Wednesday, June 17, 2015

2015 TBR Reading Challenge: The Writer's Life by Julia Cameron

2015 TBR Reading Challenge
Book: The Writer's Life: Insights from the Right to Write by Julia Cameron
My Categories: nonfiction, writing
Wendy Crutcher's Category: More Than One (I have more than one book by Cameron in my TBR pile)

In January, Sunita wrote about wanting to try writing Morning Pages. I was struck by the perfectness of this idea. And lo and behold, I had The Writer's Life in my vast TBR. So I promptly retrieved it and read it within a few days and started on my Morning Pages. I have now been writing since the beginning of the year, and some days are easy and some days just aren't, but I have persisted. I have yet to see the pay off from this writing practice, but I shall be patient.

In order to write this commentary, I re-read the book last month. On with the book...

How does one eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

That's the theme running through this book. People always take writing too seriously or try to appear smart or to approach writing as wanting to have written the perfect novel. But Cameron says that "writing happens a sentence at a time." And that "it's not so daunting to think of finding time to write a sentence or a paragraph." Enough sentences and paragraphs and you have a novel. People approach writing with an end product in mind and so find the task overwhelming. However, coming at writing by getting started and moving forward baby step by baby step is the way to achieve the goal.

Many consider that the biggest obstacle to writing is time. Cameron says, "The myth that we must have time in order to create is a myth that keeps us from using the time we do have. One of the biggest myths about writing is that in order to do it we must have great swathes of uninterrupted time." The trick to finding time is to tackle a writing task one bite at a time by integrating these small pockets of time into your daily routine.

If it is so hard, why take up writing in the first place? "It's human nature to write," much like singing or dancing. "The writing life is a simple life, self-empowered and self-empowering. It brings clarity and passion to the act of living." Cameron even compares writing to breathing. I took that to mean that like pranayama teaches us to breathe better, we can learn to write better, but just like breathing, the point is to do it no matter what.

Cameron says, "Doing it all the time, whether or not we are in the mood, gives us ownership of our writing ability." When your pocket of writing time shows up on your schedule, you write. All moods are good writing moods. Power through the mood and write. "It is choosing to write even when writing feels 'wrong' to us—because we're tired, we're bothered, we're any number of things that writing will change if only we will let it." Writing can take you out of your less felicitous mood. Let it do so.

Writing about a change will allow you to lean into it, to help it along, to cope. Writing also allows you to rewrite your life if you so desire. Write out your anger, your pain, your revenges. "You [can] turn the dross of your disappointments into the gold of accomplishment." Thus, writing becomes an act of self-cherishing.

Writing is also celebratory. You can brag as much as you want over your accomplishments. In fact, remembering to enjoy your triumphs and channeling those emotions into writing helps to change you and that affects how you write. Every mood can be mined for writing.

For all these reasons and more, I write my daily Morning Pages and Gratitude Journal.