Since moving to the Texas hill country, I have been eating better than at any point in my life. I have made it my mission to seek out the local wine and cheese makers, the artisanal bakers, the olive oil maker, and great little restaurants that cook seasonally and locally. I feared that the weight would start to pile on, especially after I traded in my active job at a garden shop for the sedentary life of a writer. Then I had one of those instances of serendipity or synchronicity that sometimes occur when all of the stars align, and you find yourself in just the right place at the right time.
Years ago, I heard about a book called The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron. The book came about after Julia, herself a prolific writer, developed workshops that led people through a twelve-week program to help them recover from artist's or writer's block. Since the book also claimed to unleash creativity you never even knew you had, I decided to give it a try. I guess it worked, because up until that point, I didn't think I had a creative bone in my body, and had never done anything in the way of design, decorating or writing. Now these are my life.
Last week at the bookstore, I was jolted to a stop when I saw a book called The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right-Size, by none other than Julia Cameron. If that's not kismet, I don't know what is. I usually get crazy with people who rush out and buy every silly new diet book that comes out, instead of just using common sense, but I ask you, how on earth could I pass this one up? After twenty years of conducting her artist's workshops, Cameron observed something startling. "From the front of the classroom I've seen lives transformed—and, to my astonishment, bodies transformed as well. It took me a while to recognize what was going on, but sure enough, students who began the course on the plump side ended up visibly leaner and more fit."
I'm reading one chapter each day, performing the assigned tasks and allowing it all to soak in before I go on to the next chapter. So far, I love what I am reading. Cameron is using many of the same techniques that she used in her original book: writing "morning pages" every day—a stream-of-consciousness rambling that somehow manages to dig up important but buried truths; keeping a journal in which you log not only what you eat, but also keep track of all your thoughts and feelings about food; solo walking, not just for exercise but also as a form of meditation and exploration; asking yourself four important questions before you put anything in your mouth, so that it becomes a conscious decision; and my favorite so far, culinary artist's dates.
I loved the idea of going on dates with myself when I read her first book, and it's a guilty pleasure I've indulged in ever since. The point is to prime the pump of your creativity by taking yourself out on festive, creative adventures that expand your comfort zone, only now, instead of exploring art, book and antique shops, I'm roaming the farmer's markets, ethnic food stores, gourmet cookery shops, shelves of cookbooks and magazines, trying new foods and interesting restaurants—and losing weight while doing it!
If you need to feel deprived in order to feel good about what you eat, this is not the book for you. But if you want to develop a healthier, more pleasurable, sensual attitude towards food and exercise, while receiving a kick-start to your creativity, then it's time to "write yourself right-size."
Although Julia Cameron has spent a couple of decades conducting workshops on releasing creativity, lack of creativity does not seem to be something she has ever suffered from herself—at least not recently. In addition to writing books, she has worked in almost every other form, having written plays, poetry, songs, and screenplays for both television and film. She currently resides in Manhattan. Visit the official Julia Cameron website.
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