Today I turn 49, an age where a lot of people want to stop counting the years. Not me; I’m proud of the fact that this my 27th year of writing for publication and pushing out the prose. Still, some days I feel like a beginner. Thomas Jefferson’s maxim about his horticulture was “Although I am an old man, I am but a young gardener.” Using that guide, I am a young man indeed, compared to some.
My wife Abby gave me a swell birthday present this morning before I even got out of bed. Julia Cameron has a new book out on the writing process, The Sound of Paper. Its subtitle is “Starting from Scratch.” She says in the brief introduction, “Think of this book as a summer’s hike through the New Mexico wilderness. You will gradually build stamina and savvy. One essay at a time, one task at a time, you will become more and more familiar with your creative strengths.”
Cameron’s heartland is the canyons and vistas of New Mexico, and she also hails from the uncharted land of inspiring new writers. We’re all new at something, no matter how long we’ve been writing. It may be craft, it may be the diligence of discipline, or it may be just a new character or a fresh plot. Cameron still hews to the morning pages, three pages written in longhand at the start of each day. Westerners, she says, are hyperactive types. (She means those of us from the Occidental world, the Western Hemisphere, not those in the Old West.) Because we have a hard time meditating, morning pages can help us “awaken our intuition.”
I’m off to wake up a bit and enjoy Cameron’s latest. Her seminal book is The Artist’s Way. I took a nine-week seminar in the Artists Way method in 1994. The method laid down a start for more serious, dedicated work on my fiction.