From Amanda Palmer to The Alchemist, By Way of Julia Cameron

At the library the other day, I chanced to stumble upon a book by Julia Cameron that I hadn’t heard of before: The Sound of Paper. I checked it out and, while I’m not really reading it per se, I’ve been leafing through it since – just randomly opening it up and skimming through.

It’s actually a great book to peruse like that. It’s contained entirely of short essays, each accompanied by a writing exercise. It’s designed (it seems) for short bursts of reading.

I already have a couple of the exercises marked to try; there’s one in particular that might make for an interesting blog post.

But I’m writing about it now because a particular passage just caught my eye.

It’s contained in an essay titled, “Encouragement.” In it, she’s making the point that having what she calls “believing mirrors” in your life can be enormously helpful to you as you create your art. These “believing mirrors” she defines as the supportive friends who believe in your work and your potential even when you don’t, and reflect that faith back at you.

Sometimes, she notes, you find these supports “ephemerally” – an idea that jumped out at me a little bit today because of what I was writing yesterday about Amanda Palmer and her “magic wand of legitimacy,” which was essentially about finding your artistic support within yourself. But Julia Cameron’s passage actually reminded me even more of one of the central, pivotal themes of The Alchemist – which is that one’s path is marked by signposts (omens, in the novel). If you’re open to seeing them, and if you’re paying attention, you’ll catch them – and they’ll help you to get where you need to go.

Julia Cameron writes:

“When we are willing to receive it, we are brought support bit by bit, piece by piece, just as we need it. We “stumble” on a tiny article. We “happen” to see a flyer. We overhear a conversation with needed information. We are led, guided, shown.”

~Julia Cameron, in The Sound of Paper, pg. 225.

This has happened to me more times than I can count: being led like this. Sometimes it happens in such a weirdly coincidental fashion, I think my imagination must be in some sort of crazy overdrive, and I think maybe I should rein it in! But I would never want to do that, really – because these moments always, always help me.

And I really don’t think they’re products of my imagination. I mean, I’m not creating such moments; they’re not happening in my mind. They are a part of my actual physical reality. What I’m getting at is that they’d be there whether or not I understood them to mean anything significant or not.

The fact that I do understand them to mean something? I wouldn’t call that imagination. Imagination, I think, requires more creative effort. That’s not what happens in these moments. What happens is….well, I don’t actually know, exactly!

I do think it has something to do with openness – to possibility, to potential. When your mind is open, you can see connections and solutions and you get ideas that simply can’t get in when you’re all closed up tight and rigid.

I also think it has something to do with being in touch with yourself. When you’re in the habit of looking inside of yourself, of analyzing yourself, of trying to understand yourself and why you do what you do or feel what you feel, it’s easier to connect yourself and your own needs with the opportunities floating around you. And from that place, maybe, it’s easier for something in your environment to switch on a mental lightbulb – and that becomes “a sign” for something that changes your life in some positive way.

Of course there is a little fanciful part of me (I’ll admit it!) that wants to think that maybe, just maybe, there really is something magical about these moments.

I’m not a religious person. Julia Cameron tends to look at things from within a more spiritual framework than I’m entirely comfortable with. So I’m not talking about God. I’m talking about…magic.

Like when I was a kid and thought if I just concentrated hard enough I could maybe, maybe, maybe produce fire out of my hands, like Firestar. Or read minds. Or conjure wind. Superpowers. Amazing, magical powers befitting a world of infinite power and possibility.

It’s just a tiny part of me, the part that still wants to look at the world like this – but it’s there.

And you know what? Though I feel slightly sheepish about it, I’m really not ashamed of it. (I just now realized that.)

The part of me that believes in magic is the same part that looks at this picture of moss in the sunshine (taken by me a few days ago, waiting for my kids' school bus to show up)  and sees leprechauns and rainbows at the edges.
It’s because the part of me that believes in magic is the part that looked at this picture of moss in the sunshine (taken by me a few days ago, waiting for my kids’ school bus to show up) and saw leprechauns and rainbows hovering at the edges, just out of view. And it made a few moments in a mundane place on a mundane day suddenly…NOT MUNDANE!

Given the choice (and I think we all have the choice), I’d personally rather live in a world that includes the possibility of magic. Not because I can’t deal with harsh, cold reality or something (because I can; I have.) But simply because it’s just more fun that way!

And life should be fun, shouldn’t it? Just full of fun. As much fun as you can draw to yourself.

You should do your best to take care of people (including yourself); that’s important. You should be as kind as possible; that’s equally as important (and goes hand-in-hand with the “care” part, I think.) You should try hard to learn, to listen, to grow, to expand. But you should have lots and lots and lots of fun if you can too, while you’re at it!

I’m going to try to do a better job of remembering that myself.


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