Review: “It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again,” Julia Cameron

Pros: Very handy
Cons: A bit new-agey
Rating: 4 out of 5

Julia Cameron’s It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond is, in general, aimed at people who are retiring from a job and find themselves at loose ends. However, it’s built for anyone who’s feeling a bit at a loss as to how to awaken or apply their creativity. It takes the shape of a ’12-week course’–I think putting a timer on it like that probably helps people who are doubtful to decide to give it a try. But it’s clearly meant to instill long-term habits.

There’s definitely a spiritual and/or religious bent to some of the book, but (as a non-religious person) I did not find it overwhelming or annoying. Cameron acknowledges spirituality apart from religion, and spirituality is not the focus of the book. It’s more of a tool in a toolbox that she presents.

At sixty-five, we can still be vibrant beginners.

“Morning Pages” are the first tool that Cameron teaches us. She tells us to write three pages every morning, by hand (no computer), stream-of-consciousness style. She provides many anecdotes showing us how people have learned surprising things about themselves (and their relationships, jobs, etc.) through this exercise. I’m a fan of freewriting in general, and although I usually see writing teachers advocate it in smaller amounts, I can see how forcing yourself to fill all three pages would probably bring a lot more to the surface.

Her second tool is memoir. You divide your age by the 12 weeks the course is meant to last, and write about that many years each week, starting from the beginning. Again, it’s meant to bring things to the surface, make connections you might not have come up with otherwise, etc. For some people the memoir becomes a purpose and project unto itself.

Weekly ‘artist dates’ are meant as a refueling method. Choose something a little interesting, special, or deliberately out of your comfort zone, and go do it alone. Go to an aquarium or zoo. Enjoy a trip through an art gallery or museum. It’s meant to jolt us out of our inertia and boredom; she calls it ‘assigned play’.

Then there’s something particularly easy: walking (twice a week, for at least twenty minutes at a time).

Walking is an exercise in receptivity … [W]e fill the creative well.

Each week in the book comes with questions to ask yourself, plenty of examples from her students, and tips to get around things that may be blocking you. Cameron presents ways to deal with distractions, drama, and ‘crazymaking’ people.

I like the book well enough that I bought a copy for a recently-retired person I care about. Sure, it has that ‘new age’ feel to it, but I think that works well in this case, and in my opinion doesn’t change whether or not it will work for you. This is about finding and fulfilling your dreams and goals, one small step at a time.

We continually reinvent our lives through our art.

Book provided free by publisher for review
Expected publication date: April 19, 2016

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