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What do you do with your flaws and frailty?

July 2, 2010

Much too late last night, I finished reading Floor Sample, Julia Cameron’s autobiography. Many of you will know Julia Cameron as the author of The Artist’s Way and many other well-loved books on creativity and spirituality.

What struck me, as I closed the book and headed toward dreamland, was how very flawed and human Julia Cameron is. Despite the fact that she is an international guru on creativity and has written umpteen books, plays, film scripts, songs – you name it – she paints a painfully honest picture of herself as a fragile and flawed woman, often on the edge of sanity. She struggled through crippling addiction to alcohol and cocaine, she hopped around the country like a lost gypsy searching for some place that would give her peace, she survived two failed marriages and numerous other ill-fated romances, and in later life she has been dealing with serious mental health issues that have landed her in more than one psych ward.

The remarkable part of her story, though, is that despite the serious roadblocks that could have sidelined her career (or worse – killed her) long ago, she never ceases to believe that she is a writer who has been called to write and share that writing with the world. After hitting rock bottom from alcohol and cocaine addiction, she is mentored toward recovery by people who teach her that she has to admit her weakness and learn to trust God instead of herself. She begins to do so, and discovers that when she puts her life in God’s hands, not only can she stop drinking, but her creativity begins to blossom in a way she never expected it to.

Since then, she has been committed to serving as a conduit for the creativity that flows through her from God. No matter what comes her way – mental illness, relationship failures, etc. – she continues to write and write and write. She never questions that it is her calling and never lets self-doubt get in the way – she simply trusts that this is what she is being called to share with the world.

There are times when surprising art flows through her. Though not musically trained, and convinced that she is “not the musical one in the family”, she begins to hear songs flow through her and she composes them with the help of a small child’s keyboard on which she’s marked Middle C and a numbering system that helps her figure out the notes. (She later – around 50 years of age, I believe – takes piano lessons for the first time.)

I can’t help but wonder how much more creativity would be shared if we all had the same commitment to following our muses no matter what obstacles showed up.

What if we could all put our egos aside and just trust that what is flowing through us has little to do with us and is meant to be shared? What if we no longer trusted those negative voices that tell us we’re not good enough or not wise enough and just created whatever God put on our hearts? What if we believed that our flaws and our failures were merely opportunities for growth and fresh perspectives? What would we be capable of?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 2, 2010 3:53 pm

    What if, indeed! I’m part of THAT experiment (at least in this moment – grin) – but seriously, I want to find out what if…

    Thanks for the inspiration!!

  2. July 3, 2010 10:02 am

    Speaking of failure, my own biggest lapse of judgement was the 18 year break I took from following *my* own muse. I can’t believe how incredibly damaging it was. Cameron is the antithesis of the failure to me. To keep at it in spite of the roadblocks and challenges is the work of a real artist. Nowadays I consider those who play it safe and allow fear and doubt to guide their decision-making to be the real failures. Taking care of the work and people you love is now my guiding principle. Protect and nurture them and nothing else matters.

  3. July 3, 2010 4:20 pm

    I love Julia Cameron and The Artist’s Way. It was one of those books I’d never heard of, yet stumbled upon in my bookshop, then tucked myself in the corner of a cafe and poured over it. That book felt like a gift from the Creativity Gods. It created a huge shift in my life and the Morning Pages still happen. I’ve met other people, from all different countries, who also do the Morning Pages and it’s like I know they are part of my tribe.

    Thanks for such a great article about this incredible, divinely flawed and gorgeous through-and-through creative.

  4. July 3, 2010 10:22 pm

    I read Floor Sample a couple of years ago and it brought a depth to The Artist’s Way for me that hadn’t been there previously. I find her absolutely inspirational for knowing that she is here to live life and doing what she is called to do. How many works of genius never come to pass because we don’t have enough belief in ourselves to even take that first step.

  5. July 4, 2010 5:48 pm

    I, too, loved this book. It made me feel as “normal” as I would ever feel as an artist. Reading this book was an inspiration, it was a prime example of someone who accomplishes so much with her time, the same amount of time every person on planet earth has. I needed to be reminded to believe in myself, I’ve been letting her get lost in the waves of these past months. But happily, I am going on a four day retreat BY MYSELF this month. A gift for my upcoming 50th birthday. I can’t wait!

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