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Write for Life / Final Thoughts
Final reflection and discussion of Julia Cameron's Write for Life
“How do you know it’s done? You’ve written your story start to finish. Your ending may seem abrupt, but that’s better than dragged out. Knowing when your draft is done calls for intuition. You ‘sense’ your ending. You feel ‘written out.’ There is no magic formula telling you to stop. Instead, you feel that your draft is at an end.” — Julia Cameron, Write for Life
Last week was our final week of reading Write for Life by Julia Cameron.
I held my final comments, thinking, after summarizing Week 6, which was mostly about editing a rough draft and getting feedback (from your magical group of supportive friends), that I wanted to let things simmer a bit. I wanted to get just a bit farther from the total six week reading experience and see what crystallized, what rose to the top, and what emerged for me as my key takeaways.
Unfortunately, in the ensuing week, I didn’t have time to sit and reflect, I misplaced the version of the notes I thought I had, and things are complicated right now. My headspace hasn't been on the philosophy of writing.
I do want to close out this read-along with some final thoughts.
As I explained in the beginning, I have resisted reading Cameron in the past, but somehow I thought the time might be right. In the face of increasing health uncertainty in my house, I had started a morning writing practice (that was going strong), had started this substack, and was hoping to continue working on a larger manuscript about illustrated journaling. It felt like this book might be part of a moment of synchronicity (ironic, right?). I am always on the lookout for these moments, but looking for synchronicity and symbols and signs of the universe speaking doesn’t always yield a message. Sometimes there are just whispers in the wind and creaky floor boards.
Sometimes the message is simply wrapped up in the doing.
Ultimately, I wish I had selected a different book for my first read-along here in this space. There is something about Cameron’s approach that doesn’t completely work for me. However, reading Write for Life as a shared reading definitely made me approach each week with intentionality. I spent a lot of time thinking about each chapter, my own history as a writer, my voice and authenticity, my process, my resistance, and my relationship with my inner critic. I reflected candidly (in private) on what holds me back, what gets in the way, or how I get in my own way.
With so many years trying with the podcast and, in recent years, with Illustrate Your Week, and yet being unsuccessful (depends on your criteria), I know my view is a bit jaded, and I think this complicated my reading and my openness to Cameron as a voice.
The Four Core Practices and What Stood Out
Morning Writing: My morning writing habit is now strong again. I have settled into a pattern that works for me, one I look forward to on most mornings simply for the value of journaling and starting the day with a bit of a recap, a bit of looking, a bit of recording concrete details, and often a bit of wandering and wondering about what comes next. I have settled into my initial morning writing longhand, too, which was a big divergence for me. (After the three pages, I shift to my keyboard for additional writing sessions.)
Artist Dates: Given my work schedule and timing, I didn’t follow through with many deliberate Artist Dates during these weeks. A few times, routine stops were ones I felt could “suffice” for ticking off that box. In general, my days rarely include aimless or unnecessary outings. (Maybe someday.)
Walks: I do take walks, less often than I should, but I find myself often multitasking on those walks or, at the very least, listening to a book. This process is still a “break” from my routine and gives me some fresh air. But these are not five-mile ambling walks in which I simply look at the world (though I do try to look at the world).
Daily Quota: The quota isn’t something I followed. It wasn’t quite the right structure or challenge for me. But I did do and complete April’s NaNoWriMo session. That is a quota-driven process, although I do more or less each day based on windows of time (“Alexa, set a timer for 20 minutes,” which I often repeat or work beyond) throughout the day, often morning, after work before leaving my table, and sometimes at night. A daily target is a rubric that works for me, but this isn’t a concept I’ve taken from Cameron. I don’t impose limits on each day.
Laying Track: The biggest takeaway for me was personal insight related to her discussion of “laying track,” something I do and have articulated in other ways. I appreciated her discussion of this strategy. I think most of us can benefit from continuing to move forward and not getting in our own way until we are farther along in the process!
Inner Critic: The other topic that was important for me relates to the inner critic. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and writing about this (and listening to the voice in my head) during this span of weeks.
Ultimately, this wasn’t the book for me, but I am still glad I read it.
A Summary Sketchnote
A quick sketchnote documenting some of what came to mind for me in reflecting on Write for Life:
What Did You Think?
How was your experience reading this book? I know many of you found the Morning Pages valuable, whether you were trying them for the first time or reestablishing a morning writing habit. What are your overall thoughts? Does Cameron’s voice have resonance for you? Did you find new insight into your own creative process? How do you feel this book impacted your writing or creative life? What is next for you in the writing process? What other books on creativity or productivity have been important for you (or are on your “to read” list)?
Thank you to those of you who read along with me and showed up to share your experience. It was nice to do this with others, and I appreciate your commitment to the process and your generosity in sharing.
I wish you all the best in your writing life.