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This Writing Life: Creativity and… Self-Help?

18 November, 2010

I’ve always been incredibly wary (read: dismissive) of self-help books. I have, to my knowledge, never read one right through, but browsing them in the book shop where I used to work didn’t exactly raise my opinion of the genre. I’ve also never been much of a fan of the semi-spiritual view of writing that I see around the internet sometimes. The sort of ‘find your creative spark/writing soul’ and ‘creativity is a mysterious, unknowable quanitity’ sort of thing. I’ve always considered myself far too practical for things like that. My creativity comes from my brain, right? It’s electrical impulses and nothing more, no matter how much you want to dress it up. Ditto the soul: if it can’t be found scientifically, it just ain’t there.

All of which goes some way to explain why I was equally wary of subscribing to Justine Musk’s Tribal Writer blog when I first came across it. Justine uses terms like ‘bodymind’ and ‘creative trance’, which initially put me off. The more I read, though, the more I could see how practical much of her advice was. Take her latest post, for example. Those terms above come from that post, but Justine also talks about habit and practice, and how ritual can essentially rewire your brain to make being creative automatic rather than a struggle. I’ll freely admit that some of her advice drifts too far towards that spiritual end for me really to connect with it, but a lot of what she’s saying mirrors what can be found on writing blogs across the internet; she just says it in a different way and one that makes me consider my writing in a different light. (The blog covers subjects like marketing and making money and the nitty-gritty of finishing your work, too, but again Justine frequently takes a different stance to the other blogs I read.)

Plugging of the blog aside (I do recommend you take a look, if you haven’t seen it before), all of this has reminded me how important it is to consider every aspect of your writing. Boosting your creativity is just as important as finishing the book, or finding an agent, or networking at cons. In fact, it could well be more important, because without that creative spark (ah look, there I go too) you’ll have nothing to write about, and with nothing to write, everything else becomes irrelevant.

I’m not suggesting that everyone rush out and read every self-help book they can get their hands on (I certainly won’t be). However, if there are parts of your writing life that you never consider – like where your creativity comes from and whether you’re doing anything to help it along its way – perhaps now is the time to start looking at them. It might take you out of your comfort zone, but that’s usually a good thing. Doing so might make more of a difference to your writing than you can ever imagine.


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