In The Right to Write, a wonderful and helpful guide to harvesting the joys of the writing life, Julia Cameron describes what she calls “The Wall.” This is a point where a project that seems to be humming along and shaping up in a very satisfying way suddenly comes to a halt. Here’s how Julia describes it in her personal writing process:
“My own experience is that somewhere around two thirds of the way through a piece I suddenly see what the writing was driving at. I see the patterns that have been set up and I get an idea where everything is heading. This point is a scary one. Now that “I” know what “I” am doing, I begin to worry that “I” might not be able to pull it off. In other words, my ego wakes up. No longer content to let the writing write through me, it suddenly demands control. It wants this book to be “good.”
All writers know this feeling, says Julia. It’s the moment where you stop writing just for yourself and doubt comes calling. You begin to worry about what other people may be doing and whether your work is good enough. You begin “to compete, not create.”
How do we get past the wall? Most often, we try to vault over the Wall by reassuring ourselves that we have what it takes and pumping ourselves up. But this doesn’t really work, Julia contends. What’s her solution? Instead of trying to vault over the wall, burrow under it. Instead of trying to boost your self-esteem, your goal becomes to “escape the prison of the ego” altogether by letting go of the need to be great. You tell yourself that you’re willing to risk writing badly and commit to finishing your project, wherever it takes you and however it turns out.
Choosing humility over hubris lets you wriggle under the wall, says Julia. “By being willing to write ‘badly,’ we free ourselves to write — and perhaps to write very well.” And most important, when we surrender our desire to control the outcome of our work, we recapture the sheer joy of writing. Does this strike a chord?