Author Julia Cameron gave me room to breathe this week. I was feeling a shallow wheezing inside, the sort that comes when a writer frets about squandered opportunities or misplaced ideas or lost motivation. But after reading the chapters for this week’s discussion of Cameron’s book The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life, my inner-writer was breathing easy once more.
Let me begin at the beginning so you can join me at the end.
Last week I had the joy of a week-long getaway on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Two dear friends and I rented an oceanfront bungalow and ventured off with stacks of books in tow, hopeful for refreshment and rest. I also took my beloved laptop so that I might work on a few writing projects that always seem to get neglected here at home.
Alas, a beach is no place for a laptop . . . so when I was out in the sand, I gave my writing ideas to unlined index cards. As the coolness of powdery sand beneath my feet triggered its inexplicable therapeutic effect, I jotted phrases and ideas. As I watched the waves on their endless march to shore, more creative fodder marched my way. Everything about the landscape and setting set my heart at ease and my creative spirit ablaze. My inner-writer was inspired again and again. I jotted my ideas on cards, tucking them away until I went back inside to my laptop.
But as the week wore on, I did not like feeling restricted to my indoor writing instrument. I didn’t want to feel chained to the indoors when beauty was awaiting me out there. So I decided to save the cards and the ideas they held for my return home.
Once home, I felt a bit of guilt creeping in: with life back in gear, I feared I had wasted my time away. I did not produce something tangible during my trip, except for a few cards of scribbled notes. It felt paltry, thin.
Like many things, the way it is framed in your mind changes the way you see it. And so, the way I framed my time away (squandered because I did not produce) tainted my assessment of the experience (thinking it was paltry when it was in actuality rich and deep with scenery, books, prayer, discussion with friends, etc.). Cameron helped me reframe my trip so that I might breathe easy; she says that writers need to take “the time and care to restock our inner well.”1 This restocking comes by taking an “expedition to something festive that interests us.”2
My trip was just such an expedition. It was festive, enlightening, inspiring, and restful. I’m not going to let society’s push to produce steal away the treasure that I found in the expedition.
Restoring the creative well happens as you “allow yourself to soak up images and impressions. No need to write about them. You are to fill the well, not fish from it.”3 Cameron is pushing us to push away the constant need to produce and impress and run ourselves into the ground.
As I reframe my trip as an expedition to restock my creative well, I see how the time away to jot ideas without the pressure to immediately develop them into a product was immensely freeing and restorative. I may not have a finished work to point to, but inside I am breathing, ready to put my hands to the work in the days to come.
1. Julia Cameron, The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life (New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 1998), 65.
2. Julia Cameron, 64.
3. Julia Cameron, 68.