Last Monday, Julia Cameron was interviewed on NPR. As a huge fan of The Artist’s Way, I dropped everything to listen. When she said the words new book I started placing an order.
Seeking Wisdom: A Spiritual Path to Creative Connection arrived a few days later.
I knew I would love her book, but I had no idea how much I’d need it.
I’d packed last week with good-but-big-to-me things, like a webinar for Jane Friedman and being the main speaker at the spiritual center I attend. I’ve spoken at other places of worship, but this was the first time I’d be speaking to this group.
The invitation came in mid-December. At the time, the talk seemed far off, and I was feeling brave, so I decided to share something from the memoir I’d written about my brother’s death and the heavy metal tour I ended up on a few weeks later. The decision felt right, given that he’d died in February, and I was about to cross the 25th anniversary of his passing.
The words flowed quickly. But as the date approached, my mind morphed into a bad neighborhood.
It seemed like every few hours I heard myself say:
Who the hell am I to speak at this spiritual center?
What if this is too dark or too weird?
What if I mess this up?
The fear became so intense I almost scrapped my original talk so I could share something less personal and more related to my professional training—like a talk on forgiveness or self-compassion. Things that sounded lofty, and a hell of a lot safer than letting an audience see me.
During Julia’s interview, she shared a phrase from a note taped on her wall.
It reads, “God, you worry about the quality, and I’ll worry about the quantity.”
The note reminds her to show up and trust that if it was in her head, it has some connection to her muse or to the God of her understanding, which she calls Good Orderly Direction.
In the introduction for Seeking Wisdom, she shares her well-known strategies, like morning pages, artist’s dates, and walks, but I’d yet to encounter her last one: Writing Out Guidance and Listening to The Divine.
For this strategy, you write down your questions about life, writing, or the moon, and then let the pen respond. She says, “Very often the answers are simpler than I would’ve thought.”
Unable to calm my nerves, I grabbed my notebook and shakily scrawled the words What should I talk about?
The answer: Believe.
I took that to mean I should believe in what I’d already created, but I wanted confirmation.
I wrote, Are you sure?
The answer was the same. Believe.
So, I trusted that my story was enough. And then I prayed, and rehearsed, and did all the things I’ve learned over the years about delivering good presentations.
During my talk, I realized—out loud—that I left for the heavy metal tour that changed my life on February 27th, the same day as the talk. And suddenly everything fell into place. My pen had been right. I just needed to believe that if it came to me, it came through me, and that was enough.
People felt it too and afterward shared their stories. I left the sanctuary feeling satisfied that my words had been a drop in the bucket of hope we all need right now.
Writing anything requires tremendous belief—belief in your ideas, belief that you can execute on them, belief in your audience.
This month, we’re going to examine your character and the characters you put on the page, whether they are real people or ones you make up.
Character is defined by habits, motivations, and beliefs. Later this month, I’ll share a cool psychological assessment you can use to understand your characters’ habits and motivations, but for now, let’s talk about beliefs.
Merriam Webster defines belief as “a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing.”
A synonym for belief is faith, or Fully Accepting It to Happen.
If the word faith is a turnoff, because you negatively associate it with organized religion, choose a different word, or apply it secularly.
As Julia says, “You can believe in salad dressing, Mick Jagger, or your writing life.”
Knowing what you believe will help you understand your characters’ beliefs and that is how you fully develop them.
It’s also how you trust your pen and its creations.