One of the best ways to improve your writing is to read the work of fine writers. This reading can give you fresh insight into writing style, writing technique and a general philosophy of writing. I just finished reading Floor Sample, Julia Cameron’s hot new memoir and gained new insight in each of these areas. Julia is a novelist, playwright, songwriter and poet, and author of the best-seller, The Artist’s Way, the premier work on freeing the creative process in any mode. She is a fine writer indeed, and her story stirs my own creative juices.
In a comment on the inside cover, Sophy Burnham writes, “Courageous! An unflinching view of drugs, drunkenness, marriages, madness and the redemptive power of the creative spirit.”
When I finished reading the memoir, I thought of this comment. Yes, it is courageous and unflinching. She neither ducks issues like guilt, addictive denial, psychotic episodes, and flights of artistic inspiration, nor does she wallow in any of this. She records it, almost dispassionately. She’s entirely dispassionate about her successes, merely recording the fact of a book or script sale, without mention of the ecstasy she must have felt — or did she? I was left with the feeling that I’d peered through a porthole into one corner of her complex mind.
I mention this not as an indictment of the book. Her writing is lyrical, and I loved the book. It made me more keenly aware that the best efforts of the most talented authors result in a sketchy outline of actual experience. In every case, the story is finished with details and inferences supplied by the mind of the reader. No two readers will understand it the same way, because our interpretation of the story is colored by our own experience.
The interactive duality between reader and writer is both liberating and challenging. As a writer I realize that all I can do is to blaze a trail my readers will follow. The optimum result I hope for is to provide a lens for them to see their own world or work in a new way. Realizing that I don’t need to justify or explain my experiences or ideas, but merely present them as they are, is liberating. The challenge is to find a way to present them that’s fresh enough to inspire those new views.
This book was my first taste of Julia’s magic. It’s her most recent work, and having the story behind her earlier ones whets my appetite to work through The Artist’s Way, and perhaps one or more of her later works on creativity also.
I found this book, as I find nearly all my reading material, in the local library. Perhaps you’d like to take a library break this weekend and pick up a book or two to give you some fresh views and writing inspiration. You might even find one of Julia Cameron’s many titles on a shelf there.
Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal