excerpt du jour ~julia cameron on writing our world

When we are at zero, we have to start somewhere, and perhaps the sanest, best, and surest place to start is with the eye of the beholder. We are in a certain place at a certain time and we feel a certain way about it. Let’s start here. That means put the pen to the page and write about the exact moment and place where you find yourself. Take an inventory of what surrounds you and what you feel about that. This is a starting-off place.

…We do not arrive willy-nilly at point zero. We arrive there a choice at a time, a degree at a time, as we make little or less than we should of a growing discomfort. We get along without what we love the way camels get along without water—not forever, but for a very long time. And then, one day, we are thirsty and what we crave is water, real water, a pure infusion of something that matches what our body and soul are authentically craving.

When we are at point zero, and in despair, we are at the point of experiment. We must pick ourselves up somehow and we must make ourselves feel better and more comfortable. How can we do that? What do we need? Do we need a phone call to a friend? Do we need to get out of town altogether and go for a good, long drive? Something will speak to us of the good mother giving us what we crave, and we must listen to that craving and try to act on it. We must gentle our restless heart by saying and meaning, “I am listening to you. I hear your discomfort. I will work with you to change it.”

Putting a pen to the page is the beginning of communication. We are writing a letter to our self. We are saying, “This is what I like and this is what I dislike.” We are saying, “This is what I hope for.” Or “This is what I dream of.” We are saying, “This is what I am smack-dab in the middle of, and I do not like it.”

Such communication is vital, and it is what we often neglect. Instead of putting our specific lives into black and white where we can see them and do something about them, we leave them vague, unspoken, and unwritten. “Something” is bothering us, but we don’t know what it is. We sweep our feelings under the carpet. We turn a deaf ear to our quiet desperation. We are not ready or willing to attend to ourselves, and our souls know this. They are alert to the fact that they are ignored and unhusbanded. Is it any wonder that they are depressed?

And so the first act of lovingkindness is to start from scratch—the scratch of pen to paper. The filling of blank pages with our specific likes and dislikes, our heartfelt and regretted losses and sacrifices—this is the beginning of being someone and somewhere again. When we ignore ourselves for too long, we become exhausted and weakened from trying to get our own attention. We become disheartened—without a heart. The gentle pulse that we are meant to attend to, the ear-cocked, mothering side of ourselves that listens to a newborn and springs into action on its behalf, must be mustered now to come to our own rescue. But the rescue begins with the act of writing. Writing is how we “right” our world.

…When we are building a life from scratch, we must dig a little. We must be like that hen scratching the soil: What goodness is hidden here, just below the surface? We must ask. We ask that question by putting pen to page.

~Julia Cameron, “Point Zero” (The Sound of Paper)

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4 thoughts on “excerpt du jour ~julia cameron on writing our world

    • I bought The Artist’s Way years ago, though I never religiously went through all the exercises. I recently discovered The Sound of Paper at my library and decided that I needed my own copy. Again, I don’t know how diligent I’ll be about doing the exercises at the end of each essay, but the essays on their own are great.

  1. One of the best things that I did during Cognitive Behavioural Therapy was learn to write letters to myself about my feeling, and wants and things that I didn’t like..etc. and examine them and talk about them… So I definitely agree this is a good thing to do for oneself….Diane

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