On Jan. 27, the Bay Area Book Festival hosted the virtual event “Create, Connect, and Inspire: Julia Cameron on the Listening Path.” This event celebrated the creativity of two renowned artists — Julia Cameron and Judy Collins. Cameron, the widely celebrated author of books such as “The Artist’s Way,” discussed her latest work, “The Listening Path: The Creative Art of Attention” with Collins as part of the Festival’s “Women Lit” series.
As the event began, viewers asked questions to the panelists through a chat function that simultaneously allowed them to speak to other attendees. Attendees virtually gathered from across the nation with welcome messages for their speakers, all similarly echoing a joyful sense of admiration for both Cameron and Collins.
Collins, a Grammy Award-winning artist, began the book talk by commending Cameron for her impactful role as both a writer and a personal friend. Quoting key passages from her latest text, Collins specifically noted Cameron’s unique attention to the senses, a theme embedded frequently throughout “The Listening Path.”
This attention to listening, Cameron explained, came from her move from the bustling streets of Manhattan to the serene quiet of Santa Fe, New Mexico. While at first frightened by this drastic depletion of noise, Cameron explained that she later felt enlightened by the tranquility of nature.
“As I relaxed, I began to realize that I was listening more keenly to sound — that I could hear the wind in the trees, that I could hear the songbirds, that I would hear the raucous cawing of a raven,” explained Cameron. It was this quietness that inspired her to explore the “layers of listening” through her writing in “The Listening Path.”
Along with paying acute attention to sound, Cameron continued to emphasize the significance of a method popularized in her early work — morning and evening pages. Morning pages, as the term suggests, refers to pages written at the start of the day, in which one can be vulnerable with themselves and draft quick notes or musings about “anything and everything.” Evening pages conversely consist of writing in reflection about a day that has passed and cannot be lived again. Cameron explained, “What morning pages do is acquaint us with how we really think and how we really feel.”
It is this attention to feeling that guides much of Cameron’s work, as she similarly explained the power of listening in response to grief. Both Cameron and Collins expressed their shared mourning for friends and relatives, while noting that loss may guide new forms of listening and understanding.
These modes of listening later inspired Cameron to share some of her poetry at the event.
“We often talk about poetry coming out of pain. We have an image of a tortured artist barely getting to the page, but my experience is that poetry comes from joy,” she said.
A sense of joy is evident in Cameron’s writing and persists in the tools she recommends for any artist. As described in her books, morning pages coupled with making time to do something joyous for oneself is imperative for creativity and garnering new ideas from the universe. As Cameron discussed during the talk, “The Listening Path” continues to recommend these methods, but also encourages walking in order to engage with the environment and promote new ways of truly listening.
In the Q&A portion of the event, attendees asked Collins and Cameron many questions ranging from the details of morning pages to the way creativity may be impacted by the pandemic.
Notably, Cameron and Collins described their personal connection to one another, which, as they explained, originated from mutual friends. Cameron specifically explained her curiosity about Collins’ own writing prior to its publication and continued to praise the books she has since released.
Evidently, both Cameron and Collins have continued to inspire many artists. Providing insight for young writers, Cameron and Collins sympathized with the fear that may come with writing, but further pointed to morning and evening pages as a way to expand and grow as an artist.
“When I am creating, I’m timeless,” said Cameron in response to a question about her relationship to aging and creativity. Given the inspiring act of opening up to new forms of listening, this sense of timelessness seems to manifest itself in “The Listening Path” in ways that will inspire artists to continue their journey of creativity.
The Women Lit series is a membership-based program from the Bay Area Book Festival. For more information, visit www.baybookfest.org.