Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Right Way to Write

I recently picked up Julia Cameron's The Right to Write. I like it, or at least parts of it. It's got some ideas that I really like that are new to me, some ideas that I already believed and some ideas that are just off-base--at least for me.

There's just a lot of complexity in the world. Cameron makes generalizations that just don't work for me. As a general rule, I find that generalizations must be used carefully.

One generalization that Cameron makes is that she suggests we're all writers in some way. "We should write because it is human nature to write," she says, in a statement taken from the book and used for the back-cover blurb. I only agree if we take writing in a metaphorical sense. I believe that the part of human nature that leads some of us to become writers can manifest in many ways. I have friends whose nature it is to draw, and others whose nature it is to play music. I can see how that part of me that is a writer is a writer, not an artist, not so much a musician.

But what if you're not a writer and you're writing a dissertation?

To me it seems important to understand our individual nature and our individual skills in relation to the projects we undertake. We may all be called upon to undertake projects that don't suit our nature.

I think that a lot of what Cameron has to say is useful for those who aren't called to write in the way that she is. That it takes a little teasing apart of the threads of her argument, a little sorting of the wheat from the chaff, does not diminish its worth.

Many dissertation writers will not make a career of writing in the way that Cameron describes--most will not, even those who become professional academics, who are necessarily writers in that publish-or-perish world.

I don't think there's only one way to do things, except maybe in the general sense that I think that there's no good way to write without working at it consistently.

I like the idea that there are different tools and different perspectives, and that if you learn to use a wider palette of these things, this can help you when you're stuck.

I also like the idea that the general tool of writing is one that is most easily wielded with practice. One does not become a virtuoso musician or Olympic athlete without practice; writing is no different. Your facility and ease in using the tool grows as you practice with it.

Cameron's book offers some perspectives that I like a lot; I may write about some of them in this blog in the near future.

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