Julia Cameron’s new book, Faith and Will, jumped into my hands while I was cruising around Borders one Sunday afternoon. Cameron is the international bestselling author of The Artist’s Way, but it wasn’t her name that hooked me. It was the subtitle — Weathering the Storms in Our Spiritual Lives — that drew my attention. Lately I’ve been wondering where my goodness went. Did it get lost with my money in the economic downturn?
In scanning the first few pages of the book, I noticed right away Cameron was on the same page with me. She was “caught off guard by life and by feelings of emptiness.” She “needs to feel connected to God.” She wants to act “out of some inner sense of guidance.” These personal revelations sealed the deal, and I walked out of the store with the great hope Faith and Will would provide me with the inspiration I was temporarily lacking.
The juiciest part of Faith and Willis the fact that Cameron writes as if she’s talking to her best friend. She tells gutsy, personal, authentic things about herself that other people typically hide. Like for example, Cameron is shamelessly ambitious. She wants to make big money. She’s prone to nervous breakdowns. The guy she loved didn’t love her back. But even more – she’s a secular, commercially-successful person living a God-centered life, and she has a cadre of God-centered friends, too. My interest in Cameron’s unflinching honesty and her Godly lifestyle ultimately trumped my disappointments with the content and format of Faith and Will and became the primary reasons I actually finished her book.
Faith and Will is about what to do when the plans we make for ourselves don’t work out. Cameron uses the word faith to mean we should believe in a loving, caring God who has a purpose and plan for us – even if we can’t see it. Especially when we can’t see it. And she uses the word will to mean we should get out of the way and let God lead us to His plan, whatever it might be. Unfortunately, Cameron doesn’t look at all aspects of desire. She never addresses why some people get their personal desires and plans fulfilled and why others don’t. How come a child abductor can find an unattended child to snatch when a harmless, church-going jobless person can’t find a job? Does the child abductor have stronger personal power? Did he focus more deliberately or fervently? Make a better bargain? Is God like a great big idol judge in the sky, either granting or withholding our desires? What’s the trick?
There’s something else going on here, and I wish Cameron would have used her good mind and fearlessness to talk about it. Instead, she sticks to the same old tired Christian party line. Without a complete, logical discussion of how we either co-create or block creation, it's impossible to buy into Cameron’s promise of greater comfort and joy by settling for what we don't want, God's Plan B. Frankly, it sounds a lot like the booby prize.
Then there’s the formatting. Faith and Will is written like one long journal entry that never ends. Cameron doesn’t organize her material into chapters or topics, and this is mildly annoying because the reader has to do the work of figuring out what’s going on. It also gives Cameron the flexibility to meander and weave in and out of the same topic several times throughout the book. Personally, I prefer it when the author gives me a tidy package and makes it easier for me to follow along. Cameron also relies heavily on quotes from Christian scripture and to a lesser degree, 12-step thought, to make a point, and people with an affinity for these sources of inspiration will like Faith and Will more than others.
Gripes aside, Cameron offers the reader several practical tools for dealing with life’s disappointments. Find a way to commune with God (Cameron does it through writing). Reach for the next step. Concentrate of what feels right. Express gratitude for what you already have. Pray. These are simple steps anyone and everyone can take to get unstuck and to hold a higher, more helpful thought.