“If we let ourselves notice, writing feels collaborative. It is a dance between reality and us as an observer. This is true even in writing fiction. Just like the Sacred Mountain outside my window exists and is real, the whatever it is that we are trying to write already exists and is real. Our job is to respond to that existence, to take it in and take it down. Our job is to pay attention.”
The Right to Write: an Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life by Julia Cameron is one of my favorite books about writing. Whenever I feel a bit stuck, it’s one of the wellsprings of inspiration I turn to in order to get juiced and jumpstarted. There’s some little gem on almost every page.
Turning to the book tonight, I happened on the quote above and it pulled me in instantly. The comment that really got my attention is this one: “…the whatever it is that we are trying to write already exists and is real.”
Have you ever felt that this is true? That what you are working to say already exists somewhere “out there” totally independent of you and just beyond your pen or your computer — and you are simply trying to capture it on paper? I’ve definitely had that feeling during moments of writing my YA novel. It was as if the words weren’t flowing out of my head but out of my pen — and flowing into the ink from someplace outside of me. My only job, as Julia says so well, was to “pay attention” and take it all down. Sounds a little mystical, I know. But hey, what’s writing, if not mysterious?
So, the next time you’re writing and you seem to get stuck, here’s something you might play with: Give up wrestling with your words and try thinking that whatever it is that you want to write already exists somewhere outside you — perfect, whole, and complete. Then just try to pay attention in a relaxed, observant way, totally confident that something wonderful is just waiting for you to discover it — and see if you can catch what ‘s out there. Write on!