Monday, 5 April 2010
Writing Going Feral: Penny Dolan
I know there are people who have learned all they need to know about writing from reading “real books”. However, I am a sucker for all sorts of books about writing. This may be because, for me, such books are a little like hearing someone talk about writing, which is often stimulating, interesting, informative and not always totally to be believed.
So I have been idling through a library copy of "The Sound of Paper", one of Julia Cameron’s books. This is not Julia Cameron the pioneer photographer, but Julia Cameron, ex-wife of Scorsese and author of several titles about nurturing one’s own artistic creativity, most notably “The Artist’s Way.”
I have to admit these books are not perfect. Julia’s writing style is American- Effusive with frequent showers of the Spiritual. Something about her artistic lifestyle grates more than a little when personal finances are tight, and the context is not how most people life. The span of the "Paper" book begins in a New York apartment overlooking the Hudson River and follows her to her second home in Taos, a highly artistic community in New Mexico. Not Leeds then.
I must admit that Julia’s occasional Artist's Way exhortations about searching for cheap but beautiful notebooks and pens does remind me of the sparkly, girly writing sets that fill what was once bookshelf space in shops, while her suggestions for listing five wishes for one’s future or ten things to admire about ones own achievements feels very un-English and possibly un-British.
All the same, dear Julia means well and her main mantras are good. Quick version: One. Begin each day by writing three “Morning Pages” to let out your worries and negativity so you are left free to work. Two. Taking yourself off alone for a regular “Artist Date”, which means doing something that will refresh and stimulate your own artistic ideas. Three. Walking for some time each day, as a way of freeing your thoughts for any creative project. These work. These help. Go and read about them for yourself.
Besides, I always get something useful from Julia’s books. From "The Sound of Paper" comes the following big warning about Writing Going Feral.
She suggests that if you don’t look after your current writing project by giving it time each day, by treating it well by using your best hours on it, by looking after the work and attending to it regularly, then your creative idea will wander away and be hard to find when you return to the page. Your work will have Gone Feral.
Procrastinators, take note. Don’t say you haven’t been warned. Me, I'm reaching for the kitty-bowl right now.