PW: There are a lot of traditional prayer books. Why did you begin writing your own?
Julia Cameron: There's a prayer book I love that's been out of print a long time called Creative Ideas by Ernest Holmes, who founded the Science of Mind religion. I went to my publisher and said, "Can't we try to republish Creative Ideas?" He suggested instead perhaps I wanted to try writing a prayer book. I thought, "Oh my God, what hubris! I could never write a prayer book as meaningful as that." The book that resulted became Heartsteps and was grounded in ideas about creativity and spirituality. I wrote Answered Prayers when a friend of mine suddenly lost her lover of many years, who died unexpectedly. She felt completely bereft and as if she didn't know she were speaking to God anymore. I had the idea that maybe it was time for a book in which God could speak to us.
How do you talk to the divine?
I write "morning pages" every morning: "This is where I am, how I am, what I need help with." In a sense morning pages are prayer. I also go for walks. I find walking is a tremendous help in establishing conscious contact with the divine, even in hectic Manhattan. Then I also do a form of guided writing. I pose a question: "Could I have guidance for today?" and the answer will come back. I find when I'm not writing I feel I'm not praying enough. I pray, "Dear God, give me ideas," and then I listen.
Do you sometimes hear nothing back, and then what do you do?
I think anybody who is seeking spiritual contact goes through what we call the "dark night of the soul," where we feel we've lost contact and our prayers are futile. Those periods are very, very hard and all I know to do about them is keep up my routine. Sometimes writing a prayer book is a great source of solace.
Can you talk about the relationship between creativity and spirituality?
When we make something it's an act of faith. When we are willing to be creative, we throw a switch and a kind of spiritual current of electricity moves through us. Artists throughout the centuries have always said the source of their work is divine. So I don't think that all artists would talk about it in spiritual terms—we use expressions like "the muse"—but all artists experience creativity in spiritual terms.
You're famous as the author of The Artist's Way for giving advice to artists about responding to an internal critic that blocks creativity. Do you have an inner critic that gets to you, and how do you answer?
I call my critic Nigel. I picked a sort of snooty name because my critic is always telling me that he has better aesthetics than I have. Nigel is alive and well and vicious. Nigel picks what I'm afraid of with each particular piece of writing and tells me my worst fears are true. What I have learned to do is cohabit with him and write around him.
What are you working on now?
This is an interesting period. I'm working on Magellan, a large piece of music about Magellan, the explorer. We don't know quite what to call it—somewhere between opera and musical theater. I also just finished a new book called Finding Water. It's subtitled "The Power of Perseverance," and it's about surviving your Nigels. Now I'm saying, "Dear God, what do I do next?"