The Right to Write

I found this book on the shelf at my favorite lunchtime escape: value village. The title peaked my interest. “Right to write” it said on the yellow cover.

I’m not sure what made me want to read this book, but I like all the words in the title: right, I love my rights; write, I would love to write!

The idea of right to write is we all have the innate ability and desire to write, to express our thoughts and ideas. It doesn’t really matter if anyone else is going to read it, it’s about getting thoughts out of our heads, in the process we are able to examine, digest and re-evaluate these words being written.DSCF5370_1280

I liked to write, I also had the feeling I don’t know what I am doing. I wasn’t trained as a writer but I enjoy writing, expressing my ideas. I picked up the book in part hoping to have some of my own opinions validated and to learn from someone who has been in the trade for more than 30 years.

She provide tools at the end of each chapter for the reader can work on, like writing morning pages as she calls them, which I think is a fantastic idea I plan to implement into my daily schedule. If these tools are the only things I got out of the book I would be happy with my purchase, but the book has much more to offer. It’s written in a very casual and candid tone, feeling like chatting with a friend, the feeling I get from the book is the author wants readers to write with complete disregard for the outcome, the act of writing is the desired outcome.

We like people who are eloquent, same goes for writing, especially those write write well. I wish to write and maybe even write well, however the desire to write flawlessly sometimes hinders the act of writing, the feeling of “I’m not gonna write perfectly I might as well not start.” is also addressed quite nicely in the book, she suggest to write imperfectly, perfection is for later, but first, imperfection. It seems like such a simple thing, just like we don’t expect anyone to perform anything perfectly the first try, we shouldn’t expect first drafts to be perfect. This frees the mind up to write, instead of trying to consider how the writing is not perfect and how to fix it, write first, fix later.

I also like her approach of get started by writing about something mundane, the weather, what your surrounding looks like and that might lead to more interesting writings. Getting started is all the motivation you need, once started stopping becomes the hard part. It is something I have thought about myself but confirmation from an “expert” is always reassuring. Now I just write down whatever is on my mind, make sense or not doesn’t matter because I’m trying to get started or to record something in my mind for later use.

In the book she made another point I find very helpful. I always thought it requires large chunks of uninterrupted time to write, like taking a year off to work on a novel or more romantic version of that: locking oneself away in a cabin middle of nowhere. Julia wrote that this is not the case, she said to “steal” time to write. A lot of her own writing are done on stolen time, a few minutes here between chores, an hour there while baby sleeps. It may not seem like much but a few minutes here, an hour there adds up over time. I have benefited greatly from this, I had the same romantic idea of all writers must have vast uninterrupted time dedicated to writing, while this is true for some, but it seems for most, stolen time is the best and most practical way to lay down a few lines.

Whenever there is enthusiasm there is the chance for snobbery especially if there’s money to be made. People gets turned off by snobbery and think it’s not for them but for someone who is truly passionate snobbery is the worst enemy. Like pompous and condescending audiophiles or whiskey/wine sommeliers driving off people who want to participate because of a slightly twisted sense of superiority Julia, in the book, despises those writers who make it their mission to keep “normal” people away from writing.

Not everyone can be a great writer but everyone should write. Writing help us find out more about ourselves. It can also be an enjoyable activity, with your favorite beverage and some music it could be your zen and escape. We may never get a book published, but we all have the right to write.

The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life
by Julia Cameron

Cheap Thrill

“Cheap thrill” is such a bad name for something so sinister, maybe it should really be called something-that-won’t-last-so-i-can-keep-buying-and-feel-happy-for-a-fleeting-moment.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy things, but consider instead of constantly buying cheap things you may only use once or twice then be discarded or stashed away never to see the light of day again, take a serious look at your needs and buy something that fits your need and will be as useful to you in 15 years as it would today.

To me, cheap thrill is a terrible slop to slide on, it’s not just about buying things you don’t actually need, it’s about buying things you don’t need and won’t last and probably won’t have much of a purpose beyond a few minutes of “well that’s interesting”, and making a habit out of it.

“Is it such a bad thing? I mean it is only 20 dollars!”

Perhaps if you got more money than you know what to do with. That’s not the case for most of us regular folks who work for a living. Have you ever wonder after checking out at costco what could possibly have costed you 200 dollars? All you got some some chocolate bars, a roast chicken and some frozen food. Upon closer inspection of the receipt you have came to realized all it took was a few double digit items and probably nothing too far north of 25 dollars for a single item.

How quickly it adds up! Imagine each one of those is one of the “cheap thrills”. 20 dollars here, 50 dollars there, by the end of the month it could be 300 or more dollars. The money also isn’t the worst problem here, it’s reinforcing a habit. You’ve already spent 50 bucks on some stuff, might as well throw in a few more things. Few days later, thinking another 20 or 30 dollars wouldn’t hurt much because you’ve already went over the budget for this week/month anyway.

If it’s so bad what could be done about it? I can’t tell you what you should do but here are a few things I did to help me.

Let the idea of purchase sit for a while, at least a couple of hours, leave your computer or store, go for a walk or eat something. It gives you time to reflect and think, usually I end up realizing I have no use for it, and the dire need to buy subsides. Personally I do this all the time with watches, I enjoy looking at the watches around 100 to 250 dollar range (cheap enough to make my brain go “let’s buy it now!”), but I have virtually no use for any of them other than when I attend weddings or something fancy, but those occasions doesn’t happen often enough to justify the purchase of such items.

I also try to research similar items that are much more expensive (not overly so, but just something you’d expect from a higher quality product, watches I tend to go around one to three thousand dollar range) than the cheap thrill but would be of much higher quality and would last me forever, or at least many years to come. Usually so doing would result in a huge decline in willingness to purchase the cheap thrill, either realizing perhaps it’s not what I wanted or now I want to buy the more expensive thing, not the ideal outcome, but usually the price is enough to stop me.

Another thing is I would send the cheap thrill to a friend who is knowledgeable, if I lack a friend with the required expertise I would run it by my wife or any friend. The maven friend would usually recommend something else and overload you with information, at which point it becomes too much trouble so the purchase is off. The normal friends and my wife would usually say “sure, but do you really need it?” most of the time if I answered yes I’d be lying, that would normally stop me.

After a while of doing this it has become easier and easier not to buy something, it literally requires less things to be done, and less things to do in life makes for a better life. Next time the credit card bill comes you’d be delighted at how small the number is.