By Julia Cameron

New York : TarcherPerigee, | 2016 | 304 pages

Reviewed by Emily Rosen, M.A., M.S.

It’s  almost twenty-five years later, and the JULIA CAMERON  industry continues to flourish. With a title like this: “It’s Never Too Late To Begin Again,”  its appeal reaches out to people way over 30 who figure they could “do” life better.

To justify my use of the word “industry,”:  Cameron has created  workbooks, prayer books, date books, meditations, movies, musicals,  memoirs, fiction, poetry, plays, etc, so numerous as to discourage listing – making Joyce Carol Oates look like a slacker.

If you don’t know Julia Cameron, be sure not to admit it in circles dedicated to self improvement, creativity, artistic expression, dogged self-discipline, the writing life and spirituality. Her original treatise, “The Artist’s Way,”  published in 1992 is the landmark bible for subjects dealing with all of the above. Those for whom its content nurtured  major life improvement, remain in worshipful gratitude to this woman, born in 1948 and briefly  (1976-1977) married to Martin Scorscese.

If you’ve come this far, it’s only fair that I report on her latest, the subtitle of which is “Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond.” a rehash with additives of the original ARTIST’S WAY – successfully geared to an older population of enthusiastic wannabees. (folks who “wanna” have the most meaningful, creative, overall satisfying  life possible)

For readers not yet familiar with Cameron’s signature technique, her “Morning Pages,” assignment has been assiduously followed by her acolytes since the concept was first brought to light in THE ARTIST’S WAY. Her followers joyfully  (or sometimes “not-so” ) put a writing instrument (definitely NOT a computer)  to three   8 ½ by 11 “pages” daily as part of their awakening routine following the toothbrushing, face washing, and whatever other dreary-eyed ablutions in which they are engaged. This is the “Pitcher’s Pen” of warm-up writing and is rightfully hailed by its many fans as freeing, inspiring, revealing, and effective as a valuable kind of introspective connection with self. The words need not make sense—they can be jots, notes, fragments, run-on sentences, stories, feelings, thoughts, a grammarian’s nightmare –  just as long as the writing experience is representative of the writer at that moment in time. To many, it has become an addictive activity. 

Additionally,  in this book, Cameron has added three more “basic tools.”  (tasks) for discovering “meaning,”  all of  which require the reader’s willingness  -- nay, eagerness! -- to comply: the writing of Memoir. “a weekly guided process of triggering memories and visiting life in several year increments;”    Artist Dates, “a once weekly, solo expedition to explore something fun;” and  Walking,  “a twenty minute solo walk, twice weekly, without a dog, friend or cell phone, ”    activities which , if practiced  in earnest, can certainly put one on a path to a spiritual high, especially for individuals on the so-called back nine of their lives.  Speaking of which, some of the less than enthusiastic comments  about the book are from mid-lifers, and “sandwich generation” folks  who feel unrepresented when they are thrown into the same bucket as retirees and seniors.                                                                                                        

The book is divided into what is tantamount to a curriculum for a twelve week course – each week focusing on random themes that enhance creativity and the exultation of life, i.e. – wonder, freedom, connection, purpose, honesty, humility, resilience, joy, motion, vitality, adventure and faith. Each chapter includes several tasks, a weekly checkup of the reader’s adherence to the program and  anecdotal material, much of the latter of which seems to serve to bulk up its 264 pages. We get it, Julia.

So for those “embarking on their second act,” this is Cameron’s answer to “What next?” even as it answers her own “what next?” oeuvre of products for sale. Cynical? Perhaps. That can be attributed to my being awash in self help books, many of which actually DO serve their purpose. Frankly, I’m for anything that works for the many and diverse “you”s of this world. Cameron’s steady and enduring message  and specific tools for taking responsibility for one’s own creative stride towards self fulfilment is a noble and positive message put “out there” for the universe to accept.

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