The term “writer’s block,” suggests to me that writing is a smooth flowing state of creativity that is suddenly and irrevocably obstructed by some shift in momentum and focus that can render us powerless. I prefer to see the creative process as the ebb of flow of the tides of life. It’s something we can work with and around to maximize benefits to our writing life.
I enjoy the act of physically writing, the sh-sh-sh of my fountain pen on paper as ink flows out as letters, words, and sentences onto letters, into journals and formal pieces of writing. I have tons of ideas that are constantly taunting my brain to keep up and I seldom find myself at a loss for the written word.
But, I do get frustrated when I can’t quite figure out how to express those intangible thoughts and emotions. And, I don’t always have the energy, or peace/piece of mind to write because there is that thing called Life that is constantly defying our best laid plans, with such things as hurricane preparations, unexpected trips to the emergency room, sick children, last minute deadlines, worry about the state of the world, and other things I can’t change. As well as plain old lack of discipline).
What I have come to realise is, during these moments where we are tired, depressed, out of sorts, and want to binge-watch a British mystery while eating popcorn (home-popped with lots of extra virgin olive oil and parmesan cheese), it helps to exercise discipline (if only for an hour or two) to keep your creativity engaged in a different creative outlet like playing piano, doing art, listening to an audio book, or reading. Besides letting me feel good about being somewhat productive, this allows me to disengage from whatever is giving me issues in writing, like when I am ‘stuck’ in expressing an idea or working through a plot point, so I can refresh, reframe, and re approach the issue.
The other benefits of listening to certain writing podcasts or reading is that it keeps the desire to write and be creative stoked. I continue to immerse myself in words, language and experiences that remind me that writing is work, emotions are not constant, and determination, drive, goals and a positive outlook are indispensable to keep moving forward — whether your goal is to finish a manuscript or complete any other project (or sometimes, just get through a day without falling apart).
Here is a list of practical, pretty, inspiring and encouraging books that I flip through routinely to keep me realistic as a writer and a creative human being. At the time of this post, all were available on Amazon, although some of the classics may only be available through Amazon’s used book sellers.
Little Red Writing Book by Brandon Royal This 160-page book outlines 20 principles of structure, style, readability and grammar in bite size principles, all beautifully illustrated and penned. It has examples and exercises to clarify points. It would make a useful and lovely keepsake for writers.
Indirections for those who want to write by Sidney Cox This 140-page classic was first published in 1947. It contains reflections by Sidney Cox, who met and became friends with poet Robert Frost when they met in high school. The tone of these essays are so down to earth and inspiring about life in general.
Room to Write by Bonni Goldberg This is a great book for someone who wants to have a daily prompt with a dose of encouragement, topped off with a literary quote.
Write Mind by Eric Maisel, Ph.D Do you talk to yourself? Psychotherapist, coach and author, Maisel simply lays out 299 things that writers might say to themselves, but shouldn’t. And, he gives you the RIGHT way to speak to yourself. The perfect tool to reframe how you think and what you say to yourself.
On Not Being Able to Paint by Joanna Field Written under the pseudonym for Marion Milner, the British psychoanalyst and author, Field examines the life of creatives, why we create, what interferes with the process. And, ultimately, what will remove the interference. Although she focuses on painting, the essays provide insight to the creative mind in general.
Still Writing by Dani Shapiro Subtitled ‘The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life,’ this quaint hardcover makes a delightful gift for writers walking the path of the creative life.
Why I Write Will Blythe The literary editor for Esquire and Harper’s compiled this anthology of essays from an array of authors to include Terry McMillan, Mary Gaitskill, David Foster Wallace, Normal Mailer and Pat Conroy. The viewpoints are diverse and inspiring, soliciting smiles and thoughtfulness on the aspects of the writing life – collecting ideas, loving and fighting with them, the ups and downs of crafting fiction.
Write Away by Elizabeth George Bestselling author of British pyschological thrillers, George’s essays give insight into how she creates a novel, and lives the writing life. Plotting, attitude, voice, characters and the process of working it all in general. She also provides photographs and examples of description written about them. Wonderful workshops in each chapter.
Fearless Creating by Eric Maisel When you just do not want to think for yourself, and don’t have the self esteem or peace of mind to pull yourself out of the creative ditch you are in, try this book. Maisel works with you step by step. First, he calms your anxiety and gets your thoughts in the right place, then he he walks you through choosing your subject. He is still holding your hand while you are working and moving to the finish line — which he crosses with you so he can tell you how to show/sell your work (generally – this is not an in-depth marketing and publishing plan).
On Writing by Stephen King King’s classic memoir is an entertaining collection of enlightening essays that provide much insight and information on his writing process, and the writing life in general. For King fans, there are tidbits about what inspired his stories.
It’s Only Too Late If You Don’t Start Now by Barbara Sher This is a bonus title because this book helped me realise that I don’t have all the time in the world – to not get started on the things I want to accomplish in my life. This is not so much a writing book as a book to put life in perspective and START now,. Don’t procrastinate if you really want to achieve a goal that you have set for yourself.
Those are my suggestions on general advice on the creative life. Of course there are tons more titles to share, but you’ll have to wait for my next lists. In the meantime, check out Whisperings in your ear.
I’d love to hear if you have read or plan to read any of these titles, and what you think of them, so feel free to leave me a comment or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope the words and creativity flow for you. And, if it doesn’t, you now know what to do about it. (Yes, make popcorn first.)