Natalie, Julia and me

In the late 80’s, early 90’s I found my way to Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind  I loved them.  Ever since I read them I’ve used her timed writing idea any time I’m stuck or needing inspiration or in a lull in which I can’t get myself to write.  Basically you just take a prompt — she has many suggestions but I also just think up a color or a flower or a word I like and start there–and set a timer for 10 minutes (or whatever time you choose) and write whatever comes into your head.  I’ll start with just making a commitment to one 10 minute session a day.  Usually I’ll wind up doing more like two or three 10 minute sessions and by the second day I’ll often expand to do a 30 minute session.  Within a few days the writing flow is usually back and I’m too busy moving along on my project to stop and spend 10 minutes writing on the color green.

After that big success I was interested in Julia Cameron’s  The Artist’s Way.  I’d recently finished delving deeply into my issues in the Fisher-Hoffman process, set off kundalini, written a novel, and launched a second novel.  I’d been writing feverishly for a couple of months when I got Cameron’s book and decided to try it.  From the beginning I loathed the morning pages (for starters I’m a night owl so the whole idea didn’t suit my life style at all).  After the digging and probing of Fisher-Hoffman I didn’t find the exercises that were theoretically supposed to help me find issues to be effective — and I had a notion that I’d opened so much that my being wasn’t going to open any more for a while…  In short order as I struggled with the pages and not liking the process, the flow of my second novel dried up.


Cover of

Cover via Amazon


I also really liked Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write, although I’ve never done any writing practices based on either of them — I just like the wisdom and the great writing.

Cover of "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions...

Cover via Amazon

As you can imagine, I’ve never cared to go back to Cameron’s way.  I always go back to Goldberg’s wonderful work and so far I’ve never been disappointed in the results.  Virtually every writer I know adores The Artist’s Way and I don’t seem to run into other big fans of Goldberg’s Zen path of writing.  So I’m curious whether I just stand alone or whether others like Writing Down the Bones, etc. as well.  Or if others have other teachers they adore.  Or, if you like Cameron’s work, why do you like it?


6 thoughts on “Natalie, Julia and me

  1. Yes, I know a lot of the people I know who love it are early morning people. Interesting point — I’m actually not sure whether they all love it for the personal growth aspects or because it has helped their writing.


  2. Well . . . I do happen to love the Artist’s Way, but also appreciated Natalie Goldberg’s books too. Maybe, being a morning person helps with the morning pages. Interestingly, I would say that the Artist’s Way helped me more with transforming my life than improving my writing so you might have a point about following Goldberg’s advice about writing. Karen


  3. I’ve always loved Natalie Goldberg’s books. The philosophy works for visual artists, too. I own them (and I don’t buy books unless I can’t live without them, otherwise I’d be living in a book storage facility). I have used them in teaching creativity and design classes. Bird by Bird is on my to-read list. As for The Artist’s Way, I have never been able to feel that I could handle the structure and time commitment that I’ve heard is required to work through it. As I working artist, I juggle 3 or 4 jobs at all times, so my schedule is always very erratic. I haven’t ever even leafed through a copy.


  4. I may be one of the few, but I agree with you on all fronts. I have read Natalie Goldberg’s, Annie Lamott’s, and Brenda Uland’s books more than once, and although I’m not a big writer I apply their wisdom and inspiration to other creative things I do in my life. I, unlike so many others, did not take to The Artist’s Way or Cameron’s writing.


    • I’m so happy to hear I’m not alone — all the writers I know who live around me are big fans of Artist’s Way and I feel like a Martian sometimes around them.


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