During a recent book sale at our public library, I came across the book “Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self” by Sarah Ban Breathnach. I had never read her books nor heard of her. I read the book in almost one sitting and I loved it. The book was full of quotes by other writers and philosophers and activists. So I wanted to read more from her.
I borrowed “Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort And Joy” from the library. A few pages into the book and I had this strange feeling that I had read the book before, it sounded so familiar. When I reached the section ‘January 27 The Daily Dialogues’ I just had to stop.
Hadn’t I read this in The Artist’s Way, I asked myself? A friend had introduced me to Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way two years ago. Although I had read the book several times since then, I started reading it again. Here’s what I discovered.
“The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity” written by Julia Cameron with Mark Bryan in 1992, targets artists, creative beings who for some reason or another are blocked. The book itself is divided into 12 week sections, where each section comes with its own tasks for the reader to tackle and practice.
On the other hand, “Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort And Joy” written by Sarah Ban Breathnach and published November 1995, targets women readers of all ages. The book is also divided into 12 sections, one for each month of the year, each including daily essays and exercises to complete.
Julia starts her book by introducing ‘The Basic Tools’ necessary for creative recovery. She writes: “There are two pivotal tools in creative recovery: the morning pages and the artist date.”
Sarah in her book writes about ‘The Basic Tools’ that she thinks will help her readers too, chief among them being The Daily Dialogue.
Julia writes: “I have been doing the morning pages for a decade now.”
Sarah writes: “I have been doing my daily dialogue for several years now.”
Julia: “The first time I did morning pages, I was living in Taos, New Mexico. I had gone there to sort myself out – into what, I didn’t know. I’d gone to New Mexico to mend my heart and see what else, if anything, I might want to do. Living in a small adobe house I began a practice of writing morning pages. Nobody told me to do them. I had never heard of anybody doing them. I just got the insistent, inner sense that I should do them and so I did. I sat at a wooden table looking north to Taos Mountain and I wrote.”
“The morning pages are three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness. They might also, more ingloriously, be called brain drain, since that is one of their main functions. All that angry, whiny, petty stuff that you write down in the morning stands between you and your creativity. Worrying about the job, the laundry, etc. – this stuff eddies through our subconscious and muddies our days.”
Sarah: “One day, desperate to quiet the voice in my head, I took a spiral notebook and began having a conversation with myself on paper. Everything I was worried about just spilled out in a rapid stream of consciousness. What I was doing was eliminating the mental minutiae that was depleting my creative energy and driving me crazy.”
Julia then goes on and writes: “The morning pages are the primary tool of creative recovery. They get us to the other side: the other side of our fear, of our negativity, of our moods. We find our own quiet center, the place where we hear the still, small voice that is at once our creator’s and our own.”
Sarah writes: “I always look forward to checking in with my consciousness because the inner tool really works. It clears my head and calms my restless spirit. I call this ritual the daily dialogue because you are really conversing with someone much wiser and saner as you write: your authentic self.”
Julia: “It is impossible to write morning pages for any extended period of time without coming into contact with an unexpected inner power. The pages are a pathway to a strong and clear sense of self. It is very difficult to complain about a situation morning after morning, month after month, without being moved to a constructive action. The pages lead us out of despair and into undreamed-of solutions.”
Sarah: “When you start writing the daily dialogue, you will probably be shocked at how much complaining you do at the beginning. That’s actually a very healthy reaction. You can’t moan about a situation for months and not decide to do something about it. You’ll get tired of the sound of your own nagging and be inspired to get moving.”
Do you notice the similarities? Some of the terms Sarah uses like “stream of consciousness” are the exact same words that Julia used in her book, except Sarah’s book came three years after Julia’s.
The only difference I found was that Julia advises her readers to “buy a nice notebook for your morning pages” while Sarah suggests her readers “don’t use a fancy, pretty journal for your daily dialogue.”
Before I go any further I feel the need to mention that I am not making any statement or accusation of any kind. I do not intend to. Whatever I say is just a simple observation of how close the two books are in content, principle and even writing. I admire both women for turning their circumstances around and being an inspiration for many of us.
I hope that this will be the start of a long conversation you and I have on my page.