Creativity, Process, and Sharing
Kleon is a mastermind when it comes to creativity, process, and sharing, and I can't really recommend these books highly enough. They are both quick reads that manage to offer tips, encouragement, and strategies to increase one's creative output, confidence, and success. They aren't miracles, but they are helpful. As Kleon notes in Show Your Work!, "Feel free to take what you can use, and leave the rest. There are no rules."
Now, in general, I'm pretty much a sucker for writing-related non-fiction. I've pretty thoroughly enjoyed Stephen King's On Writing, Chris Baty's No Plot? No Problem!, Dana Gioia's Can Poetry Matter? -- even Strunk and White's The Elements of Style has a place in my heart. I'm midway through Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and I'm about to start Jeannine Hall Gailey's new PR for Poets. My point in all of this is to say that these two books, particularly Show Your Work!, have challenged me to think about what I do as a creative person - how I think about producing and sharing.
The main point of Show Your Work!, if I were to try to distill it down to a single point, is to encourage creatives to show their audience their process - to let viewers in to see the life, growth, and challenges that face the folks that craft and create art and writing and whatever other media have you. I, like many people, struggle with the idea that if I show people the work that I am doing, then someone will steal it, do it better than I would have, and I will be left behind. Of course, talking about that fear makes it seem paranoid, arrogant, and silly, but I feel it acutely all the same.
However, my goal here is to try to overcome this fear and to really engage with my work and with the community around it. When I started the litmag that I edit, Jarfly, I had two goals: to give back to the community that I feel like has given so much to me, and to experience the poetry community in way that I hadn't experienced it before. After reading these two books, I'm trying to take Kleon's advice and encouragement and again change how I experience creativity and creative communities.
In an effort towards transparency, I do want to confess that a part of my goals here is purely selfish. As a poet, and a poet who's well-aware of how hard it is to publish a successful book of poems, I desperately want my manuscript to be read widely, reviewed, and enjoyed. That's the dream, right? Gailey, on the very first page of PR for Poets, reminds her reader, "You didn't spend your time writing, revising, editing, and studying poetry not to have it in the hands of readers." It is my hope that if I can reach readers before my book is even picked up by a publisher, then it might have a longer shelf-life and reach more readers over the years. I think that we, as poets (and writers as a whole, really), convince ourselves that what we do is less significant than it really is. As I'm writing this post, and really, as I'm looking forward at this entire project, I'm trying to convince myself that what I'm doing is actually worthwhile - that it matters.
Ultimately, at the end of the day, I have no idea where any of this is going. I'm hoping that some of this rings true and familiar to you, and that as I continue to post to this blog, it proves helpful. We'll see how well that all works.
In the meantime, please tell me what you think. What is your creative life looking like right now? What books or resources have changed how you look at creating? Let me know in the comments, and make sure to share and subscribe to the Ditchwater newsletter!