The Artist’s Way:
Creativity as Spiritual Practice
Author: Julia Cameron
Publication Date: 1992
Applying the 12-step approach of AA to creativity, Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way helps writers and artists of all kinds overcome the obstacles they encounter during their artistic path by suggesting art is a spiritual practice. Eschewing religious indoctrination , Cameron proposes that the act of creating art itself fulfils an important spiritual need within and that not doing so creates problems for an artist. Over twelve chapters, Cameron offers advice on how to overcome and recover from creative barriers, self-doubt, and criticism, while suggesting ways to establish an environment in which artists feel safe, connected, and strong enough to create their work. Written in a down-to-earth style and utilising a series of myriad exercises, such as the Morning Pages and Artist Dates, Cameron offers many insights that will resonate with struggling artists, encouraging them to continue their work. Cameron offers a series of similar books and while there are also worth reading, The Artist Way is the most succinct and inspiring.
The War of Art:
Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
Author: Steven Pressfield
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: 2002
When I first decided to take my creative writing seriously, this book instilled in me many of the principles I still adhere to today. With a good sense of humour and a no-bullshit attitude, Steven Pressfield puts the responsibility of your creative work and artistic success in your hands. Because, as I have discovered through my own experience, it won’t happen otherwise. Pressfield defines the enemy of creativity as resistance and then outlines the numerous forms it appears in during an artist’s life. Through a series of very short chapters, Pressfield addresses many issues that come up for beginner, and indeed advanced, writers, from the inner struggle to start or continue the work, to self-doubt, and, importantly, how to overcome this resistance. Throughout, he offers examples and mantras to help artists overcome these issues. It’s short and inspiring.
A Memoir of the Craft
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: 2000
Part memoir, part writer’s toolbox, Stephen King, probably the highest-selling author of our age, not only discusses what made him want to write and how he got to where he is, but offers plenty of insight and expertise on the craft of storytelling. Drawing on his experience, King outlines the dos and don’ts of writing, emphasising the importance of the craft of storytelling over technical prowess. He also suggests potential writers seriously consider whether they really want to become an author because it is a hard slog and requires a lot of perseverance. King’s most important advice for want-to-be and emerging writers is to create a daily target and routine and stick to it until you finish your story. Written in King’s familiar casual style, this tome channels King’s decades of successful experience into a relatable and understandable book.
The Anatomy of Story:
22 Steps to Becoming Master Storyteller
Author: John Truby
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Publication Date: 2007
Recommended by my friend Donelle, this book has become my bible for structuring my stories. Although John Truby focuses on screenwriting, the techniques he discusses are equally applicable to writing prose. Truby starts from the beginning, helping writers germinate story ideas and establish which are the most potent. Then he takes writers through the process of germinating characters that best fit the idea, discovering the story’s central theme, developing the plot, creating a symbol web to add deeper meaning to your story, how to write good dialogue, and more. Throughout, he shows how his techniques work in well-known stories, allowing writers to properly understand and then integrate his concepts in their own work, many of which, such as four-corner opposition, add a lot of power. Whenever I become stuck, going back through this book consistently helps resolve many of my story’s issues.
The Writer’s Journey:
Mythic Structure for Writers
Author: Christopher Vogler
Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions
Publication Date: 2007 (3rd edition)
In this excellent tome, veteran story consultant, Christopher Vogler applies Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, or hero’s journey, to creating a story. Campbell theorised that all stories are the same: each follows a hero or protagonist who encounters a disturbance to normal life, acts to overcome it, and then returns from the experience with wisdom to share with their community. Vogler breaks this concept down into easy-to-understand terminology, introducing writers to common character archetypes and suggests how to identify them in their story and help flesh out them and their roles. Moreover, he outlines twelve succinct stages of the hero’s journey and, through examples from popular stories, demonstrates how they can be used to structure a narrative. Although perhaps a little oversimplified, Vogler acknowledges the variable nature of the hero’s journey and the unique way it appears in all stories.