I seem to go through phases of high creative output and then these doldrum-y weeks where I don’t want to do anything but lie on my fainting couch, watching Netflix and eating frozen M&Ms. Granted, lately some of that lazing about may possibly be due to several weeks of go-go-go and temperatures many many degrees higher than I ever agreed to.
However, I have missed writing, I’ve not painted in months, and the extent of my creative ventures have involved mastering sunscreen application techniques. In the last few weeks I’ve read (ok, listened to) two books about creativity…and it seems the biggest lessons I need to learn are 1) it doesn’t have to be perfect or even important; 2) do something creative every day, anything. I often feel crushed by my own internal need to create (write, paint, conjure) something AMAZING…when, truly, I just need to do something, to get into a habit of doing and then let the repetition and practice hone my skill and the dedicated space for doing to provide a platform for inspiration.
Creativity Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, by Ed Catmull & Amy Wallace (5 stars). I loved the idea that failure is not actually failure, it’s just part of the process of creating, it’s part of refining an idea, or a story, or a piece of art. It’s not a negative, it’s an essential stepping stone for moving forward. I think parts of this book are very workplace or manager-style specific, but I also think there is a lot to learn as a creative-type, or a creative-wannabe-type, on how the process is not usually a BLAM of inspiration and, 10 minutes later, a perfect finished product. It is a PROCESS with a lot of back and forth and revising and more revising. It’s work to create something, and it’s okay if not every single decision you make in that process is, ultimately, one that leads to your finished product. It’s all part of the process.
I’m not sure if it is because my whole life feels like it’s in a state of flux–workplace things included–but I responded SO WELL to this book, the ideas and principles Catmull talks about for success, and all the little factoids and stories about his time in digital animation.
Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert (4 stars). Many years ago I read and loathed “Eat, Pray, Love” and while I maintained Gilbert was a great writer, I really really hated that book. So, I was pretty hesitant to pick this one up, however I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. Gilbert’s ideas on what to do with creativity, how to not think of your creative outputs as your babies, or unchangeable, or needing to be perfect are things I have struggled with of late. I love to write, but I want it all to be brilliant and witty, and the truth is, I am not 100% brilliant or witty, there are a LOT of parts of me that I can express creatively that have nothing to do with brilliance or wit, and THAT IS OKAY, HARRIET, IT’S OKAY TO BE A LITTLE VULNERABLE SOMETIMES. I love to paint, but I often get bogged down in not having the skill to express on paper or canvas what I see in my mind’s eye, and THAT’S OKAY! IT’S OKAY TO BE AN AMATEUR, HARRIET! So….clearly I have some internal things that I need to work on when it comes to creativity and writing and expression, and I also need to remember that this space, in particular, is not for a shiny finished product. This little corner of the internet is for me, in all my unfinished and work-in-progress glory. That is why I made this space in the first place, for the process.
Overall, there were a few parts I think some parts of Big Magic that were a little too hippy-dippy for me, a little too woo-woo, and even a little too Elizabeth Gilbert, but, I really enjoyed her take on the creative process and it has already inspired some additional creative ventures of my own, so in that respect, this book is a success! In may ways this book reminded me of Gretchin Rubin’s book on habits, and Anne Lamott’s book on writing.
Other Books That Inspire Me:
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott (4 stars).
Writing About Your Life, by William Zinsser (5 stars).
Instead of grouping book reviews by month or quarter, I’ve decided to group them by topic instead because that seems to be how I read them anyway. What are you reading lately?