The Right to Write

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Cameron, Julia. The Right to Write: an Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life. New York: Tarcher, 1999. ISBN: 1585420093. ISBN-13: 978-1585420094.

With The Artist’s Way and The Vein of Gold, Julia Cameron established herself as a champion of the universality of creativity. She contends that everyone can be creative, and she has devoted a substantial portion of her career to teaching that theory, both through her writing and in her face-to-face courses.

In The Right to Write, Cameron tackles writing in particular. Through a series of essays, she sets out her theory that every person has the innate right to write. Cameron uses her own personal experience, as well as those of her family, friends, and students, to illustrate her points.

In a fairly small book–236 pages–Cameron covers a lot of territory. Forty-three essays cover topics as diverse as how to begin, listening, keeping the drama on the page, ESP, writing badly, and commitment, among many others.

Cameron has the ability to illuminate her topics clearly and concisely. Most of her essays cover only two or three pages and can be read sequentially or individually as needed. Her writing style is personal and lively, as if she were speaking directly to her individual readers across a small cafe table.

Each essay–called “Invitations”–also comes with an “Initiation”: an exercise closely related to the essay that aims to open the reader’s mind to new possibilities. Some of the exercises are intense and can be emotionally challenging. Most of all, though, the “Initiations” are just that: introductions to new ways of thinking, new opportunities, and permission to put pen to paper and exercise your right to write.

Possibly the most useful exercise is the Morning Pages. Cameron strongly recommends using pen and paper and sitting quietly for fifteen to twenty minutes each morning writing longhand and using stream of consciousness to open the right, or creative, side of the brain and to silence the inner critic. I can testify that this technique is extraordinarily effective.

The Right to Write is an essential part of the writer’s book collection for the occasional pick-me-up and reminder that we do, indeed, have an intrinsic right to write.

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