The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life

By Julia Cameron; Published In 1998
Genres: Language, Writing, Nonfiction, Self Help
Being in the mood to write, like being in the mood to make love, is a luxury that isn't necessary in a long-term relationship. Just as the first caress can lead to a change of heart, the first sentence, however tentative and awkward, can lead to a desire to go just a little further.

Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music—the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls, and interesting people. Forget yourself.” When we “forget ourselves,” it is easy to write. We are not standing there, stiff as a soldier, our entire ego shimmied into every capital “I.” When we forget ourselves, when we let go of being good and settle into just being a writer, we begin to have the experience of writing through us. We retire as the self-conscious author and become something else—the vehicle for self-expression. When we are just the vehicle, the storyteller and not the point of the story, we often write very well—we certainly write more easily.

Doing it all the time, whether or not we are in the mood, gives us ownership of our writing ability. It takes it out of the realm of conjuring where we stand on the rock of isolation, begging the winds for inspiration, and it makes it something as do-able as picking up a hammer and pounding a nail. Writing may be an art, but it is certainly a craft. It is a simple and workable thing that can be as steady and reliable as a chore—does that ruin the romance?

Grab for time to write instead of wait for time.

I believe that what we want to write wants to be written

if I had enough time” is the unstated sentence “to hear myself think.” In other words, we imagine that if we had time we would quiet our more shallow selves and listen to a deeper flow of inspiration. Again, this is a myth that lets us off the hook—if I wait for enough time to listen, I don’t have to listen now, I don’t have to take responsibility for being available to what is trying to bubble up today.

If we are invested in a writing life—as opposed to a writing career—then we are in it for the process and not the product.

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".

It's a luxury to be in the mood to write. It's a blessing but it's not a necessity. Writing is like breathing, it's possible to learn to do it well, but the point is to do it no matter what.

Just as a good rain clears the air, a good writing day clears the psyche.

Once writing becomes an act of listening instead of an act of speech, a great deal of the ego goes out of it.

Owning something also means owning up to something. It means accepting responsibility, which means, literally, responsibility. When we write about our lives we respond to them. As we respond to them, we are rendered more fluid, more centered, more agile on our own behalf. We are rendered conscious. Each day, each life, is a series of choices, and as we use the lens of writing to view our lives, we see our choices.

The "if I had time" lie is a convenient way to ignore the fact that novels require being written and that writing happens a sentence at a time. Sentences can happen in a moment. Enough stolen moments, enough stolen sentences, and a novel is born - without the luxury of time.

The “if-I-had-time” lie is a convenient way to ignore the fact that novels require being written and that writing happens a sentence at a time. Sentences can happen in a moment. Enough stolen moments, enough stolen sentences, and a novel is born—without the luxury of time.

The myth that we must have “time”—more time—in order to create is a myth that keeps us from using the time we do have.

The myth that we must have "time" - more time - in order to create is a myth that keeps us from using the time we do have. If we are forever yearning for "more", we are forever discounting what is offered.

The myth that we must have “time”—more time—in order to create is a myth that keeps us from using the time we do have. If we are forever yearning for “more,” we are forever discounting what is offered.

The trick to finding writing time is to make writing time in the life you've already got.

The trick to finding writing time, then, is to write from love and not with an eye to product.

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.

When we forget ourselves, when we let go of being good and just settle into just being a writer, we begin to have the experience of writing through us. We retire as the self-conscious author and become something else - the vehicle for self-expression. When we are just the vehicle, the storyteller and not the point of the story, we often write very well - we certainly write more easily.

When we let ourselves write from love, when we let ourselves steal minutes as gifts to ourselves, our lives become sweeter, our temperaments become sweeter.

When we make time to write, we can do it anytime, anywhere.

When we write from the inside out rather than the outside in, when we write about what most concerns us rather than about what we feel might sell, we often write so well and so persuasively that the market responds to our efforts.

Wherever you are is the entry point,” and this is always true with writing. Wherever you are is always the right place. There is never a need to fix anything, to hitch up the bootstraps of the soul and start at some higher place. Start right where you are.

Writing for the sake of writing, writing that draws its credibility from its very existence, is a foreign idea to most Americans. As a culture, we want cash on the barrel head. We want writing to earn dollars and sense so that it makes sense to us. We have a conviction—which is naive and misplaced—that being published has to do with being “good” while not being published has to do with being “amateur.” ...

“Did you write today?”
“Yes.”
“Then you’re a writer today.”
It would be lovely if being a writer were a permanent state that we could attain to. It’s not, or if it is, the permanence comes posthumously.
A page at a time, a day at a time, is the way we must live our writing lives. Credibility lies in the act of writing. That is where the dignity is. That is where the final “credit” must come from.

Writing is a way not only to metabolize life but to alchemize it as well. It is a way to transform what happens to us in our own experience. It is a way to move from passive to active. We may still be the victims of circumstance, but by our understanding those circumstances we place events within the ongoing context of our own life, that is, the life we "own".

Writing is like breathing, it's possible to learn to do it well, but the point is to do it no matter what.