The Right to Write – The Wisdom of Julia Cameron

Posted: February 9, 2012 in For writers
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I will admit it right now, I’m a little late to the party on this one.  I finally picked up a copy of Julia Cameron’s “The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life” that was published in 1999.  Like I said, a little late to the party.  I’ve known about Julia Cameron for many years (decades!), ever since she wrote “The Artist’s Way” in 1992.  She is a Renaissance woman, an expert on bringing out your own native creativity, and a  writer who can make you feel as if you’re sipping lattes with her at the corner coffee shop.  Is there higher praise for a writer?

I’m enjoying delving into this advice from such a prolific writer.  She explains what writing is by first talking about the thrill of allowing something to surface from within.

“Writing is about getting something down, not about thinking something up…. Writing is the art of taking dictation, not giving it…. Instead of being an act of pontification, writing becomes an act of revelation.” — Julia Cameron

When I’m in my groove as a writer, the words flow out.  The story’s characters dictate what is going to happen next.  People who know me as a mystery writer will ask about my current project.  After I give them a brief synopsis, they’ll ask me if I know who did it yet.  They know from hearing me expound on the craft of mystery writing that although I start with a plot and a cast of characters, once I begin to build my characters out and set them free, they take on a life of their own.  At that point, the story is out of my hands.  It becomes what it wants to be.  And I have to wait for the end to see how it comes out, just like you… except I get a earlier copy of it than you do.

If the words aren’t flowing, it’s because I haven’t taken enough time to get to know my main characters.  I’m trying to force a story on them.  They rebel and shut me down.  Then I have to confer with Cee, my partner in love and crime.  She’s always able to free up that inner voice so I can hear it again.

I like Julia’s statement that writing is the art of taking dictation.  I certainly know the feeling of that, when the words flow out almost faster than I can type, when I’m amazed as I reread the latest chapter because I wasn’t the one writing it, merely the one taking dictation.

If you’re a writer, a diarist, or a journal keeper, and if you don’t know what this feeling is, you need to let loose a little bit.  I recommend putting some duct tape over the mouth of your inner critic.  Quit trying to make every word perfect, and just ask yourself what wants to come out now, then step back and let the words flow.

Writing exercise, a la Cameron:  without editing or stopping, write down everything you are feeling until you fill up three pages.  Write about how you feel physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually… anyway you can feel it, write it down.  Don’t stop until you’re filled up three pages.  If you can’t think of anything to write and you haven’t filled up your three pages, just start writing “I want to write about…” over and over again until something pops up at the end of the sentence.  Quit judging!  Just write.  You’ll be glad you did.


Read a sample of my latest book, an Alice Anne  mystery:  “The Banker’s Murder List.”

  1. mjspringett says:

    Great advice, thanks MJ

  2. Well that’s a very interesting exercise to try Chris. I may. I should read The
    Artists Way too. Heard so many good things about it. Hmmm. Margie

  3. Cee Neuner says:

    I so agree with you…and when you are in a groove, you do write as if the story is being dictated to you. Wonderful post.

  4. jakesprinter says:

    Great writing

  5. Bongo says:

    Great ideas on writing. It sometimes works this way for me when I’m writing fiction. When I’m writing something more fact oriented it’s a little more difficult, although if I really know my material it can still flow.

  6. Fergiemoto says:

    Morning pages? Good information – I also like Julia Cameron. I am currently reading “Vein of Gold”.

  7. imexcited says:

    Great tips on writing. Thanks for sharing Chris 🙂

  8. ElizOF says:

    Julia is the best… on my permanent list of inspiring reads. 🙂

  9. Gilly Gee says:

    Move over Julia, Chris Donner is on her way!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s