Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published August 6th 2019
Want to write? Read this
As my regular readers would know, I am attempting to be a writer (and have been for too long). I have sold dozens of pieces, but I still see myself as particularly crap. The problem is, I compare myself to my fellow Adelaideans like Sean Williams and I know I am not even in the same race. Don't get me wrong I think it is fantastic that local writers are so damn talented. My issue is with me and my lack of talent.
To compensate for this, I have a habit of reading those "How To Write" books so common everywhere. New titles seem to come out of the woodwork every month. And most of them are rubbish. I have read exactly one book that has helped my writing On Writing by Stephen King, which is my go-to book whenever I get bogged down or something does not seem quite right. Sure, there are resource books (thesauri, reverse dictionaries, style guides, etc.) but King's book has turned me from someone who likes to write to someone who sells his writing.
Well, now there is another book that I think I will be going back to Cultivating Creativity: Reconnecting with yourself and becoming more self-aware through writing by Lilliana Rose.
And, like Sean Williams, Lilliana is another South Australian.
Okay, declaration time. I used to know Lilliana. She was one of my favourite local fantasy writers; I was a fan of her works. She has also written the only romance stories I have enjoyed (I felt the need to read some because my written human interactions were, frankly, lousy). But things happen, I was a moron, and I have not had contact with her in almost a decade.
But when this book was recommended to me on the Goodreads website, I felt: why not? And then there was an ebook sale, so I got myself a copy.
It was published in 2018 by Infinity Dreaming. This is advice and a life story in writing that is well worth tracking down. If you have even the remotest interest in the writing process, this is a great "get". When did I realise this was going to be good? At the end of the introduction and this: "There's a lot of bad or misplaced advice out there. The writer's journey is unique, individual, and can't be easily copied."
Up to this time, her story had mirrored my own early life, even to the eventual choice of vocation. But that simple passage told me this was not going to be one of those stodgy "do it this way" tomes. She had me.
Okay, I will admit that a lot of her advice don't be afraid to start again, don't be afraid to rewrite, don't be afraid to try different approaches is stuff I have done through my own trial and error, but having it written down, that someone else understands that writing can be a frustrating, infuriating, but ultimately rewarding artform is actually something of a relief. I thought I must have been doing something wrong. And I know several writers who I have now recommended get this book because they need to know it's okay if things don't work the first time.
This is a book of what I feel are positivities about the writing process.
And the exercises Lilliana recommends are actually quite useful. She is not being prescriptive and regimented in what she suggests, but more open to all manner of interpretation.
Some of her stuff I found thought-provoking. For example, her concept of the tools of writing is something I never thought of before. Unlike Lilliana, the colour of ink doesn't matter, but the pen style does. I need one of those hexagonal plastic types, not round pens. And I like a journal that has a top fold. Does it help? Well, I have a feeling it must, because I go back to these all the time. In fact, as I write the draft of this, I have my black folder with notepad in it (top-joined) and am using a blue Bic pen. Just like I've used for the past 6 years (though sometimes black, never red red is for when I go back and edit).
Some of the advice is stuff I have yet to actually let myself do. (The "Follow Your Heart" chapter, for example). And this is another hallmark of the book. Not everything is something a majority of readers, I would guess, would have considered in the past. And some of the advice might seem straight forward (the chapter "Slowly, slowly be patient" springs to mind), but it is amazing how often I find myself and other writers I communicate with say the same thing not doing just these simple, allegedly obvious things. One thing that did stick with me that I keep forgetting: "Why not schedule in some time to daydream? You don't need a lot of time for this. But it is an integral part of the creative process which is often overlooked."
The start of the second section is quite good for the beginner writer or some-one lacking confidence, reminding the reader what has already been said and offering some practical advice for those in that situation. Of course, they are also good to read for more experienced writers, more things we tend to forget.
Section three gets into some slightly more advanced thinking stuff, for people who are serious about their writing. Some goes against conventional wisdom for example: go with the flow, not live by to-do lists but the way Lilliana puts it makes it seem logical. The chapter "Let it be" is a great reminder of something many artists need to do sometimes you need to take a break. And some of the advice ("Treat yourself") is not just for people in the arts.
Now, I've spent a lot of this review waffling on about how it relates to me as a would-be author, but that is the joy of this book: it makes the reader reflect on their own journey. The voice it is written in is a casual one and by relating the book to her own personal life and experiences, it makes it seem less an academic work and the work of someone with the same issues as everyone else lack of time, life pressures, just living. And this book would have taken me a lot shorter time to read, but I actually did 75% of the exercises mentioned in my own writing pad.
Look, it's not perfect, of course. Calling Michelangelo Buonarotti, the Renaissance artist, Michael Angelo is one example of something that made me do a double-take. Some parts did not resonate with me personally (others might differ in their opinion, of course). The chapter on thinking vs intuition felt glossed over, and I think some novices I have taught in the past would have a hard time getting the concepts. The chapters on where ideas come from and "the inner critic" focused on some techniques that I have found do not work for me. I found the chapter "Memories (Beware)" way too poignant for me at the moment, and yet, again, the means for overcoming some of the darkness suggested here don't work for me. The chapter "Lots of keys, lots of doors" felt too short. Also, technically, there are a few oddly constructed sentences. But these are all little things really. They do not detract from the core of the book this is a way to write that has worked for her, and there are bits in here that will work for most writers.
Of course, a book like this is not going to be for everyone. But for those interested in the artistic process, going through it themselves, or just keen to look into the mind of someone with a seriously good artistic bent, then grab this one.