The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life by Julia Cameron
My rating: (4.5 / 5)
Are you a writer? Or a wannabe writer? Or just think maybe someday you might write something, if you have time and can get around to it, maybe?
Then you might like this book.
“We should write because it is human nature to write. Writing claims our world. It makes it directly and specifically our own. We should write because humans are spiritual beings and writing is a powerful form of prayer and meditation, connecting us both to our own insights and to a higher and deeper level of inner guidance.
We should write because writing brings clarity and passion to the act of living. Writing is sensual, experiential, grounding. We should write because writing is good for the soul. We should write because writing yields us a body of work, a felt path through the world we live in.
We should write, above all, because we are writers, whether we call ourselves that or not.”
This book came to me highly recommended, by a fantastic author (Samantha Adkins) from my writer’s group. It was giving her some great inspiration, and I hoped it would do the same for my own somewhat stalled writing.
And it took forever and a day to read. That’s mainly because I was taking the time to do (most) of the writing exercises in the book. There’s one at the end of each chapter, and each chapter is only 4 -7 pages or so long, so that’s a lot of exercising. Seriously. But it got me putting pen to page again, even if it was only making long, long lists in my journals all the time. These exercises though are more about getting you to think differently, rather than polishing your writing. That is not the goal of this book – it’s goal is just to get you writing. To get over the obstacles that keep you from being creative and get you to put it down, even if it’s bad! Even if it’s silly! Even if it’s not worth the paper it’s on – because in the end, it is worth it, because it got you moving again.
“Writing is like breathing, it’s possible to learn to do it well, but the point is to do it no matter what.”
I’ve published a couple of the writing exercises on my blog. You can check out 100 Things I Love, and Fifty Bits of Happiness, and watch for a few more that are scheduled for future weeks in the Written Arts category.
I found this book to be useful, but I also found it to be a little bit “Look how great my life is”-ish. What I mean by that – and by no means am I bemoaning Julia Cameron’s success, because I mean, good for her – is that there’s only so much I can take of how beautiful your ranch is and how sweet your horses are and how cool your car is and how easily you dash off movie scripts before I roll my eyes. Maybe that’s partly jealousy/envy on my part.
What this book is really about, is freeing you from your thoughts of what a writer should be, should do, should produce and getting you to just see that if you want to be a writer, then you are a writer. You don’t need permission. You don’t need validation. You don’t need to be published. You don’t need anyone else to like your writing. You just have to write, because that’s all that makes a writer.
“If we eliminate the word “writer”, if we just go back to writing as an act of listening and naming what we hear, some of the rules dissappear. There is an organic shape, a form-coming-into-form that is inherent in the thing we are observing, listening to, and trying to put on the page. It has rules of its own that it will reveal to us if we listen with attention. Shape does not need to be imposed. Shape is a part of what we are listening to. When we just let ourselves write, we get it “right”.”
I really like that attitude, and that belief system.
I don’t like her emphasis on writing by hand. I can’t write with my hands nearly fast enough to capture all the stuff that falls out of my head. I just can’t. I love to journal but having that pressure to do it all by hand kills it for me. So I’m taking a page out of her own book (hah) and doing it how it works for me. Cause I don’t need anyone else to tell me how to write – even the writer who told me that.