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Write for Life / Week 6 (Celebrating Your Achievements)
Reflection and discussion of Week 6 of Julia Cameron's Write for Life
“The silver moon climbs the sky. It is a harvest moon, and what I am harvesting is my project. Moonlight drifts through my window. It is serene and steady. If I let myself feel it, I, too, am serene and steady. ‘Job well done,’ I tell myself. I love to write.” — Julia Cameron, Write for Life
That’s it! With Chapter 6, we’ve finished our six-week reading of Write for Life by Julia Cameron.
For six weeks, we have followed along with the reading and worked at crafting and practicing a morning writing habit based on Cameron’s Morning Pages. We have contemplated and gone on solo Artist Dates to “refill the well” of inspiration, took walks laden with intentionality, been on the lookout for moments of synchronicity, thought about our current and future writing projects and, maybe, experimented with a daily quota to help keep us moving forward with a larger writing project or goal.
No matter what your overall response was to the book, I think the six weeks fostered heightened awareness of our personal responses and approaches. We were intentional in enacting our morning habits and showing up for morning writing. We were intentional in making time for Artist Dates and walks. We were intentional in thinking about issues like fear, doubt, perfectionism, the inner critic, and competition in relation to our writing (or creative lives).
While the book is, of course, specifically about writing, many of us are writers and artists in other mediums. The issues, roadblocks and strategies we read and talked about play out across the creative landscape.
Chapter 6, Celebrate Your Achievement
This final chapter is about what happens after you finish the first draft of a project and deals with both the editing of the draft and the solicitation of feedback from trusted readers. If you are not currently working on a larger project, much of this chapter may not have felt immediately relevant, but thinking about these stages of the process is important. There is a difference between a draft and a final manuscript. There is a lot of work that happens in the space between, and that work can be fertile ground for your inner critic, your perfectionism, your doubt, and your fear.
Topics in this chapter:
Intuitively knowing when to stop (or knowing when a draft is finished)
Starting the second draft with a read-through
Constructing an outline during a subsequent read-through (before any editing) and then annotating a copy of the outline to mark needed edits
Working through the outline sequentially to make a full pass of edits, start to finish
Repeat this outline/annotation/editing process for a third draft, as needed
Look for a few people, “believing mirrors” you can trust to read your draft with positive intent
“Make no mistake: writing involves rewriting. A first draft is exactly that: a first draft. Now it is time for a second draft, a draft of improvement. To begin with, we must surrender our ego’s resistance to change. We must be open-minded enough to welcome change. But how do we know what it is? Here is how. You’ve written a first draft and you’ve read it through. Now it’s time to read it through again, this time, pen in hand. You are going to read, outlining as you read.” (p 167)
This chapter hones in on the feedback cycle as part of the editing process. Cameron advocates finding a few “believing mirrors,” friends who support your work and that you can trust to read and offer candid but balanced feedback.
“You want the opinions of others, but not just any others. You are looking now for believing mirrors, persons who are generous, who believe in you and your strength. Persons who are not jealous. Persons who understand your goal: excellence. Believing mirrors are rare and to be treasured.” (p 171)
If you have these people, embrace them!
Accepting feedback can be difficult. We are typically attached to the work we have produced. Sometimes we are so close to it that we can’t see its problems, weak spots, or what is missing. Accepting feedback requires that you be open to critique and that you not be defensive.
“Listen to your reader’s critique without defending yourself. Remember that you have invited their candid opinion. How do their notes compare with your own?” (p 173)
In talking about the feedback cycle, Cameron offers perspective on how to receive feedback from the limited pool of readers you invite to comment and, even later, how to respond to larger criticisms, poor reviews, or even problems selling a manuscript.
My Six Weeks
I am going to reflect on my own six weeks separately. I started the book after years and years of resisting reading Cameron’s books. I also knew that my timing was tight when I set this up as a read-along, and running a read-along, even a small one does take additional time.
I’ve written my response notes, but I am going to hold them until next week. That wasn’t my initial plan, but it feels right at this point to put them aside until next time.
Feel free to comment below on this week or on your total experience. If you want to wait until next week, you will have that opportunity as well.
There were a number of tasks with this chapter to help guide you in thinking about who you might be able to ask to read your manuscript and who you trust with that process. Did you do any of these tasks? Do you have close friends you feel you would be able to invite as early readers?
Where do you get support for your writing practice? Do you participate in a group, and if so, is it helpful? Do you have friends you are able to talk with about your writing? Do you find that the inner critic and or fears related to competition hold you back from finding, asking for, and using support from others?
How lonely is the writing practice for you?
How did the core practices go: Morning Pages, Artist Date, walks, and daily quota?
Did you struggle with any sections of this chapter?
Were there sections you especially liked or found helpful for you?
How are you feeling about your writing, your habit, or the book now that you are midway through? Have your feelings changed since you started?
“‘Does it say what I mean? Does it mean what I say?’ These are ultimate questions we must ask our polish draft. Polish comes from clarity, and clarity often comes from simplicity. Put simply, we are striving to communicate. And that communication must hold first place in our minds. The rest is just window dressing. ‘What am I trying to say,’ we must ask ourselves. The answer should be both bold and brief. Reading it over, we must think, ’Yes! That’s it.’ Sometimes what we are trying to say and what we’ve said are two differing things. In such cases, we must choose: Which is it to be? We need to throw our hat in the ring. Either we must alter what we’ve said, or we must emphasize the saying of it.” (p 174) Julia Cameron, Write for Life