Julia Cameron on Learning to Write Sober

Julia Cameron on Learning to Write Sober

This first appeared in Lit Hub's Craft of newsletter— sign up here . “How do I write sober?” was the big question that sobriety raised. I told the alcoholics who were helping me, “If it comes down to a choice between my creativity and my sobriety, I don't know that I will choose sobriety.” “There is no choice,” they promptly answered me. “Keep on drinking and there will be no more creativity.” I knew that they were right. I had to find a way to work that would not require alcohol or drugs. If I were honest with myself, my methods had not really been working for some time. “Stop trying to be a great writer,” they advised me next. “That's your ego. Get your ego out of your writing. You should be writing from a spirit of service. You are just the vehicle, the channel. Let God write through you.” “What if he doesn't want to?” “Just try it and see.” I was not at all sure that God would want to write through me. And wasn't it only normal to want to be a great writer? “In order to write sober, you have to let God take care of the quality,” my mentors sternly told me. “Your job is to take care of the quantity.” It was suggested that I post a sign in my writing area, “Okay, God, you take care of the quality. I will take care of the quantity.” Then it was suggested that I set a manageable quota of daily work: three pages. If it took all day to write three pages, I was to remain at my desk working until my quota was complete. More likely, the three pages would get accomplished quickly. When they were finished, I was done for the day. I was not to write more than three pages. The idea that writing could be something that didn't require my whole day was a revelation to me—and a threat. My identity was bound up with being a writer. If writing was just one of the things I did, […]

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