The Right to Write: A Book Club Revisited

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A couple weeks ago I received a note from a beautiful new friend who is interested in writing. “I have a passion for writing,” she said. “I just have trouble getting my thoughts out and I was wondering if you would be willing to give me any tips or suggestions.”

Would I? She may have regretted this innocent query because I proceeded to flood her inbox with an influx. One of the books I recommended to her was Julia Cameron’s  The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life. It’s one of my favorite books on writing, a sort of abbreviated version of The Artist’s Way. And then I remembered we did this book as one of our book club selections at The High Calling. I thought it would be fun to re-run that series here on Wednesdays. Cool? Here is my introductory post that was featured at The High Calling a few years ago:

I start with the usual, the question that invites me into her world. Tell me a little about what brings you here. Tell me your story. She is alone. No family, just this one. But she looks around, bewildered. If I had read her chart ahead of time I would know. The stroke that ravaged her brain has left her with dysphasia —a language disorder that fights against the flow of words. She struggles.

Too late I realize my mistake. I’ve seen this look before. I begin to back pedal, search for a way to soothe her in this loss. But then, it comes out. I don’t know, she says, haltingly, everything was so perfectly, wonderfully beautiful…and then suddenly, it was not so. This would be the longest sentence she says to me her entire stay in the hospital. I think about this gentle woman later in the day. I think about her before I go to bed. And I think about her the next morning.

Why do I write? Why should I write? In the coming weeks we’ll be looking in depth at that question as we read together The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life. In the introduction, author Julia Cameron says:

We should write because it is human nature to write. Writing claims our world. It makes it directly and specifically our own. We should write because humans are spiritual beings and writing is a powerful form of prayer and meditation, connecting us both to our own insights and to a higher and deeper level of inner guidance as well.

There’s more:

We should write because writing brings clarity and passion to the act of living…We should write because writing is good for the soul…We should write, above all, because we are writers whether we call ourselves writers or not. The Right to Write is a birthright, a spiritual dowry that gives us the keys to the kingdom…

I write, in part, because eternity is set in my heart. I desire to leave a part of me behind when I go—or when the world is suddenly not so wonderfully, perfectly beautiful. As Shakespeare says in Sonnet 65…in black ink my love may still shine bright. Life is fragile. When I record what I see, I attend all the more to the finest of details.

Won’t you join me on this journey? I’ll be discussing The Right to Write by Julia Cameron every Wednesday. We have forty-three chapters to cover, so we’ll do three a week, for a total of thirteen weeks. Each chapter has an exercise at the end that serves as an initiation tool. Don’t let this scare you! These are short, simple exercises designed to awaken creativity and I would encourage you to try them out. So come and learn about life and writing with us, and join the discussion in the comments. It will be like attending a writer’s conference from your couch.

This post was originally published at The High Calling and is reprinted here under a creative commons license. Some minor changes have been made to account for context. 

Comments

  1. Lynn D. Morrissey says

    LOVE. THIS. BOOK. Interestingly, at a JT retreat, Michelle DeRusha spoke about it in a workshop, and I was sitting next to Shelly Miller, who made a note to get it. Little did she know that I had wrapped a copy just for her to give to her later that day! Don’t you love the surprise of serendipity?! It doesn’t surprise me that you love this book, too, Laura!
    xxoo
    L.

    • says

      As I read Laura’s post, I kept thinking about how much I love this book and the serendipity of how you gave it to me. And here you are in the comments Lynn!! Laura, I’m so excited you are doing this, I’m in. I was going to do a book club with it myself but then I moved to England!! ha! xx

      • says

        I rescued you, Shelly! I don’t know why you went into the spam, but hopefully that won’t happen again. Lynn must be a Right to Write evangelist :). It is a wonderful book. I’m looking forward to re-reading and sharing it with some of my favorite friends 🙂

  2. says

    I can’t pinpoint the source of my tears that pushed through right through reason as I read this post. I only know that the closing service you led at Jumping Tandem was so soothing to me and that I have not written, other than my journal, since the retreat. Which is to say, count me in!

    • says

      That service at Jumping Tandem was so tender, so precious. What a gift to take holy Communion with you! I’m glad you are joining us on this journey too, Marcy. I’m excited to see what God is up to.

  3. says

    Laura,

    Sounds like a great book. I’ve been reading here and there but I haven’t commented but I have been thinking of you and praying for your transition as Teddy is away. I’ll follow along by reading your words as I’ve got enough on my plate right now between my dad and seminary starting and family and some other stuff 🙂

  4. says

    Oh, Laura. I’m going to try to do this. I’ve been so discouraged about writing. I’ve sort of pulled away from so many writing related things, and I long to reconnect with you sweet friend. At the risk of sounding all whiny and self-pitying, I’m struggling after four rejections and wondering if writing is what I’m meant to do at all. Maybe this will put things into perspective for me. I’ll dust my book off and read the first three chapters. I’d just like to spend time with you! I’m sorry to have been so absent here. xo

    • says

      I’ve missed you, my friend. I understand the disappointment, believe me. We’ll have to talk soon and catch up. I thought there would be more room in life as my boys get older but I am finding the opposite to be true. It seems like time is more slippery than ever. But I hope we can reconnect through this book! It has helped me through some tough writing spots in the past. Looking forward to this journey together😀

  5. says

    I truly enjoy discovering the commonalities our lives have. As you described your conversation, I could see the faces of patients I had when I nursed those broken bodies and minds on a neuro-rehab unit. I know the bewildered look and the halting speech. The want to know – the will to say and yet, it what falls between is awkward and heavy. Then, you share this book and this desire to have a book club. I am elated as this particular title has sat unread on my desk for a good, long while. I pray I can keep up and be a part of this uncovering. So many books – so little time! By the way, I am slowly savoring my way through The Alphabet of Grace…loving it. Your generosity is overwhelming. Thank you again!

    • says

      Yes, so many books! I knew your contemplative heart would love The Alphabet of Grace, Denise.im so glad to share that book with you! And I hope you are able to find time to join us for The Right to Write! I think it’s going to be fun. xoxo

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