Three Laws of Magic for Writers

Published on: Author: bette 8 Comments

I’m meeting with a few writer friends to listen to the SoundsTrue interview with Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg called The Writing Life. I’ve listened to this CD many times before, but yesterday I heard something that I have missed in the past. The question was about writers who lack confidence in their writing.  It felt like I had never heard Julia’s answer before.  She talked about what she calls the Three Laws of Magic for Writers:

  1. Containment
  2. Friendly Readers
  3. Friendly Critics

I love the term “Friendly Readers.”  My Inner Critic, or as Natalie Goldberg calls it “Monkey Mind,” is so loud that until very recently I have never shared my writing with anyone except for people that I have thought of as my own Friendly Readers. They have not necessarily been the same people each time … but have always fit into the category of my “preaching to the choir.”  Many of them have encouraged me to share my work more widely … but my Inner Critic has always refused.

Yesterday when I heard Julia say “The first rule of magic [for writers] is containment,” I realized that the voice I’ve been thinking of as my “Inner Critic” has been right.  Not only that, for many years I’ve been ignoring that voice and putting my writing out too early – to too many people – and sometimes even to the wrong people.  This interview put the subject of Containment in perspective for me.


Writing the story of my upbringing as an Evangelical Christian – and posting it on Meanderings –  was the beginning of a process for me.  I have spent a great deal of time since then processing my reactions and have realized that the furor over who Christians are going to vote for was the impetus I needed to get over my own fear of criticism. I haven’t followed Julie’s rule of “Containment” very well and from now on will treat my “Friendly Readers” with more respect.   I am also going to carefully consider Julia’s third law … the “Friendly Critic.”  By that she says she means the accurate critic.  I’ve had several of those along the way and now I can let go of this subject and move on!  (See post: January 24, 1016)

8 Responses to Three Laws of Magic for Writers Comments (RSS) Comments (RSS)

  1. Have you read The GUBA book?
    Growing Up Born Again
    A sprinkle of humor about “the days of our lives”

  2. I am very encouraged and inspired to acknowledge and befriend the writer I am through this group…and “Judi’s” group.
    So welcoming and nurturing…just what birth and re-birth requires! 🙂
    And we are new people at each stage of our lives…trying to figure out what we have learned and what it is we are supposed to share! Thanks Bette and everyone for sharing your journey! 🙂

    • So right! I’m in Ashland right with my best friend from high school on her 70th birthday! Great time to think about being “new people at each stage of our lives”! Thanks for reading …. and for sharing your journey too. I’m excited about what we’re all learning :-)!

  3. Hi Bette, thanks for your commentary, couldn’t agree more. Sending you warm regards and happy writing! I have been enjoying “The Writing Life” very much! It is fun to revisit the interview with a different perspective now that some years have passed since I first heard it. Thank you again!

    • Thanks, Annie … and thanks for coming. I wish I knew where I got that quote I told you about at the beginning of the meeting. It’s something like “No two people have ever read the same book – and no one has ever read the same book twice.” I’d love to find the source of that because I think of it ever time I go to a movie for the second time – or like now, hear this same CD for the umteenth time! If I had heard (or understood?) that part about “CONTAINMENT” years ago … things would certainly be different for me now. Not sure if that would be better or worse … just different. 😉

      See you on the 4th ….if not before!

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