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Julia Cameron 's 5 Rules For Aspiring Writers

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

Julia Cameron 's 5 Rules For Aspiring Writers

Discover your creative potential with these literary tips from the author of The Artist's Way
Julia Cameron
Julia Cameron More by this author
Aug 19, 2016 at 01:45 AM

To begin at the beginning, that is precisely the place to start. A writer’s first thoughts are often the best. And so, in initiating a piece of writing, start where you are. For example, I am sitting in a large leather chair: my writing chair. Turning my thoughts to creation, I start with the chair. Its comfort fills me with ease. And so, I begin, comforted and not stressed. 

As it happens, I am not ‘in the mood’ to write, but I have learned that mood doesn’t matter. Any mood is a mood to write from. And so I start, seated in the leather chair, grumpy.

I do not feel fluent, but I have learned over my many years of writing that fluency is a luxury. At times I will be ‘in the mood’ and at other times not. I have learned that the writing can be quite good in either case. It is simply a matter of ‘dropping down the well’ and recording what I find there. I don’t second-guess myself; instead, I am faithful to what I hear.

A sense of direction is important here: if I try to ‘think something up’, there will be strain. If I try to ‘take something down’, there will be ease. Thinking something up, I am reaching for concepts that may be beyond my reach. Taking something down is more like taking dictation. The ideas are ready for my pen. I can often write quite quickly when I simply listen for what needs to be heard.


Writing quickly is an ideal for all of us, and it brings us squarely to the notion that we must have a great swath of time in order to begin writing at all. The truth is quite different. We can begin writing with only a little time to spare, just as I am doing right now, using the moments available to me quickly before a photographer arrives moments from now. I have found that even the scantest amount of time can be productive, and so we’ve arrived at a third rule: use the time you’ve got

To summarize, we have three rules: begin where you’re at, ignore your mood, write in the time that you’ve got. There is a fourth rule, which is a little bit fancier: allow yourself rough drafts. When in doubt, put ‘it’ in. It’s better to have an overstuffed and juicy first draft than an over-pruned one. It is easy to take things out and far harder to put things in.

Our fifth and final rule may strike you as ‘woo-woo’. It is simply this: be alert to help from the universe. You’ll often find hunches and intuitions of what to include. A screenwriter may overhear dialogue. A poet may stumble across a precise turn of phrase. Remember that artists love other artists, and the great artist loves to help us all.

Editor's Note: Julia Cameron will be one of the lead instructors at the 2016 Hay House Writer's Workshop in London, England on the 19th & 20th of November. Learn more about the event in this video from Hay House UK's CEO Michelle Pilley:

About Author
Julia Cameron
Julia Cameron has been teaching creativity workshops for a decade-and-a-half. Julia is an award-winning writer/director with extensive credits in TV, film, theater, and journalism. Continue reading