I believe each of us is creative. From birth.
Julia Cameron believes that each of us is a writer. Also from birth.
“I believe we all come into life as writers,” she writes in her book The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life.
We are born, she writes, with the gift of language. This gift comes to us within months, as we start naming people, objects, our surroundings.
Cameron shares many powerful reasons why we should write:
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.
We should write because writing brings clarity and passion to the act of living. Writing is sensual, experiential, grounding. We should write because writing is good for the soul. We should write because writing yields us a body of work, a felt path through the world we live in.
We should write, above all, because we are writers whether we call ourselves writers or not.
Writing helps me figure out my thoughts. It helps me make sense of the noise inside my brain and outside of it. It helps me remember what’s important.
As Joan Didion famously wrote: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”
Writing also is play. For instance, even though writing my book has triggered a variety of emotions and impostor thoughts (who do I think I am to be writing this book?! or a book in general?!), coming up with prompts has helped me play.
It’s awoken my imagination. It’s challenged it. It’s reminded me I actually have an imagination (as we all do, of course).
It’s for all of these reasons — and I’m sure more — that writing helps us take compassionate care of ourselves.
In The Right to Write, Cameron includes a variety of exercises to help us explore our writing. Here are three exercises to try:
- Cameron encourages us to lighten up when it comes to writing, because we have a tendency to take it too seriously. I totally agree. Sometimes, I take writing so seriously that I start questioning my words, and my worth as a writer, and that slips into dangerous, paralyzing territory. In this exercise she suggests pretending that you’re sitting under a big tree with your back resting on its trunk. On the other side of the tree sits a Storyteller. In your journal or anywhere, write down numbers one through five. Then tell the Storyteller the five things you’d like to hear stories about.
- “If you didn’t have to actually write it, what might it be fun to write? A mystery? Short stories? A novel? Songs? Plays? Poetry?” Cameron suggests taking 15 minutes to write, longhand, and quickly, about the kinds of writing it’d be fun to write.
- Pay attention to your day like you are “shooting silent footage for a documentary film.” Carve out an hour, and describe a day in your life, in detail, as though you were a character. “What do you look like? What choices do you make? What wishes do you, as a character, harbor? What are the loves in the life you lead?” Write for 45 minutes, focusing on yourself as a fictional character. Then spend the next 15 minutes writing about what you learned after doing the activity.
Writing, like creativity, is for everyone. We have the right to use words. To write stories. To rewrite our stories. To write fictional tales or silly scripts. To pen poetry or plays.
We don’t need permission to call ourselves a “writer” or “creative.” We are these things. Already. From birth.