Morning pages for humanity…and the Earth

Julia Cameron

Julia Cameron

This week, in preparation for Julia Cameron’s presentation at the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, I have been doing quite a bit of thinking about creativity.

Cameron’s great insight, back in the late 1980s when she was doing the teaching that led to her blockbuster creativity self-help guide The Artist’s Way, was that human beings are all naturally creative.  We just tend to get “blocked” by our upbringing, and need to work on ourselves in a systematic way to unlearn bad habits of self-doubt and defeatism, so that our creative juices can flow freely out into the world.

One question I wish I’d asked Julia at her lecture last night at Kripalu is this: I wonder whether women have any particular creative challenges, different from those faced by men?

The Artist’s Way does not seem to draw any distinction. Cameron uses the gender-neutral term “creatives” and her examples are drawn from the experiences of both men and women.

And yet it seems to me that women are particularly susceptible to the kind of distraction, hyperactive multi-tasking and withering self-doubt that Cameron says are anathema to artists.

One woman in the audience at Cameron’s lecture described herself as “frantic,” or maybe she said “panicked,” facing such a huge to-do list of projects she’d like to accomplish that she was paralyzed by the enormity of it all.

Julia’s response was characteristically calm and pragmatic: slow down, write your morning pages faithfully, ask for guidance from your higher self, and be patient—it will come.

This is certainly good advice for anyone who wants to accomplish creative goals, but it seems especially relevant for me, and all the busy women like me who so often do not take the time out for ourselves, to recharge our own creative batteries.

Cameron’s “morning pages” are deliberately unfocused.  They are not meant to be a to-do list, or an outline for a project, or a mission statement.  They are simply meant to provide a regular, rhythmic opening for the creative spirit, which Cameron clearly conceptualizes as coming from a higher source.

“I learned to turn my creativity over to the only god I could believe in, the god of creativity,” she says in The Artist’s Way, “the life force Dylan Thomas called “the force that through the green fuse drives the flower.”

By allowing ourselves the time and space to be open to the creative life force that gave birth to us, we are allowing ourselves to become channels through which those creative juices can flow out into the world, manifesting all in kinds of ways, depending on our particular gifts.

As Cameron said last night, this can sound a bit “woo-woo.”

But the life force is in a way the final frontier for human understanding, the one mystery we still have not been able to penetrate via science.

We argue about when life begins—at conception?  in utero?  at birth?—and we recognize that there seems to be much more to the universe than we can measure with our physical senses or scientific instruments.

We know in an intuitive way that when we are “in the flow,” allowing ourselves to be creative channels, things can start happening that seem entirely beyond our control, and not at all coincidental.

Julia Cameron calls this synchronicity: “we change, and the universe furthers and expands that change….It is my experience both as an artist and as a teacher that when we move out on faith into the act of creation,” she says, “the universe is able to advance.”

The thing is that not all creations are equal.

Human creativity is not always a good thing.

It’s fair to say that over the past 500 years, since the Catholic Inquisition began its war on the older, nature-based religions and the European powers began their colonial assault on the rest of the world, the dominant paradigm of human creativity on the planet has been materialistic, channeled by our rulers into paths shaped by greed and lust.

Domination and aggression have driven the leading edges of human invention: we have proven very adept at creating guns, machinery and synthetic chemicals, haven’t we?

We have also created a might-makes-right philosophy that has literally bulldozed away any impediments to the harnessing of the natural resources of our planet, including the vast majority of humankind, in the service of short-term gain for the elite.

But at the same time, human creativity has always flowered anew, with each new generation having the potential to choose a different way of channeling that divine universal flow.

We stand at a juncture in history when it seems that the planet is poised to hit the evolutionary reset button, sweeping human beings away to make room for the emergence of new physical vessels for its irrepressible life force.

I believe there is still time for human beings to come to our collective senses and begin to shape our creative output into inventions and ethical paradigms that support and enhance life, rather than torture and destroy it.

I worry about the role the media plays today in limiting and predefining children’s creative imagination.  Little children who used to spend hours playing pretend games, making up elaborate stories complete with visualizations and acting, now spend those same hours playing violent video games or passively watching commercial television, with its monotonous message that consumption equals happiness.

But I take heart from the teenagers I teach, who continually show themselves able to see through the mesmerizing power of the media and think creatively for themselves.

We human beings all need to be doing our “morning pages” in these crucial final years of the modern era, seeking to tap into the “pure positive energy of the universe” and open ourselves to the possibility of different, more harmonious and balanced creative forms.

Because I believe that women have an important role to play in this shift, I am totally dedicated to the work I’m undertaking in this month’s Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, opening up lots of opportunities for women to share their creative visions.

Women sharing their creative visions at the Deb Koffman open mic in Housatonic, MA

Women sharing their creative visions at the Deb Koffman open mic in Housatonic, MA

This is not just about women writers patting each other on the back and trying to advance our individual careers.

This is about women forming what Julia Cameron unabashedly calls “Sacred Circles” to propel humanity beyond the destructive domination-and-extraction model of the human relationship to our Mother Earth.

Next year’s Festival will have a special focus on women, creativity and environmental sustainability, to help us train our focus on the most urgent matter at hand: the destruction and contamination of the planet, with the resulting drastic climate change shifts that are coming in this century no matter what we do now.

Women and men worldwide need to rise to this challenge with every ounce of our creative energies.  On this International Women’s Day, 2013, I call on women, especially, to make a commitment to using our creative power for the good of the planet and all her denizens.

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9 Comments

  1. Martin Lack

     /  March 8, 2013

    Hi Jennifer. It is good to see you working the message hard. Julia Cameron certainly sounds like a formidable lady. I got into a very unexpected argument with a female neighbour last night. She had had a hard day at work and was already rather irritable before we went out for a drink, so I guess I should have been more careful with my choice of words…

    Towards the end of the evening we somehow got onto the subject of the need to limit future human population growth and I offered my opinion (as per the post on my blog today*) that the key to solving this problem is the education, emancipation and empowerment of women – because such women do not choose to have large families. Unfortunately, I did not use these words and, instead, mentioned the importance of contraception. Sadly, my neighbour somehow extrapolated from this that I blame women for being raped…

    Would you, by any chance, have any idea what proportion of global births result from women being raped? Although I absolutely do not wish to diminish the importance of rape (as a cultural problem), I would like to have some reassurance that my neighbour’s reaction was mainly fueled by alcohol. That is to say, I do not believe rape is a major cause of our current failure to halt global population growth. However, I am fully prepared to accept that I may be wrong…
    * See http://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/domestic-abuse-on-a-planetary-scale/

    Reply
    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  March 8, 2013

      I don’t have a statistic for this (and I’m not aware that such records are being kept, especially not globally) but I totally agree with you that empowering and educating women leads to smaller families, which is good for the planet. It’s been shown over and over to be true. Check out UN Women for statistics on this…or the UNFPA, the population agency. Happy IWD, Martin!

      Reply
      • Martin Lack

         /  March 8, 2013

        Thanks Jennifer (and, yes, I did send my “Mom” a card)!

  2. I have not read The Artist’s Way. But if anyone believes that women suffer no gender-specific obstacles to their creativity, they must be men. Women are conditioned from before birth to serve, to fix, to nurture–others. It is the nature of patriarchy. How can anyone think women don’t encounter obstacles to our creativity, be they doing much more than our fair share of child rearing and housework to aiding the men in our lives to having to work twice as hard to hear 77% of what men earn? The proverbial “room of our own” often means not only space but time. Add to this the fact that women artists and writers find it harder to get agents, publishers, galleries, grants, and prizes, and you have a small part of the picture. And of course I am not only thinking of literary or artistic creativity. One can be creative in many ways, and in all of them this same gender gap exists.
    I would be very suspicious of any authority on creativity, no matter how brilliant or persuasive, who does not factor gender (as well as class, race, culture, age, mental and/or physical ability and other variables) into her analysis.

    Reply
    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  March 8, 2013

      I agree with you, Margaret–but at the same time, there is an appealing universality to Cameron’s take on human creativity. It would be very interesting to take The Artist’s Way as a starting point, add in the race/class/gender/culture/etc analysis, and see what we came up with! Happy IWD to you and Barbara!

      Reply
  3. Wow, Jennifer. So much to comment on here. I have gone through the Artist’s Way twice with friends and found it, each time, to be life changing – allowing me to open up the creative force that easily goes underground. I still do morning pages. I see this going underground as related to the “war on the older, nature-based religions” you mention. The internalized shame, perhaps, that is associated with expressing anything organic, creative and juicy when society, parents, whomever have demanded we perform and do things logically, scientifically or just “by the rules”..

    I also believe, as you reference in your last post, that we need new stories to reframe and energize our world. The one I love that counteracts our 500 year-old pattern of separation is the Eagle and Condor prophecy from the Andes Indians. This prophecy says that every 500 years, a period of time they call a Patchacutic, there will be a shift. The one you described, the modern world almost obliterating the more nature-based world, was to happen 500 years ago around the year 1500.

    They say this Patchacutic, starting around the year 2000, the Eagle people (modern) and Condor people (land based, spiritual) have the opportunity to come together, without blame or shame, remember they are brothers and create a new world together. That may sound woo woo but I really don’t care. It helps me keep my sanity and work towards creating a better world. I look forward to the day when wooo wooo is just the new normal!

    Thank you for all you do and your dedication to speaking out and helping others do the same!

    Reply
    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  March 9, 2013

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Analesa! I too have been thinking about the Eagle & the Condor, as in this post from last fall:

      https://bethechange2012.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/will-the-eagle-and-the-condor-land-together-in-the-new-millennium/

      Let’s not let those dismissive, censorious voices drown out our longing for a better human society that can live in harmony with the Earth again. The more of us who start speaking out of our deepest yearnings and most profound intuitive knowledge, the more our movement for change will grow.

      “Another world is possible. On a clear day, I can hear her breathing” –Arundhati Roy

      Reply
  4. I was so struck by the Arundhati Roy quote that I almost forgot what I wanted to say about the blog itself!
    This sentence below is the best argument I have heard for finding time in my day, every day (despite the demands of care-taking for my mom and caring for my grandchildren) to sit quietly, open my heart and allow myself time to write. Thanks for the inspiration!
    By allowing ourselves the time and space to be open to the creative life force that gave birth to us, we are allowing ourselves to become channels through which those creative juices can flow out into the world, manifesting all in kinds of ways, depending on our particular gifts.
    Thank you for all you are doing to make sure women’s creativity flourishes!
    Peace!

    Reply
  5. leavergirl

     /  March 11, 2013

    And on another planet, this, from Clusterfuck nation, today’s post. I am reposting a bit of it just to see if it might make a dent in your paeans, Jennifer, to Prez O.

    “Case in point: Mr. Obama’s choice of Mary Jo White to run the Securities and Exchange Commission. A federal prosecutor back in the Clinton years, Ms. White eventually spun through the revolving door onto the payroll of Wall Street law firm Debevoise & Plimpton, whose clients included Too Big To Fail banks JP Morgan, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and UBS AG, defending them in matters stemming from the financial crisis that began in 2008, as well as other companies that needed defending from allegations of financial misconduct, such as the giant HCA hospital chain (insider trading), General Electric (now a virtual hedge fund with cases before the SEC), and the German-based Siemens Corporation (federal bribery charges).
    A republic with a sense of common decency — and common sense — would have stopped the nomination right there and checked the “no” box on Mary Jo White just for violating the most basic premise of credibility: that trip through the revolving door that shuttles banking regulators from the government agencies to the companies they used to oversee and sometimes back again.
    Has there not been enough national conversation about the scuzziness of that routine to establish that it’s not okay? Does it not clearly represent the essence of dysfunction and corruption in our regulatory affairs? Didn’t President Obama promise to seal up the revolving door? So how could Mary Jo White possibly be taken seriously as a candidate for the job? And how is it possible that everyone and their uncle, from The New York Times editorial page to the Sunday cable news political shows to the halls of congress, is not jumping up and down hollering about this? Well, because anything goes, nothing matters, and nobody cares.”

    Reply

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