Digging Deep Into Creative Writing With Julia Cameron
JULIA CAMERON #3
[This transcript is excerpted from an Art of the Song interview as broadcast nationally on Public Radio. Click here to listen to the complete show with music.]
Viv: I love that this play contains your emotional truth and that you assigned that to two different characters: a male and a female. That seems that it is a huge part and purpose of art is to give us that opportunity to voice ourselves through a universal protagonist.
Julia: Well one of the things that I found, I wrote a book called “The Dark Room” which was a first person narrative, male perspective. We often find that we’re willing to accept, as a culture, men writing about women. I’m thinking of a book “My Geisha” which was written by a man and it was a woman’s perspective, but I found when I wrote from a male perspective, people were shocked. And that was what sort of pushed me over the edge into writing plays. As I said when I was in my early writing, I wrote a little bit on “Taxi Driver” and a lot on “New York, New York” and I could remember Robert DeNiro saying to Martin Scorsese, who I was married to at the time, “Your wife wrote this?!”
Viv: Because it was so raw?
Julia: Because it fit so perfectly in his mouth.
Viv: Wow. What’s that from? How do you do that?
Julia: Well, I think it’s a matter of listening. I recently wrote two new plays which we’re going to be work-shopping in January and I sat in my writing room in my writing chair which is a large leather chair with holes in it from Lily, and I sat in the chair and I listened. And, as I listened, I heard male voices and female voices, and I wrote down what I heard. I think writing is about getting something down, not about thinking something up. The directions are important. If you’re getting something down, you’re ego has been set to one side and you’re writing what you hear. What seems to need to want to be written. I know, for myself, I have worked twenty-five years on egoless writing. A story will seem to want to be told and I will tell that story. I think that this has its roots, really, in the Artist’s Way. I was in love with a man who was blocked and I would think, “What does he need to know?” And I would listen and write it down. So, in a sense, the Artist’s Way began as a valentine. I finished the manuscript and I sent it to my literary agent who was a movie agent at William Morris. She said, “Oh Julia, who’s going to be interested in this? Go back to screenwriting. You’re a screenwriter.” Well, I fortunately didn’t listen to her. Four million people later, she may be thinking, “I might have made a blunder”
Viv: When we first met I was doing a reading of two of your plays, “Dear Family” and “Number Three” and you mentioned that you had been told, a trusted person had told you, that one of the characters needed to be cut dramatically and you smiled, with this twinkle in this eye, and said, “So I doubled him immediately”.
Julia: Yeah, I’m a little bit naughty. And I think if you want to know the secret of my “career”, it’s naughtiness. The Artist’s Way basically was a letter to bullies saying, “Stop bullying artists. Artists have dignity. Artists have a right to make what they make.” I think “The Dark Room” where I’m writing in the voice of the cop was my desire to just prove that a woman could write in the voice of a cop. I am rebellious, like you say, when we were told that the play should cut one character and I doubled the character that has to do with years of learning to trust myself. To trust that if I think something belongs, it does belong. The play that we’re doing “Love in the DMZ” is another example of my being very stubborn and saying, “This play should have a life”. It hasn’t been done in years and I have been waiting for the right place to do it. When I walked into the performance space at Sol Acting Academy, I suddenly saw and turned to you and said, “Oh my God, it’s perfect for ‘Love in the DMZ'” and you said, with a dry twinkle of your own, “I was hoping you’d say that.”
Viv: I think that’s why we’re starting to call this little band of characters that are getting together to produce and get this play going in August, August 6th we have our preview and then the 7th is it’s southwestern premiere, we’re beginning to refer to ourselves as the ‘spiritual alchemists’ with Daniel coming out from New York, and Catharine Pilafas Jones playing the wife, and Josh Heard playing the husband, I feel that this play is coming together with the absolute best possible group of people to realize it. Is there anything that you would like to say? Especially that you want people to know about the play and it’s upcoming performance that you would like to share?
Julia: I think that when people listen to the play, they will find themselves emotionally moved and they will set aside what I think of as the ‘critical mind’ because a play in letters is a play where the performance strength and the writing are the focal point. So it’s a little bit different viewing experience than a conventional play. I feel pretty strongly that simple is best with this play. And, in talking with Daniel, that seems to be his perspective as well. So I think the play leans into the audience and invites the audience to use their own imaginations. We talk about that they have cobras in Vietnam and this was something that we didn’t hear much about during Vietnam. And then afterwards, when men were coming home, and they were having Post Traumatic Stress, we discovered, “Well, I spent eighteen months afraid of being bitten”. So I think that the play invites the audience to enter into the reality of the characters in a way that’s a little bit challenging. So I think it’s a play for grown-ups.
Viv: I know it to be a play of great depth and value and I’m really looking forward to sharing it with the community.