“The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel.”
“Our ego wants to say, ‘I am writing and cannot be interrupted and pulled away from my thoughts.’ The actual artistic reality, the experience of artists throughout time, is something far different and far more humble. As artists, we make ourselves available for thoughts to come through us. To the degree that we can set ego aside, we can create freely. We tune into a stream of inspiration. We allow it to flow through us.”
In her wonderful guide, The Right to Write, Julia spends a lot of time talking about the many ways in which we as writers sabotage our creativity instead of supporting it. We work very hard to make writing “special” and to attach all sorts of demands to doing it well: We need the right time and space to create. We need special pens and notebooks. We need everything in our writing space just so. We need quiet. We need peace. We need this and we need that.
And yet, Julia contends, all these fussy restrictions and demands that we attach to our wordsmithing are just self-created roadblocks. Instead of getting out of our own way, we limit and interrupt our own flow of energy. Over time, says Julia, she’s come to a different view of what we do. As she puts it, “I don’t like to make such a big deal out of writing. I like writing to be more portable and flexible.”
When you take a more relaxed attitude toward your work, she contends, you free it up to happen more naturally and organically. Your ego recedes and you become less invested in results and more interested in letting your writing emerge and seeing where it takes you. We’ve all had those moments on the page, when we forget about ourselves, forget about time, forget about writing well and just write — just chase an idea down for the pure pleasure of it and become available to just going along with it for the ride. These are among the most satisfying and tantalizing moments we can experience in our writing lives. And they don’t come when we’re straining for an effect or stressing about writing well, they come when we free ourselves up to receive them. So as Alex used to say, let’s “freelax” — and write on.