The first thing I should tell you about this book is that it was a large dose of the inspiration for my Creativity Diet. That’s why it’s the very first book review I’m going to post and that’s why my first week’s creativity challenge was heavily inspired by Juila Cameron. I need to give credit where credit is due.
There’s some good stuff in here. If you’ve never tried Morning Pages (or any other daily journal techniques) to address emotional eating, then this is a good solid place to start. That said, Julia’s approach doesn’t really work for me.
The second thing I should tell you is that this book was written by the same author who wrote The Artist’s Way. That was her huge, breakout, phenomenally successful book on unleashing creative potential. Since then, it seems Julia and her publishing company have become incredibly adept masters at rewriting and repackaging the original material in The Artist’s Way with new titles aimed at different audiences. To put it bluntly, this is her version of The Writer’s Way aimed at creative personalities who (1) feel creatively blocked & (2) overeat to the point of being overweight. Ahem….in other words, aimed at people like MOI.
In my experience, people either love Julia Cameron’s approach to creativity with an ecstatic, almost religious fervor, or they would gladly smash her under the mountain of books she has sold. I’m actually one of those few rare people who have read her work, tried her approach and find myself squarely in the middle ground. I don’t love her and I don’t hate her. Her approach doesn’t work for me, but that doesn’t mean it can’t help others. That said, this book did manage to get me pretty annoyed with her.
It started in the Prologue when she wrote, “I’ve turned myself into Weight Watchers, but counting points seems to be its own form of craziness.” Okay that ticked me off and made her lose some credibility with me right away. Come on, Julia! Say Weight Watchers didn’t work for you (just as I just said your approach doesn’t work for me), but don’t call it a “form of craziness.” Still, I fully admit that I have a huge prejudice in favor of Weight Watchers and that no single approach to weight loss/weight management works for everyone, so I kept reading (as opposed to throwing the book across the room…which has happened a few times with books that tick me off.) Pages later, near the end of the Prologue, Julia goes on to say that The Writing Diet approach can work in conjunction with “any sensible eating plan” and “You can write on Weight Watchers and Overeaters Anonymous.” That settled my ruffled feathers a bit, so I read on.
The book is divided into two sections:
- Part One (The Tools) gives you seven tools to use in your creative battle against overeating. Honestly, the first and third tools (Morning Pages & Walking) are her main focus for the whole book and the only two tools that made any lasting impression on me. The rest of the tools felt like filler. The Seventh Tool (The Body Buddy) once again tempted me to throw the book across the room…and jump on it a few times for good measure.
- Part Two (Situations and Solutions) was entertaining in places (Tabloid Thin & Lingerie were fun chapters), but her approach to eating is often annoying and too extreme. As one Amazon reviewer noted, in this book Julia Cameron clearly shows that she has an unhealthy relationship with food. She refers to some high-calorie foods as “evil” and writes about eating “legally.” She also seems to be obsessed with sugar-free Jell-O (it was mentioned so many times in Part Two that I’m surprised Jell-O didn’t make Julia Cameron their new spokesperson.)
But, most importantly, the crux of any Julia Cameron book, the axis on which everything she teaches turns, is the Morning Pages technique. In a nutshell, Morning Pages is an exercise where you sit down first thing in the morning with a notebook, a pen or pencil and write three pages (front & back) of stream-of-consciousness journal entry. No stopping. No editing. No waiting until later in the day.
Julia believes this activity, practiced daily for a period of time, will absolutely transform your life. In this book, as well as in her other books, she tells miraculous stories of creative enlightenment and transformation.
I’ve always been reluctant to commit to this Morning Pages process for the following reasons:
- Mornings are my favorite time to exercise. My exercise routine takes at least 45 minutes. This writing activity usually takes me at least 40 minutes. I do NOT have room for an extra 90 minutes in my morning routine.
- I prefer to write in the evenings.
- Stream-of-consciousness non-stop writing does not, by its very definition, produce any writing that will further my writing production goals.
Despite those objections, I did give Morning Pages a try last spring. I faithfully scribbled out three pages every morning for over two months. It wasn’t an unpleasant process. However, due to the time crunch in the morning, this writing practice disrupted my exercise routine. I also noticed that I stopped writing other things during my Morning Pages experiment. After shutting the book on my Morning Pages, it felt like I had completed my creative writing for the day. Yet I had nothing to show for it, just a whole lot of “This is what I dreamed about last night” and “This is how I feel about that.” Not the sort of material that helps an aspiring novelist/fiction writer finish her work-in-progress. In short, I did not experience any wonderful transformation like the ones Julia describes in her books. I went back to exercising in the morning and writing fiction in the evening.
So….to sum up:
- I think there’s some good material in this book, but there’s also some unhealthy views related to food and diet.
- I would not actively discourage anyone from buying this book. It’s a good place to start if you want to try morning journal pages.
- This book inspired my own quest to create a Creativity Diet.
- The Writing Diet as recommended by Julia Cameron did not work for me; however, I think it could enhance some people’s quest to curb emotional eating.
How about you? Have you read any of Julia’s books? Have any of you tried Morning Pages? Do you journal using a different approach? Do you think writing about your emotions helps combat emotional eating? Or does writing about all your emotional “stuff” just make you want to head over the cookie jar and dive in?