Media Diet: Julia Cameron

Finding the 'Artist's Way' With Julia Cameron

| July/August 1998

I need to know what regular people are thinking about, so the information in tabloids is really quite key. Besides, Julia Cameron is best known as author of The Artist's Way(Tarcher, 1992), the popular guidebook to unblocking the spiritual and creative process. One surefire way to reach your creative potential, she advises her legions of devotees, is to shut out media distractions such as television, magazines, and newspapers. Yet before establishing herself as a creativity coach, Cameron led another life as a screenwriter and an essayist for such publications as Mademoiselle, Vogue, and Cosmopolitan. So she knows the nature of the media beast, even if she recommends avoiding it. A creative whirlwind, Cameron is publishing several new books this year, including The Artist's Way at Work(Tarcher/Putnam) and a crime novel, The Dark Room(Carroll and Graf). She spoke with assistant editor Andy Steiner during a brief break in writing projects.

Could you describe your media diet?
I'm a media bulimic. Most of the time I avoid reading newspapers and magazines, but every six weeks or so I take $25 to a newsstand, and I buy everything from highbrow to lowbrow, from tabloids like The National Enquirer and the New York Post to serious newspapers like The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Times of London. I also buy magazines like Vanity Fair, Harper's, The Atlantic Monthly, Time, and Newsweek. Then I just binge-read for two days. It might seem eccentric, but this system keeps me abreast of the issues without feeling inundated with extraneous information. The really important information shakes through to the top. The less important information just falls away, allowing me to focus on what's essential.

But you can't rely on the information you read in the tabloids.
Just the opposite. The tabloid newspapers are being read by a huge portion of the American population. I'm interested in what regular Americans are reading and buying. I'm a mainstream writer, and I write mainstream movies. I need to know what regular people are thinking about, so the information I read in tabloids is really quite key. Besides, I'm wary of being informed simply by media I agree with. It's just too one-sided.

What magazines do you subscribe to?
Only one: Morgan Horse. As you can tell by the name, it's a magazine about Morgan horses, which I own and ride. It's heaven.

Which artists do you most admire?
My favorite artist, the one who has had the most impact on me as a person and as an artist, is Tim Wheater, one of the founding members of the Eurythmics. I've found that listening to his music makes me want to create in response. Somehow he raises questions that I want to find answers for. Since we've met, we've recorded a poetry album together, This Earth: A Planetary Mass. What are your favorite films?
I usually prefer old movies, but I thought [Martin Scorsese's] Kundun was a film of exquisite transparency. The artistry was of such a high level that people didn't even know it was there. The British filmmaker Michael Powell is my all-time favorite. I especially like his film I Know Where I'm Going, about fate, destiny, and the supernatural. Almost all my favorite films are about those topics.

Which books and authors do you consider essential?
I love Pablo Neruda. I like a tiny little book published in 1964 by Ernest Holmes called Creative Ideas.

Do you watch television?
I used to write for Miami Vice, so it's not like I consider myself above television. It's just that I don't have much time to spend watching it. I prefer to spend my time writing. When I do watch TV, I tend to watch shows about music, like David Saltz's series on the Beatles. I also like shows on animals.