Julia Cameron,
Vein of Gold: A Journey
to Your Creative Heart

(J.P. Tarcher, 1997)

Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way has been called the best creativity program out there. Vein of Gold is Cameron's follow-up, cleaning up some of the techniques described in TAW and expanding them, guiding readers to the center of themselves and their creativity.

According to Cameron, everyone has a part they were meant to play, a theme that resonates deep within themselves -- a center of the creative heart that they were meant to communicate via their chosen medium. Vein of Gold is a book of exercises, tasks and habits that will help you find that personal Vein of Gold and become more authentic in the process.

Separated into chapters called "Kingdoms," Vein of Gold leads the seeker on a journey through the past to find glimmers of who he or she really is. Prescribing such activities as a morning pages journal, a daily walk and weekly artist's dates taken alone, the initial section of the book seems very close to TAW for anyone who's already read that book. It diverges quickly, setting out into the "Kingdom of Story," where the reader is asked to write a personal narrative timeline of between 5,000 and 25,000 words that is the basis for most of the rest of the work.

Yeah, but does it work? I can honestly say that during (and after) reading Vein of Gold -- not even participating yet, but reading alone -- I feel more in touch with where I should be, and I feel confident that I can find how to get there. At the risk of sounding like a bad infomercial, I've actually started writing that novel, have developed goals for myself that I didn't think I could reach before and have been more productive with my creative endeavors. The daily walks -- the only part I've adopted specifically for Vein of Gold, since I was already doing morning pages and artist's dates -- are a welcome addition to my days, and like Cameron promised, I am getting more ideas than before while walking.

I'm looking forward to the participatory re-reading of the book, and consider it one of the most valuable I've ever purchased to date.

Drawbacks? There are a few. Very few, but still a few.

Cameron comes clean about her own spiritual beliefs in this book. She alluded to them in TAW, and I'll admit that I had a sneaking suspicion that she was of an alternative religion, which doesn't bother me. What does bother me, despite my assertations that I'm open-minded in my old age, is her admission that she thinks she's psychic. Even though I know this kind of thing exists, and I think intuition is generally right on the button, when someone openly admits his or her psychic ability, I feel a sort of let-down. I don't want it to demean her other work -- her books are so useful that I'm loathe to ever get rid of them -- but I have to admit, the psychic mumbo-jumbo made me wonder if this was all the ravings of a crystal-waving new-age flakey lunatic. Something that I'm not happy to admit, I'll add. (Mind you, I am a crystal-waving new-age flakey lunatic for all intents and purposes. Maybe that's why I'm so willing to judge.)

With that guilty admission out of the way, I also find some of her more "out there" exercises to be more distracting than focusing (such as making your own creativity doll, as well as the collage work exercises). I've heard from others that those very exercises are among the most important, precisely because they are "out there" and force you to look at things differently. We'll see.

On the plus side, Cameron is a masterful motivator. It's hard to read Vein of Gold without making very distinct breakthroughs in your own personal creative life. Just her words and success stories can make the most blocked creative stand up and cheer, and then run off to make something of his or her own. She opens up old wounds and cauterizes them effortlessly, making them seem like those wounds never existed.

Also, she gives a great deal of resource material in the back of the book this time around. Information on starting your own creative cluster (a group meant to inspire and encourage creative undertakings with/for each other), long lists of inspiring music and films, and a fantastic list of a mixture of self-help and creativity books that could jump-start just about anyone.

If that's not enough, there are quotes on every page. Great ones from a variety of sources, that can be used for journal entries or meditation. She's gathered a tremendous creativity and self-empowerment collection of words of others, as well as her own.

There's no real way to sum up in words what this book is like or what it can do for the right kind of reader. It's almost magical or alchemical -- the effect she has on some people is stunning. Quite honestly, it is the best $16 I've ever spent on myself, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

In fact, I'd probably buy Vein of Gold before I'd buy The Artist's Way if I had it to do over again. Cameron has matured since TAW was written, and even though the change is subtle, it's profound, and it makes Vein of Gold a must-have for any creative person.

[ by Elizabeth Badurina ]
Rambles: 12 January 2002

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