Last night as I drifted to sleep, I began thinking of free-writing, and how Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg both promote freewriting to anyone who wants to write well.
Author of the best-selling Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron is known for what she calls,”morning pages.” This is Cameron’s prescription for becoming a better writer, and all that’s required is writing 3 pages in longhand first thing upon waking.
Another notable writing teacher, Natalie Goldberg, author of the best-selling Writing Down the Bones and many other wonderful books on the craft of writing, also promotes free-writing each and every day, and while she calls it, “writing practice,” instead of, “morning pages,” it is the same idea.
Just because morning pages/writing practice is simple, doesn’t mean it’s not profound. Running around a track is not profound, is it? Barring obvious physical limitations, anyone can put one foot in front of another. So the actual act of free-writing is not what makes it helpful. It’s that – like any sport – you need to practice in order to get better.
Somehow, this fact gets overlooked when it comes to writing. No one would expect someone to win a marathon without having spent hours and hours running. Why is it, then, that we often expect people to whip out a wonderful piece of writing without having practiced?
This is why I prefer the term “writing practice,” for free-writing. For one thing, if you call it, “writing practice,” it doesn’t require you to do it at any particular time of day. Secondly, it reminds you that writing, like any discipline (painting, yoga, boxing, fox hunting, curling, running), is a skill you can get better at if you practice. Good writing is dependent upon good writing muscles, which – like any other muscle – need to be flexed every day, or else it atrophies.
Sure, you’ll get the flu, or your talkative neighbor will corral you by the driveway as you try to retreat to your house. Stuff happens. But it’s pretty simple with writing. If you don’t write often, you won’t write well.
I love Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg, but here is what made me laugh out loud as I was falling asleep last night. Both of them – Cameron and Goldberg – lived in Taos, New Mexico while having these great epiphanies that led to each of them writing wonderful books about creativity and how to be a better writer.
And – get this – both of them used to look out at Taos Mountain as they did their free-writing. [Insert Twilight Zone theme here.] It’s like Taos Mountain was their muse.
So here I am living in ultra-flat Texas, which left me wondering, and made me giggle in my near-sleep last night: Where’s my mountain, baby?