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Creativity Guides to Get Your Juices Flowing

You can’t have too many ways to overcome inertia.


When I find myself wondering how many more creativity guides writers need, I remember how, when I began my own writing life, I haunted the library and bookstores to get my hands on all the guides available. One book would be more practical, one might be more inspirational, while another would speak well to my specific concerns. Some felt outdated.

Writers now have a plethora of choices in such fresh how-to books, and thus fewer excuses for not progressing toward their self-chosen goals. Here are two new ones.

The Creative Compass: Writing Your Way from Inspiration to Publication (New World Library) is by Dan Millman, the author of 17 books, and his daughter, journalist and editor Sierra Prasada.

Virtually everyone who has set out on a creative path encounters obstacles, many of them self-made and internal. The Creative Compass is both practical and psychologically sound, and includes insight, quotes, and anecdotes from more than 100 well-known writers and thinkers. Happily (in my opinion), the New-Agey excesses of Millman’s website and previous work are entirely missing here. What we get is good advice, much of it from the personal perspective of Prasada, a genuinely warm presence on the page.

Here are a few tidbits which are explained at full length in the book:


  • A “sticky idea” is one that is good enough, meaningful enough to you, that you are drawn to bring it to fruition.
  • Three questions shape each story: Who is telling the story? To whom? Why?
  • In the early first “dream” stage of coming up with an idea worth writing about, try dreaming on deadline. Such a form of constraint forces you to adapt and evolve.
  • Overcutting is rare while overwriting is epidemic. Revise and refine accordingly.

The Creativity Cure: How to Build Happiness with Your Own Two Hands (Scribner) is by psychiatrist/psychoanalyst Carrie Barron, M.D., and orthopedic surgeon Alton Barron, M.D.

In the Barrons’ chapter on creativity and inhibition, they explore ten common fears that hold us back from achieving our most fluent creativity. The first three are fear of mental freedom, fear of your own aggression, and fear of hurting others. I noted these in particular because I had an enlightening conversation with another therapist/author for one of my more popular posts, called “Do You Dare to Be Bad?

That post began like this:

What would you do if you could do anything, and no one would get hurt? For some, such a thought experiment is easy. For others--especially women--it can be incredibly difficult . . . Try talking to your shadow side to learn what's holding you back.

The Barrons lead you through the process of figuring out what’s scaring you about your own thoughts and impulses so you can take more effective action (turning aggressive feelings into assertive action, for example). If you find you’re dealing with guilt, or fearful that you don’t deserve much success, or that somehow if you do what you want, you’ll hurt someone else, the Barrons suggest ways to re-consider and reframe such emotions.

Even if you don’t do creativity in order to be happy or to heal anything, The Creativity Cure helps with the common and necessary struggle of loosening up and letting go.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Susan K. Perry

Follow me on Twitter @bunnyape

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