Julia Cameron: Take the Risk of Writing by Anne Bowling

As a career writer, Julia Cameron is a bit of a maverick, and the advice she gives those looking for publication is equally nonconformist. Author of the million-selling creativity guide The Artist’s Way (Tarcher/Putnam), Cameron advises freelance writers to follow their creative impulses first and find the market once the work is done.

“I believe if we get people writing, we will get people selling,” Cameron says. “I know so, from experience. I have written many plays, movies and books, almost all of them without contracts. If I want to write something, I go ahead and write it, and then say, ‘Would you like to buy it?’ I’ve run my whole career that way.”

And Cameron’s has been a productive career. In her 25 years of writing, she has published poetry, plays, fiction and essays. Cameron also has an award-winning journalist’s career to her credit, with work published in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, The Village Voice and others.

“Some people say they won’t write on spec? I find it much more difficult to write on assignment,” Cameron says. “I’ve had some wonderful collaborations with editors, where they trusted me, and I’d say, ‘I think I’d like to write about this,’ and they’d say, ‘Go ahead,’ which is a lovely position to be in. But I really do know that if people continue to take the risk of writing, they will end up publishing.”

The philosophical basis for Cameron’s advice is spelled out in her most recent creativity title The Right to Write (Tarcher/Putnam). In a series of essays and exercises, Cameron invites readers to write as a way of life, debunks negative stereotypes around the writing life, and offers solid instruction for writers facing perennial problems, such as writer’s block. She also strikes a blow for the notion that the best writing is writing that arises organically, rather than that which is created to fill a market need. “We’ve got our thinking greatly reversed,” Cameron says. “For example, The Artist’s Way has sold more than a million books. When I wrote it, my agent said, ‘There is absolutely no market for this book. No one will want to read it, why don’t you just go back to writing movies?’ Which tells us we don’t know what the market is. Sometimes a market doesn’t appear to exist for something just because the item has never existed.”

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