by EMILY BRENNAN
Published: April 5, 2013
When Julia Cameron, the author of many books, including the popular spiritual guide to developing your creativity, “The Artist’s Way,” moved to Santa Fe, N.M., a few years ago, she found herself flying once a month to teach writing classes and workshops in New York. The frequency of the trips made her long-standing fear of flying unbearable — and embarrassing.
Julia Cameron, author of a new book called "Safe Journey."
“I felt not very modern,” she said. “I thought, ‘Certainly a modern woman who knows very well that flying is safer than driving a car should be able to overcome her fear and fly with serenity.’ ”
And she has, thanks to the strategies she developed and reveals in her new book, “Safe Journey: Prayers and Comfort for Frightened Fliers and Other Anxious Souls,” to be published this month.
Below are edited excerpts from a conversation with Ms. Cameron on how to conquer your fear of flying.
Q. What’s your first piece of advice to anxious fliers?
A. Get yourself a journal and write down your fears. The whole process of flying is a process of surrendering control. You’re not flying the plane, the pilot is. When I’m frightened, I do a little dialoguing in my journal. It might say L.J., for Little Julie: “I’m scared!” Then I listen, and I hear: “You will be fine. You’re safe. You’re secure. The crew is skilled. The pilot is sober.” I didn’t go to see that movie “Flight.” I thought the last thing I needed to do is see a realistically staged airplane disaster.
Q. Why do you think it helps to write down your fears?
A. You almost become your own parent, comforting the terrified childlike part of yourself. Prayers can also create a sense of calm. If you think the pilot is in charge, then maybe there’s something larger than the pilot.
Q. What else do you take on board to help with anxiety?
A. Comforting distractions like Kindles, video games, crossword puzzles, trashy reading. I never read tabloids except when I fly. I spend about $30 on magazines: The National Enquirer, Globe, all of those slicks like Us, People, In Touch. The most legitimate-looking one I have is Vanity Fair. There’s something vastly comforting about worrying about celebrities’ cellulite.
Q. Is there anything about the process of packing that can help?
A. Given that you’re dealing with the fear of a lack of control, packing is one thing that you can control. Do it about two days ahead of time. I use a big journal for my morning pages, and I keep a running tab in it: “Did you take extra slacks, extra contact lens, extra lens solution, good perfume?” I do think there’s something comforting about it.
Q. How do you stay relaxed while on vacation, knowing that you’ll have to contend with the flight back home?
A. Create a sense of before, during and after. I call my daughter from the airport, and I say I’m in the gate waiting to board. When I land, I call my daughter again and I say I made it. Just hearing her dear, familiar voice is a tremendous comfort.
When you travel, set up a little altar, a few totems of things that are comforting and speak of home. I bring a picture of my grandchild, a card from my daughter, a candle, a picture of my dog and a pine cone. Pine cones always make me realize the mystery of life. I still don’t understand exactly how they work, but I love them.
Q. You’ve coached legions of writers over the years. How’s flying like writing?
A. Whenever you’re trying to create something, it’s an act of faith. It’s the same process of letting go of control and listening. I’ll have an idea for a character and then discover the character has ideas of its own. It’s similar when you get on an airplane: you’re surrendering control.