mailsparky/FreeImages
Source: mailsparky/FreeImages

Staring at a pile of the latest creative guides that were sent to me for review, I wonder: Why so many guides on the same topic, year after year? I think it's because you never know when one will reach you at the right moment, with the precise advice that will finally motivate you to get to the real work that is so important to you.

Here are 3 tips from each of 3 new books. See if some work for you.

9 Tips & Strategies

FROM: Minding the Muse: A Handbook for Painters, Composers, Writers, and Other Creators, by Priscilla Long, a multi-talented author and teacher of writing. Long has done a terrific job of compiling short chapters, rich with fresh quotes from all sorts of creative people. This small but deeply intelligent book contains some savvy messages you'd do well to heed. For example:

1. Do not rush. For a more original result, writes Long, "Do not think of the rewards it will bring or of how good or bad it will turn out. Keep the problem open for a good long time." You will discover how to proceed with your creative problem during your interaction with its elements, and that way you won't accept a superficial solution.

2. Make time and space for creativity. If you don't have a writing room or studio, then designate a corner closed to visitors. Avoid the distractions of email, telephone, social media, and too much to do. "It's not the size of the space that counts. It's not the length of time," insists Long. "It's a feeling—space enough and time enough."

3. Form your own judgment. Finishing is not about getting anyone's approval or suspending your own judgment, believing "that if it's accepted, it's good and if it's rejected, it's a piece of crap." If you believe that, you may stall and never finish anything. (Visit Priscilla Long.)

FROM: Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere), by Lisa Cron, who also wrote Wired for Story. I chose the following advice to share:

1. You needn't throw up onto the paper a really terrible first draft. Letting it all pour out or simply winging it, as some experts advise, is easy. Thinking hard isn't. The exhilaration of winging it often wears off in a few pages, or certainly before you reach the end. Even your first draft, however lousy it is, needs to be a draft of an actual story and not one that romps around and goes nowhere.

2. Your protagonist has a misbelief, a fatal flaw in his or her reasoning, that keeps a major goal out of reach. "Only by knowing your protagonist's defining misbelief can you craft a story that will test it to the limit," writes Cron, "opening his eyes along the way (or, depending on the point you're making, tragically not)."

3. Brainstorm where to start your story. What is your protagonist's predicament, "what unavoidable external change will catapult" her into the fray, or is she self-sabotaging?

FROM: Part Wild: A Writer's Guide to Harnessing the Creative Power of Resistance, by Deb Norton. I have to admit I resisted this one due to the Preface in which Norton describes asking a student of hers, a pet psychic, to speak to her dog and find out why the dog keeps wanting to walk in the road in front of oncoming cars. Turns out the answer, "She's part wild," gave Norton the title of her book. Such silliness aside, Part Wild has much to offer to the creative person who is in a battle with her own resistance to beginning, continuing, or completing a creative project, or to living a creative life.  Such as:

1. Loosen up your thoughts with a list. For example, if you're having trouble writing a love scene, make a list of all the kisses you've given or received.

2. Use your curiosity to get your work flowing. Don't count on discipline, especially if have little or none of it. Instead, for instance, list everything you don't know about a character you'd like to flesh out more. Choose those unknowns as a launch pad for your writing. If you want to know how your story ends, try writing all the possible ways it could end.

3. Consider whether your inner critic and you are NOT one and the same. You want to write; it doesn't want you to. That harshly critical voice may sound like yours, but it actually comes from other people's fears, passed along to you. Your inner critic does not really know you. Get rid of it (and here Part Wild shines with several ideas about how to banish this ignorant bully from your own mind).

Plus 2 Unusual Books for the Visual Artist

Sketchy Stories: The Sketchbook Art of Kerby Rosanes. This quirky little book is a facsimile reproduction of Rosanes's original Moleskin sketchbook. Rosanes, a young Philippines-based artist, was a graphics designer at a local company when he decided to break loose and do his own thing. That includes projects for numerous companies as well as his own doodle-focused sketching. They're in black ink and are quite odd, whimsical, and detailed. The drawings are interspersed with a few of his tips and techniques (not nearly enough though!). I could see Sketchy Stories being happily added to any artist's shelf of inspirational materials.

Ballpoint Art, by Trent Morse, is a 176-page paperback with 172 illustrations, containing an impressive range of art and artists. All of the 30 international artists use only an ordinary ballpoint pen, demonstrating that you don't need expensive tools to be creative. Each of the artists, including outsiders and superstars, explains why and how such a humble pen was chosen. Reasons include the especially fine lines a ballpoint makes, as well as the advantages of limiting oneself to such a simple implement in order to open up the conceptual aspects of the work.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Susan K. Perry, author of Kylie’s Heel

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