Okay, show of hands: who here has ever said, “I want to write”? or “I want to paint.” “I want to write songs.” “I want to cover the outside of my house with those zentangle doodles in sharpie marker.” (Too specific?)
I read lots of books about the craft of writing, but sometimes I want to step back and think about creativity in a more general way.
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I want to know: Are there better ways to organize my days? My hours? My thoughts? (Yes.) Could I be more strategic about sharing my work and my ideas? Do other people have strategies for dealing with the same roadblocks I’m facing? (Yes and yes.)
If you like to mull this stuff over too — it does require a certain kind of creative geekery, I understand, but if you’re into it — here’s a list to help you figure out how to approach creative work, face resistance, find new ideas, and come up with a plan for sharing your art.
How to practice your creativity
In The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp argues that creativity is — wait for it — a habit. She says anyone can develop and strengthen it, and shows you how. (It’s a more thorough exploration of advice you’ve probably heard, about sitting your tush in your chair and keeping it there to get the work done. Worth it.)
What shows up next, once you’re committed to starting a creative habit? Resistance. Every time. Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art teaches you how to recognize and overcome the internal forces keeping you from doing your best work.
After that, Pressfield’s Turning Pro will show you the mindset shift you need to take yourself and your art seriously, and Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t will help you deal with the fact that nobody wants to… well. You know.
Elizabeth Gilbert would like you to try something. She’d like to suggest that you live from a place of curiosity instead of fear. Need a permission slip for that kind of creative living? Okay. It’s called Big Magic. There you go.
Where creative ideas come from
Where do creative ideas come from? Check out Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work for how to start thinking like an artist, putting together ideas, and sharing them with an audience.
Especially for writers
Carolyn See’s Making a Literary Life encourages you to live like the writer you want to be. It’s a little bit about fake-it-till-you-make-it, a little bit about good habits (for example: writing thank-you notes!), but more about shifting your own mindset to think of yourself as the person you want to be. (Or the kind of person who does the things you want to do.)
Though it’s not about social media hacks or list-building tricks, if you care about building an audience, check out Ariel Gore’s How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead. If obscurity is the enemy, Gore lays out a plan of attack.