Of all the how-to books on my shelves, the ones I love the most are the ones about being a writer. Other books cover practicalities of the craft, but THE RIGHT TO WRITE deals with thought and emotion. Writing is how Cameron makes sense of the world. She writes for publication, but mostly she writes for the sake of writing. Our culture tells us that writers are weird or drunks or spacey. Cameron reminds us that writers are normal, solid citizens who happen to fit periods of writing into our daily lives. Reading Cameron makes me feel like a writer, which is the one thing guaranteed to glue my butt to the chair.
THE RIGHT TO WRITE consists of forty-three essays about the writing life, covering things a writer needs to know to bring her best self to the page. My favorite essay was about procrastination. Cameron lists the reasons that writers put things off and the payoffs for such behavior. At its heart, procrastination means living a fantasy about some imagined future of unlimited time and perfect writing. Cameron calmly and compassionately gives solutions. None of them are easy, but all of them work.
Each essay is followed by an exercise. I recognized many of these from THE ARTIST’S WAY, Cameron’s most famous book. In fact, THE RIGHT TO WRITE could be seen as “Artist’s Way Lite.” This is good or bad. One could say that Cameron is cannibalizing her own work. One could also say that she’s streamlining The Artist’s Way program, making it more friendly to beginners. I didn’t do the exercises this time, having done them before. I still got a tremendous amount from the essays, which stand alone without them.
THE RIGHT TO WRITE has a lot in common with TAKE JOY by Jane Yolen. Both books provide ample doses of comfort and courage. But where Yolen cuddles me in a security blanket, Cameron gives me a powerful kick in the pants. Something about the way she writes makes me want to grab my ideas and start scribbling. I confess to keeping a copy of THE RIGHT TO WRITE at my bedside in case I need a dose of inspiration. Whenever I’m feeling low, reading a few pages reminds me of everything I love about being a writer.
rating: 4 stars
This book is best for: intermediate writers
I recommend this book