By coincidence the festival was on whilst we were staying in Esperance. I caught a session with two fabulous writers, Sarah Drummond and Fleur McDonald. A great talk.
The War of Art:
Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
Robert McKee (Foreword)
Internationally bestselling author of Last of the Amazons, Gates of Fire, and Tides of War, Steven Pressfield delivers a guide to inspire and support those who struggle to express their creativity. Pressfield believes that “resistance” is the greatest enemy, and he offers many unique and helpful ways to overcome it.
The War of Art – A review by Andy Macleod
I’m not only a reader, I’m a writer. I’m an advertising copywriter and that’s how I make my living.
But I’m also a creative writer, and that’s where I get stuck. As a copywriter I write radio commercials, brochures and web page content. These are usually short, bite sized pieces, easily digested. Novels are not, and I have about 5 unfinished, well, barely started ones to prove it.
That’s where The War of Art (2002), by Steven Pressfield comes in.
I read a lot of books about writing, it’s how I procrastinate, and, frustratingly, how I stop myself from writing. Yes, I read books designed to overcome procrastination as a devious way to procrastinate. But not anymore, because Mr Pressman has just given me a huge kick up the bottom.
The War of Art is broken into 3 parts, Resistance, Combating Resistance and Beyond Resistance, and Pressfield pulls no punches, and he punches hard.
As a pragmatist, this is just what I needed. I recognised myself in almost every point he made. His withering description of me hurt to my very core. But he was right. There’s an old saying, ‘If you can’t piss, get off the pot’, and that’s exactly what he’s saying.
If you’re having trouble writing you have two options, stop, or get professional about it, but whatever you do, don’t be an amateur.
The book is easy to read, speaks to rather than down to its readers, and has lots of real-life examples, some of which are outdated, like a reference to Lance Armstrong before his drug taking revelations.
If you’re a writer like me, and have tried everything to get your writing moving, The War of Art might be right up your alley. Its words might be a bitter pill to take, but sometimes that’s exactly what we need.
I rated all 3 books 5 stars – I loved Stella Hardy – her self depreciating, sometimes black humour, her maturity, her socio – political awareness, her ability to see things in shades of grey…her complicated life…there is so much to love about this character, so it is understandable that when I finished reading Shoot Through, I wanted to know what next to expect from J.M. Green – so I asked her 🙂
After Stella Hardy – what happens now?
“With the publication of SHOOT THROUGH, Stella Hardy has had her third and final outing. The ‘social worker-detective’ idea has generated some unusual story lines, and placed her in some dangerous, not to mention absurd, situations. Hardboiled crime as dark whimsy rather than gritty reality. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve enjoyed testing the limits of credulity. And I confess in this series I have been knowingly but gently subversive to the crime genre, but please believe me when I say it has been reverential. I hope to be forgiven.
My next project is a shift away from crime. There’s a new novel in the works. It’s in the early stages and might not amount to anything so I won’t say much more.
As well as juggling that work, I’m studying screenwriting, which is a fantastic stretch for me creatively. Film and TV writing, as taught in the course, is highly structured.
Until now, novel writing for me has been an intuitive process. I know where the narrative is going, but I allow for surprises in the writing process – a kind of simultaneous write and plot method, seeing where the narrative drive goes. I sometimes need to backtrack but that’s okay, there’s such a lot of rewriting involved anyway. Also, with fiction the interior voices of characters makes the work is less reliant on conflict to drive the narrative.
In screenwriting plot character, theme are all worked out before a single creative word is written. These facets are gone over and over, so that when writing the actual script begins, all the creative energy goes into the language and the smaller details. Using a theme as a guide, every scene is conceived and drawn as integral in the overall story. Anything that doesn’t support the narrative is out. What remains is plotted in terms of conflict, obstacles and argument. If there’s conflict there’s no drama. It’s a sort of mantra.
This thorough and planned approach to storytelling has been a revelation and something I will use regardless of whether I continue writing fiction or try my hand at the screen.”
Thanks Jenny – looking forward to reading script or novel or both soon – no pressure here 🙂
Today I welcome Jennifer Spence to my blog. Jennifer shares with us a brief history of her writing life; I love her attitude – trying out different genres, listening to her heart!
I am currently reading Jennifer’s new release – The Lost Girls published by Simon & Schuster Australia. It is an absorbing read, within paragraphs you are catapulted into the middle of the action, the mysteries and the many dilemmas. This is a unique read that discusses memory, family, aging, fate, love and time travel with an interesting overarching mystery that unifies the narrative.
Welcome Jennifer, I am very pleased to make your acquaintance and I look forward to reading your thriller too, one day.
I decided at the age of seven that I was going to be a writer. I could never get my hands on enough books to satisfy my craving to read, so I reasoned that I would need to make my own. Whenever I got hold of an empty exercise book I’d start a new novel: nearly always the story of a misfit girl who is sent to a boarding school, where she is bullied at first but proves herself in some spectacular way. Who knew that many years later J.K. Rowling would prove that this idea indeed had legs!
As I grew up I retained this wish to write, but the truth is that in my youth I didn’t have a lot to say. Without consciously planning it, I gave myself an extremely long apprenticeship. I studied English and Philosophy at university, became an English teacher for a while, worked in the theatre and wrote a few performance pieces, talked my way into writing television scripts for a year, and eventually wrote my first children’s book just to see if I could. Writing a whole book and getting to the end looked like such an arduous task, as indeed it is. I’ll never forget the euphoria of pulling off this modest little achievement.
After that I stumbled into a well-paid profession as a technical writer, which was also a valuable part of my training. Technical writing has to be sharp and to-the-point. Whatever you’re describing, you have to nail it. You can’t obfuscate, and this aligns with the kind of writing I respect and the principles I adhere to.
Finally, a few years ago, the stars were kind and I was able to take some time off work to write some more. I started with a second children’s book which I had already composed in my head – though it came out rather differently on paper – then a thriller that I had also thought a lot about. I was quite surprised when the publishers told me I was supposed to choose one genre and stick to it! But I did want to eventually write straight fiction, and I had several ideas queued up in my brain. I wrote sequels for the children’s book and the thriller, because the publishers asked for them, all the time trying to polish my writing style, and I confess I was about to move on to a dystopian novel.
But then ‘The Lost Girls’ pushed its way into the queue. Once the idea for this book popped into my head I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I had to drop everything and write it, and I found in the process that it was a good place for a lot of the ideas I had been wanting to express.
I’m now working on another piece of straight-ish fiction. It’s an idea that I first had in my twenties, not knowing where it was going to lead. Now I do know, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the writing of it.
Recently we hosted a couple of young travelers in our home for a labour exchange – have you heard of Helpx.net ? A great way to meet new people, learn about other cultures and get some jobs around the home done too. This time around we say thank you Jessie and Scotty (and Adele and Kendal who also stayed briefly with us).
We have Scotty and Jessie to thank for this wonderful drone image of our house and garden.
Scott’s amazing art and photography can be viewed here: http://scottdenholm.com/
To learn a little more about Jessie (and see more shots of our garden/home) and read about the helpx experience first hand- check out this blog post http://theycalleditparadise.com/blog/helpx-travel-affordable-experience-culture-meet-lovely-locals/ Thanks Jessie.
It was lovely to meet you both.
Welcome Alicia Gilmore to my blog. I recently asked Alicia to talk about how she came to write her amazing novel Path to the Night Sea – here is what she shared with me.
On writing Path to the Night Sea
Path to the Night Sea started as a short story in a fiction class with Sue Woolfe. Sue had given the class a selection of photographs and objects to spark our creativity and give us a physical stimulus to write a short fragment. I remember a small glass perfume bottle and a photograph caught my attention. The photo featured a woman in profile, seated at a piano, her hands poised to strike the keys. There was a cat sitting on top of the piano, and I wondered if these were the two most important things in her life – music and her pet. I started to write about this woman who would sit and play, not looking out of the curtained window, but indoors with her cat. Her face in profile, her ‘good side’… The perfume bottle that perhaps had belonged to a woman who would never get old. A bottle that held scented memories… Ideas and elements came together and what is now a lot of Day One in the novel formed the original short story. Sue read the story, said I had written the start of a wonderful novel and she had to know what happened to Ellie. I realised so I wanted to know too.
The story became darker the more I delved into Ellie’s world. Seven days seemed the fitting structure for Ellie to be introduced to the reader and for her to seek her path, tying in with the religious dogma she’d heard from her Grandmother and Father. Listening to music by Nick Cave and Johnny Cash helped me establish the mood at times and gave me the impetus to embrace the flaws and the darkness within my characters, especially Arthur. When I was writing the first drafts, I was living near the beach and the waves, particularly during storms, formed a natural soundtrack. If I peered out from my desk, I could catch glimpses of the ocean. By the time editing was underway, I had moved to a house that backed onto the bush and had inherited a cat. Listening to the raucous native birds, possums scurrying up trees and across the roof at night, dealing with the odd snake and lizards, plus watching the cat, heightened those natural elements of the story.
I was concerned about and for my characters. I needed to ensure that Arthur in particular had moments, however fleeting, when he was ‘human’, and that Ellie, despite her circumstances, not be passive. Ellie had to find the courage to fight for herself or remain lost to the world forever. I found myself going off in tangents in early drafts with minor characters and subplots but judicious readers and editing brought the focus back to Ellie and Arthur, and the confines of restricted world they inhabit.
I had thought of letting Ellie go one morning years ago when I woke up and heard the news about Elizabeth Fritzl kidnapped and abused by her father. In my drowsy state listening to the radio, the reality of her situation came crashing in and I wanted to put my humble writings aside. What was fictional pain in the face of such devastating reality? As the recent shocking events in California this week have shown – thirteen children being trapped and chained at home by their parents – a nondescript house on the street can hide the most unimaginable terrors. Path to the Night Sea is my way of using language to explore familial dysfunction, small town horror, and ultimately, hope.
The Museum of Words
In late 2015, Georgia Blain was diagnosed with a tumour sitting right in the language centre of her brain. Prior to this, Georgia’s only warning had been a niggling sense that her speech was slightly awry. She ignored it, and on a bright spring day, as she was mowing the lawn, she collapsed on a bed of blossoms, blood frothing at her mouth.
Waking up to find herself in the back of an ambulance being rushed to hospital, she tries to answer questions, but is unable to speak. After the shock of a bleak prognosis and a long, gruelling treatment schedule, she immediately turns to writing to rebuild her language and herself.
At the same time, her mother, Anne Deveson, moves into a nursing home with Alzheimer’s; weeks earlier, her best friend and mentor had been diagnosed with the same brain tumour. All three of them are writers, with language at the core of their being.
The Museum of Words is a meditation on writing, reading, first words and last words, picking up thread after thread as it builds on each story to become a much larger narrative. This idiosyncratic and deeply personal memoir is a writer’s take on how language shapes us, and how often we take it for granted — until we are in danger of losing it.
The Museum of Words is gently and wisely written; it speaks of truths, of family history, of love and of course, of dying. It was deeply moving yet not depressing or self-indulgent. Georgia Blain was a wordsmith extraordinaire, her love of words enriched the page. I wish there were more pages to turn, more books to read by this amazing writer.
A lyrical, moving read.
I am a big fan of Kerry McGinnis’s brand of rural fiction – listen to Kerry talk about her life and Secrets of the Springs.