Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Right to Write by Julia Cameron

We are all writers. Language and writing come naturally to us. We learn the notion that we are bad writers somewhere along the way, most likely in school. We are trained to be self-conscious and anxious about writing; we need to break that training and start having fun.

This viewpoint is the starting point for Julia Cameron’s advice to writers in The Right to Write. She envisions millions of people writing. They’ll write naturally and organically for the joy of writing.

That is the other major theme that runs through the book: write for the sake of writing. Writing has a lot of benefits even if you only write for your own eyes. It is a way for us to express ourselves and examine our lives.

Cameron has a lot of advice for writers but it is generally not prescriptive. Each writer has his own way. Cameron’s advice is aimed at helping him discover it. That does not mean her advice is impractical. She has some hardnosed comments about what it takes to overcome the blocks would-be writers create (or accept) to their own development.

As Cameron describes it, the writing life is not about being a writer. It is more about becoming the person and writer you can be. It is a process of learning and discovery. She tells several stories of writers who, for various reasons, stop learning and stop being open. The result is that they stop writing or find it difficult. Always be learning is good advice for anyone who wants to improve at something, whatever it may be.

Writing should be integrated into life. Your life, interests, experiences, relationships, emotions, and all the things you take in through the senses are fuel for writing. The more you live, the more you’ll have to write about and the more you’ll want to write.

The book contains many exercises to help a budding writer develop. One of the main things is simply to write every day. She describes daily writing that is intended to get one used to writing without the inner censor putting on the breaks. You also get used to writing even when not in the mood, though once you start writing your mood is likely to come around.

If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide for writing a popular genre novel, this isn’t it. If you want some practical advice and encouragement from a professional writer who thinks you can write something worthwhile, and enjoy it, then The Right to Write is a good choice.

If you’re interested in this book, you may also be interested in

Cameron, Julia. The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1998.