How to Avoid Making Art by Julia Cameron

I can’t say that a small book of cartoons helped me become a better writer.  I can, however, say that it helped me become a more consistent writer, a more optimistic writer, and certainly a less whiny writer.

In this little book of one-panel cartoons, self-help queen Julia Cameron takes advice for artists and turns it on its head. HOW TO AVOID MAKING ART is beyond ironic. It’s a hilarious list of advice for would-be artists, “teaching” them how to get in their own way. With captions like “tell yourself you can only work in absolute quiet,” or “talk about it so you don’t have to do it,” every writer will probably identify with these cartoons.

Here are some of my favorites: “Demand 15 hours of free time to create, so you can ignore the 15 minutes you’ve got.”

“Tell yourself you can’t afford art supplies. Buy five expensive cappuccinos while you discuss this with friends.”

“Let your studio accumulate enough clutter that work becomes impossible there.”

“Ask a lot of people their opinion of your plan.”

I love the way Cameron pokes fun at the absurdity of self-imposed blocks. By pretending to take them absolutely seriously, she deflates them completely. After all, if you can laugh at your own limitations, you’re halfway to overcoming them. But it wasn’t all fun and games. Like any good satire, the truth is buried just below the surface. More than once, I winced as I saw myself in the pages of HOW TO AVOID MAKING ART.

The drawings (by Cameron’s daughter, Elizabeth) aren’t the greatest–black and white sketches of people with dog heads. But I don’t think the pictures are the point. They do an adequate job of illustrating Cameron’s witty one-liners (which are the point).

This book would be a great gift for a fellow writer, or for yourself. It’s probably a better use of your money than that fifth cappuccino.


rating: 4 stars


This book is best for: intermediate writers


I recommend this book


4 thoughts on “How to Avoid Making Art by Julia Cameron

  1. What about “Start a blog reviewing all the books you’ve read about how to write”? 😉 I’m kidding, of course. I love your blog! Reading books on writing is one of my favorite procrastination methods, and now I can read blogs on writing books, because I can justify this form of procrastination as part of the craft.

    Have you considered: Writing Down the Bones (Goldberg), Story (McKee), or Stephen King’s On Writing? These are some of my favorites). The movie Adaptation includes a hilarious take on cult of McKee.

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