Blogging, a definition – the writing world in which you can write about a fairly esoteric writing book and a stand-up comic in the same post. Don’t you love it?
Anyway, many of you have been asking about Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write, as a result of my Weekly Geeks post, so I thought I’d tackle that review first.
The book is subtitled “An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life,” and thus is about the ways that people can start a writing practice that focuses on writing for the sake of the process rather than the sake of the product. Julia Cameron puts it this way:
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. We are in it for the body of work and not for the quick hit of one well-realized piece.” (p. 66)
Each chapter of the book is on a different abstract concept related to writing such as “Mood” or “Voice” or “Making It”, and each chapters ends with an “Initiation Tool,” a writing exercise. The book reminds me of a combination of Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away because it combines thoughtful pondering on the practice as well as practical tools for the craft. Many of Cameron’s writing assignments are about how you feel, however, encouraging you to draw a bath or take a walk, whereas Goldberg’s exercises always take you to the page. I must confess that I prefer Goldberg’s method more, since Cameron wanders a bit too far into the psychology of writing for my taste. I feel like Cameron is a cheerleader for people who want to write anything, including journals (which is great, just not where I am) whereas Goldberg is a cheerleader for people who need to write for other people to read. Does that distinction make sense?
In terms of what I took away from this book, I appreciated it, but I did not find it as useful as Lamott or Goldberg. That fact may be a result of where I was in my writing when I read it – at a place where I wasn’t following a daily practice – but I think the book also waxes esoteric a bit too much, making me lose my grounding in my own writing. Additionally, Cameron largely discounts the intellect in writing practice, and while I certainly know writing comes from a deeper place than from the mind, it’s hard for me to see our knowledge and our understanding of the world intellectually as completely devoid of value in writing.
All in all, this is a great book for people who need to get a daily writing practice started or for people who truly have great anxiety or fear about their writing (I have been both of those people and still am on some days). It may simply not be for those who are already writing and simply need someone to walk beside them.
Has anyone else read this book or Julia Cameron’s other work? If so, what did you think about it? (And if you’ve reviewed her work, let me know, and I”ll link to it here.)
Thanks to Dewey, Alessandra, Chris, and “Adventures in Reading,” for your great questions.
Now, a completely different topic. Do any of you watch Dave Chapelle, or did you before Chapelle’s Show went off the air? What do you think of him? Like him? Hate him? Find him not funny or hilarious? What do you think about his portrayal of women?
I ask because I’m writing an article on Dave Chapelle and feminism, and I’d love to include some of your thoughts, if you’re willing. If you’d like to share what you think, post a comment here or email me at andilit at gmail dot com. Please let me know if I can quote from you or if you’d prefer to remain anonymous. Thanks.