Creativity Bootcamp gives you a kick in the right direction

The author of The Artist’s Way brings her philosophy to Camden

There’s a certain amount of irony at attending a creativity bootcamp at University College London’s chemistry department. However, after walking into an auditorium full of at least 200 people, I realised it would be difficult to accommodate so many people elsewhere.

The bootcamp was lead by Julia Cameron – the best-selling author of The Artist’s Way – which aims to help writers, musicians, film-makers and other creatives identify and unravel old ideas that block their creative spirit.

Sharing one’s innermost thoughts and desires with strangers does not seem the way to correct writer’s block, but that’s the strategy that Ms Cameron employed during the two-day bootcamp on October 27 and 28.

Attendees were instructed to break out into groups of two or three and share their responses to questions such as how their parents viewed creative people and what career path they would follow if they had 10 imaginary lives. Everyone in the group had to listen and give “popcorn”, which amounted to writing a compliment or giving a blessing and reading it back to the speaker.

The whole process was like being immersed in a bath of warmth and encouragement as people validated each other’s ideas, dreams and attributes.

Even for those who were initially daunted, it was a liberating process.

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A lot of those I met were people who were embarking on a creative career, or wished to start one. Others were on a creative path but felt blocked, unproductive or unsuccessful. A significant majority had read the book and wanted to re-engage with it.

Two of the key tools that Cameron advocates for blocked creatives are writing morning pages and taking oneself on an artist’s date and she dedicated some time to expounding on these tools and answering questions about them.

The morning pages aim to help artists get in touch with their own creative voice and reduce the power of their inner critic. It involves writing three pages of long-hand first thing in the morning about whatever comes to mind. The process is not an easy one as it brings up all sorts of things that people don’t want to think about and try to avoid.

The artist’s date involves taking oneself on a “date” to a gallery, out for lunch or visiting a sight. It is meant to be an outing where you spend time by yourself, nurture your creative consciousness and obtain inspiration.

Both are supposed to help struggling artists get in touch with their own selves and be open to receiving wisdom from a ‘higher power’ or God. Believing in a higher power is an essential tenet of The Artist’s Way and this is probably the most difficult idea for people to get their heads around. During the weekend, Ms Cameron asked people to write down their childhood ideas of God and then asked them to list the qualities they would like God to have.

After one participant said that God is within and that we are communicating with our own higher selves, Ms Cameron stressed that each person’s idea of God is unique and nobody should impose their view of God on others.

Although Ms Cameron spent most of the weekend facilitating rather than lecturing, the stories she narrated were powerful. She spoke about how she first started writing musicals and suffered self-doubt because she had always been the “audience” in a family of musicians.

For those working through the book alone or re-engaging with it, the bootcamp provided a great introduction to the 12-week course which is beneficial, regardless of what you do and where you are in your life. Whether you see yourself as a Picasso or a Dickens, having other people validate you is an important part of any creative journey.

The bootcamp was organised by Alternatives, an organisation which runs personal development courses. For more information, visit