you need optimism to be creative?

CAMERON: I think it's a big help.

MARTIN: I mean, this is what your bestselling book "The Artist's Way" was all about. I remember a friend giving me my copy when I was in my mid-twenties. And it was very practical. It had very - laid out very practical steps on how to live with more intention and how that could show up in creative ways. And a lot of it was about setting very specific routines for yourself. You recommend that in this book as well - developing daily practices. And central to that is the idea of morning pages. Can you explain what that means?

CAMERON: I'd love to explain morning pages. They are sort of the bedrock tool of what I call a creative recovery. And what they are are three pages of longhand morning writing that you do first thing on awakening, and they can be about anything or everything. They often feel scattered. You find yourself saying, I forgot to call my sister back. I didn't remember to buy kitty litter.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: What does that do for you as you move through your day?

CAMERON: Well, it keeps you from being sidetracked by other people's agendas. You're writing down, this is what I like. This is what I don't like. This is what I want more of. This is what I want less of. You want to be authentic. You want to tell people precisely how it is you are feeling. And what I find with morning pages is that they puncture denial. Whereas we might have said previously, I feel fine, with morning pages, you define fine. You say this is what I mean by fine.

MARTIN: Why do you believe spirituality and creativity are so intrinsically linked?

CAMERON: I have found that if I teach people to work on their creativity, their spirituality wakes up. And if I try teaching about spirituality, their creativity wakes up. So the two seem to me to go hand in glove. And I think we have a lot of negative mythology about creativity. We tend to believe in the image of a suffering artist and that creativity is born out of pain. What I have found is that creativity is born out of happiness, which is a radical step to take.

MARTIN: Julia Cameron - her new book is called "Seeking Wisdom: A Spiritual Path To Creative Connection." Julia, what a pleasure it's been to talk to you. Thank you.

CAMERON: You're welcome. It's been a pleasure talking with you as well.

(SOUNDBITE OF NATHAN HUI-YI'S "SEE YOU AT THE SUMMIT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.