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20 Oct
2016

“Women Writing the West” Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Women Writing the West conference 2016


“We are all profoundly creative” – Julia Cameron


The amazing Julia Cameron who has written over forty books, opened the conference with her keynote, “The Right to Write.” Author of The Artist’s Way, she is a novelist, playwright, songwriter and poet. She has credits in the theater, film and television. She is incredibly prolific!

She’s a very talented and creative writer, but she argues that “we are all profoundly creative.” But how does she find the time to be so creative in writing in so many genres? She suggests that time is not the answer nor the question. And she laughs, while she confides to us that she is going to let us in on her secret.

Women Writing the West is an organization founded twenty years ago

to support authors and other professionals in promoting the contributions made by women to the history, culture and growth of the American West. More than simply a recognition that women played broader and more complex roles than being wives or prostitutes, the new view of the Women’s West speaks to the diversity of women of all cultures and all time periods. It acknowledges the rich variety of ways women responded to, and continue to respond to, the western experience. The Women’s West is based on a tradition that includes such fine writers as Willa Cather, Mary Austin, B.M. Bower, Mari Sandoz, Dorothy Johnson, Juanita Brooks, Laura Ingalls and Rose Wilder, and Helen Hunt Jackson. Women Writing the West exists to nurture today’s writers of the Women’s West, and those to come.

Since I’ve been writing a Western tale inspired by the lives of my grandparents, I wanted to attend this conference to find kindred spirits, other women writing about women in the West. I was not disappointed. I met women who were still struggling to write their first book, women who were still doing the research and women who had written several successful books. Everyone I met was welcoming, inclusive and encouraging. Women Writing the West is a supportive community.

The two-day annual conference held this year in Santa Fe, was structured to cover the Business of Writing and the Art of Writing. On the Business ofBookmark Women Writing the West Writing day we learned the rules of stand-out covers, the tax responsibility of authors and how to get a book into the library market. The Art of Writing was more memorable to me because it built on Julia Cameron’s secret tool.

What is the secret? Morning Pages: three handwritten pages at the beginning of the day in which we can dump all of the extraneous thoughts that cross our minds. “I forgot to call Sally back.” “I need to buy milk today.” “Why didn’t Jim tell me about his reservations?” Morning Pages are a tool to clear the mind and all the dark corners to help us be more conscious and focused as we move through the day. Morning Pages provide permission to write anything without worrying about grammar, punctuation, wording. Morning Pages helps to minimize our internal critic. The brilliance of Morning Pages according to Julia is that they can free us from internal censorship and perfection.

During the Art of Writing day other presentations picked up the theme of negative self judgement. One presenter, an author of several books, Jane Kirkpatrick called this self-talk “harpy chirping.” We found ourselves in reassuring company as we realized that most everyone had “negative harpies,” that internal judge who mocks our work with the stories we tell ourselves. “I am not as talented or creative as ….” Or, “My writing is not good enough to submit for publication.” Or simply, “I can’t write like that.”

Morning Pages is one tool to help us get those negative stories out of our minds and enable us to focus on writing. Another suggestion is to focus on the goal which we each have when we began our writing. Another option is to repeat “I, ____, am a creative writer”, inserting your own name, each time that negative judge shows up.

As writers, our goal is writing, writing the best we can. It is not to become as Julia told us, the “curator of the Museum of Perfection.” Instead, find your “believing mirrors,” people who mirror back to ourselves as strong, powerful and creative. And use the tools of Morning Pages, focusing on the goal and reminding ourselves that we are creative writers.


What tools or tips do you have to minimize the negative self-talk and the internal critic?


(Note: don’t forget to sign up as a VIP Reader for my book “Sarah’s Secret.” You’ll get sneak peeks at chapters, pre-publication, and more!)

 

 

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