To write, to engage in writing practice, all I need is some paper and a pen or pencil. And, coincidentally, that is all that’s needed to do some drawing! Did you know that adding other creative activities to your writing toolkit can enrich your writing? And not just your writing. When I find myself getting stale and stuck I know it’s time to shake up my creative practice. I’d like to share with you a couple of books that I find inspiring and that help me to focus more on creativity than creative writing.
The first is ‘The Creative License’ by Danny Gregory – its subtitle is ‘Giving Yourself Permission to be the Artist You Truly Are’. In this terrific book Gregory argues that drawing is first and foremost a way of adding richness to your life, not about expertise. Forget about the fact that you never took a drawing class. As I focus on something, maybe the salt cellar on the café table or the rusty bollard with its frayed green rope at the quayside, and move my pen over the page I get to really see the details, become mindful, stop the mind chatter. Drawing practice is about enjoying the process and letting go of outcomes – not unlike the process of writing! Of course this is easy to say, not always easy to do. But Danny Gregory’s book is very persuasive, he helps me to believe that, yes, even I can draw.
‘What creativity can do for you’ Danny Gregory
‘Be specific’ – great advice for writing or drawing. Did you know that the great American writer Flannery O’Connor was also a cartoonist? It helps to explain the sharply observed characters in her writing. Here is what she has to say about writing in her essay ‘Writing Short Stories’,
‘It has to become a way that you habitually look at things.’
Danny Gregory said, ‘Remember, Writing is Drawing.’ Of course!
The second book that I love to re-read and use to refresh my creative mojo is ‘What It Is’ by the magnificent Lynda Barry. The subtitle is ‘Do You Wish You Could Write?’ Like Danny Gregory’s this is a very different kind of book on writing and creativity.
‘And that feeling …’ Lynda Barry
‘Do you wish you could draw? What do you think it would be like?’
‘Do you wish you could sing? What do you imagine being able to sing would feel like?’
‘Why did you stop?’
‘Once upon a time I had a little rabbit.’ Lynda Barry
At times what most of us need, I think, is an opportunity to take a fresh look at the world and our place in it, to pause and consider, to really see. Writing does that, drawing does that. For both activities we use our hands, which, as Lynda Barry points out, were the original digital devices.
In a little over a week’s time, on September 7th, I will be sitting with a group of writers, some new, others more experienced, in Brewery Lane Theatre at the start of my Autumn Creative Writing workshop series. One quote from Lynda Barry that I love to use is, ‘Thinking up stories is hard. Getting them to come to you is easier.’ Over the 8 Saturday mornings, based on Pat Schneider’s method, I will create the conditions that will allow everyone’s stories to come to them. I can hardly wait.
‘One line led to another and a story slowly formed under my hands … It’s not hard. All you need is a paper and pen and a little bit of time.’ Lynda Barry.
If you want to ask me about a place on this course you are welcome to get in touch with me through the contact page here. (But you need to act quickly, it’s almost full.) Do let me know in the comments section below what you use to refresh your creative writing practice. What’s in your writing toolkit? I’d love to hear from you.