Transformation on tape

Being well-intentioned but naturally slothful — and suffering from that chronic malady called “Someday I will” — many of us find making New Year’s resolutions quite easy.

It’s keeping them that’s impossible.

I give you four reasons why audio books are especially helpful tools if you aim to change your ways in 2001: First, you might make time to absorb a book on tape, whereas you’d procrastinate indefinitely if you had to actually read it. Second, words read by a human voice often give a book’s message more impact. Third, you can quickly rewind and replay a tape anytime you want, reinforcing the first kick in the butt it gave you.

And last, once you’ve gotten major insight into your psyche, don’t you just love indulging in a little self-righteous proselytizing? It’s easy if you share your audio-book choices with your friends.

The most life-changing book I ever read was Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I’m pleased to discover that, finally, some of her work is now available in audio. Cameron, a prolific poet, playwright, screenwriter and essayist, is also an ex-Hollywood player, single mom, recovering alcoholic and former money addict. She formulated the 12-week Artist’s Way program to help injured artists rediscover their creativity and break through the psychological blocks they’d accumulated through years of fighting enemies such as the destructive “Critical Professor” and “Poisonous Playmates” (parents, spouses, lovers, etc. who are terrified of the promise of your creativity).

I believe that a generation from now, Cameron’s method for teaching creativity will be considered as important to the evolution of human potential as Freud’s and Jung’s approaches were to psychiatry. (Warning: Just reading The Artist’s Way is not very effective in the long run. You have to find the Way yourself — every day.)

If you’re lucky, you won’t have to pay megabucks to take an Artist’s Way program: I taught a free one for two years. Unfortunately, however, the people who need the course most often can’t afford to pay what some instructors charge.

If you’re determined to do it anyway, it helps to have company. A group of committed people can join together and teach the Artist’s Way to themselves. And this is where the audio book comes in. As if Cameron herself were teaching your class, her voice on tape proffers encouragement anytime you need it. The library, curiously, does not carry audio versions of Cameron’s work, but Malaprop’s keeps a good supply on hand.

How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day, by Michael J. Gelb, is another worthy audio companion to its printed version. Leonardo’s success is no surprise: It’s become a bestseller by touting creativity as the latest corporate-growth asset. Because most men still respond better to the voice of a male narrator, this may be the right tape for men making their first foray into creative enhancement.

At the library, you’ll find a large selection of audio books addressing the usual New Year’s resolutions — such as losing weight, stopping smoking and getting more physical. Just pick your topic and ask the librarian to lead you to the right shelf.

If you want to drastically rearrange your health perspective, probably no one does it better — or more prolifically — than Deepak Chopra. Any of his books is well worth reading on tape. (Chopra seems to be one of the library’s favorite authors, so you never have to worry about finding his books there.)

For a wise Western approach to better health, try Dr. James F. Balch’s Ten Natural Remedies That Can Save Your Life. His soothing grandfatherly voice bypasses New Age hysteria and offers a common-sense approach to natural health remedies. I highly recommend it.

Finally, Marilu Henner’s I Refuse to Raise a Brat is the book many parents have been praying for to get the new year off on the right foot. Full of smart, practical, easy-to-follow advice, the tape reminds parents what they often forget: Children don’t have to have everything they want the minute they decide they want it. In short, a healthy dose of frustration hasn’t killed a kid yet.

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