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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"The Right to Write"

I just finished reading The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life by Julia Cameron. Actually, I've been savoring it, saving it, reading one or two of its short essays each morning along with my breakfast. I didn't want it to end.

It was a great find for an amateur writer such as myself. In it, Julia Cameron insists that anyone can and should write for the sheer pleasure of it. It's about the process, not about the product. She points out that we have created a whole mythology about what it means to be a "writer". "Real writers are published", or "real writers make a living from their writing". As a result, most of us are intimidated and never even begin.

I was one whose experience of writing was in college: literary criticism, academic, forced, and returned in its final form with lots of red marks, never to be touched again. It was not introspective or creative. Not something that could grow, evolve or resonate with others. I never kept a diary or journal and it never occurred to me that writing could show me the way out or through. I've only recently found that by simply sitting down and putting pen to paper that I can allow the pen to take me to places I've never explored. I usually end up someplace much different than the place I start from. And I feel better. Too bad it took me 50+ years to find this out!

I took my first writing class just last year. My friend Dee in Boulder offered a memoir writing class and I discovered the tremendous support offered by a small group of caring women. Dee introduced us to the difference between "process" and "craft" and with the gentle feedback and encouragement provided in the class, I witnessed for myself how a piece could evolve and improve. Wow, maybe writing is something you can learn!

Once I had a taste of this writing life, I started reading as much as I could about the process and craft. I discovered Lisa Dale Norton's Shimmering Images: A Handy Little Guide to Writing Memoir, and of everything I'd read, this small book stood out as the very best of its kind. It changed everything for me. In January of this year I started an online writing course offered by Lisa and I look forward to additional online courses with her. I was thrilled to meet Lisa Dale Norton in person when she visited Paris this spring, and her professional advice and personal friendship are priceless.

Finally, when embarking on this voyage to Europe I decided to start writing a blog; partly as an open letter and record of my travels for friends and family, and partly as a continuation of my own self discovery. I am still often intimidated and embarrassed to label myself as "writer" in my profile, and while I would never dream of writing a whole book, I find that biting off small chunks and writing these thoughts and observations is less onerous than I imagined. "Writing is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." E.L. Doctorow.

Thank you, dear Readers, for your indulgence. And thank you for your comments and your encouragement.

It is with the 'permission', encouragement, and tools provided in books like Julia Cameron's The Right to Write that makes the trip worthwhile.


  1. We love reading your writings, so keep them coming!

  2. I love what your writing! I want to know more about your teachers! Yay writing!