what to do when the words won’t come… a reading list

I’m back… to the blog, after over a month of being “missing in action,” at least as far as writing goes. Which has been a bit unusual because, as friends know and if you’ve stopped by here a few times, I tend to be a bit verbose occasionally. Well, maybe most of the time, but for various reasons I’ve found myself unable to write much of anything these first couple of months into the new year. First, the energies of events on the planet have been extremely intense over the last 4 months or so and most of us could probably use a breather to just kind of absorb everything that’s been happening; secondly, my own energies have been poured into finishing up the 3rd album for release by the first week of June.

Or it could be something as simple and mundane as I’ve had absolutely nothing interesting to say or add to the general collective blogosphere these last 2 months (a distinct possibility). So, blog writer’s block. It happens.

About the time you notice it and start paying attention to the fact that you’re not writing anything, it’s taken on a life of its own, so, in an effort to pry open the “floodgates of verbosity” (a good prog-rock song title if ever I’ve heard one, along the lines of Yes’ “Gates of Delirium”), I’ve compiled a short list of books I’ve found helpful over the years and maybe you might find them useful too. Though most of them tend to be about writing, they work equally well for anything you’re trying to do creatively (if you need a jumpstart).

Starting with the ‘big guns’ first, the heavy-hitters:

writers_blockOn Writer’s Block: A New Approach to CreativityVictoria Nelson
An excellent book – at only 170 pages, it throws out more gems of wisdom per page than any other book on the subject. Author Victoria Nelson argues that the “mysterious creative silences” every artist dreads are not to be feared, but should be viewed as a positive element in an artist’s growth – “the unconscious mind’s signal to readjust the approach to a work in progress.”

From the first chapter: “True creative discipline – and productivity – blossoms in conditions of gentleness and respect.”

art_fearArt & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of ArtmakingDavid Bayles and Ted Orland
Another excellent (and short) book that should be in every creative person’s library whether a visual artist, musician, or writer. The authors pose a lot of questions about the way art gets made, the reasons why often it doesn’t get made, and the pitfalls of why so many give up along the way (making very clear the distinction between reaching a “stopping point” and quitting altogether).

“In a general way, fears about yourself prevent you from doing your best work, while fears about your reception by others prevent you from doing your own work.”

walking_on_alligatorsWalking on Alligators: A Book of Meditations for WritersSusan Shaughnessy
A great, uplifting book of inspirational quotes, mostly from (you guessed it) writers and meditations/affirmations right there when you need ’em.

“A writer should value his blockages. That means he’s starting to scale down, to get close.” – Robert Pirsig, author, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

leaping-alligator“It isn’t a question of doing more work. It’s more of your own internal critic that goes, ‘You could do better than that. Take the higher road, not the easy route.'” – Robin Williams

writers_idea_bookThe next three are more geared specifically to writing, particularly Jack Heffron’sThe Writer’s Idea Book which is chock-full of writing exercises, prompts (about 400 of ’em actually), and a few creative techniques (brainstorming, clustering, automatic writing, and cutting and pasting, etc.) to get the pen going again. If you subscribe to The Daily Post from WordPress, then you’re already familiar with prompts for writing.

writing-down-the-bonesWriting Down the Bones and Wild Mind, both by Natalie Goldberg, are books filled with suggestions for writing and specific exercises and both showed me that writing in coffee houses, restaurants, auto repair shops, and yeah, even courtrooms, wasn’t something weird after all (oh no!… not another hipster!), especially when more people started doing it (pre-laptop era).

artistswayWhich brings us to the mother of all books on creativity, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron, a 12-week program to unlock, discover, and/or reclaim your artistic/creative, and perhaps spiritual, territory. Dog-eared, profusely underlined, and just this side of falling apart, I’ve had this book for 20 years and go back to it for reference or when I just have a powerful hankerin’ for doing some “morning pages.” Mmm, with my morning coffee. If you own this book, you know what I mean.

All of these are highly recommended… all the best to you in your creative endeavors.

Until next time…

“In 4 the Evening” is the second and current album from Nights on Venus and is available as a digital download on CDBabyiTunesAmazon.mp3Bandcamp and other fine online retailers. On CD through the NoV website. The 3rd album, “Another Day in Paradox,” is scheduled for release on June 1, 2013.

Craig and friend
Craig and friend

Follow Craig and NoV on Twitter (@xlntsky) and Facebook.


Author: nightsonvenus

Musician and producer with the band Nights on Venus.

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