On Writing and the Creative Process
Stephen King’s, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is a two-in-one book that combines personnel memoir plus a practical guide for writers to improve their craft. The first section of the book, “On Writing” is more personal history than writing tips—although even here he manages to dispense writing advice as he recounts his youth and early adulthood. There are personal revelations, such as his struggles with alcohol: “I was drinking a case of sixteen-ounce tallboys a night, and there’s one novel, Cujo, that I barely remember writing at all” (p. 99). Interspersed with this type of honesty are nuggets of wisdom such as, “Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around” (p. 101).
I have read and reread many excellent books on writing: William Zinsser’s, On Writing Well, Natalie Goldberg’s, Writing Down the Bones, and William Watt’s, An American Rhetoric. King’s contribution is unlike any of these. Although there are sections on practical tips for writing, grammar, and sentence construction, these occupy very little of King’s book. King is more concerned with the motivations of a writer and the life of a writer. This book’s contribution is important because his musings are the revelations of one of the most popular writers of fiction of all time. It is an accessible book for the novice who wants to improve their craft. But at the same time, a seasoned writer will appreciate King’s offering because in it they can better understand a celebrated colleague and a kinsman who has lived the life of a creative.
Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art can help anyone with a dream of accomplishing something creative in this lifetime. The book is immensely profound in its description of the creative process and at the same time practical for its solutions. The book is organized into three sections and there is an abundance of wisdom and insight contained in all three. No matter if someone is a writer, painter, entrepreneur, or musician, there will be times that an individual faces procrastination. This enemy is labelled Resistance and anyone who undertakes the creative endeavors must face it and overcome it. The solution? Sit down and do the required work. It is not a romantic answer but it is an eminently true one. The second section (“Turning Pro”) describes this process in greater detail. His solution is not the in-your-face drill sergeant who tells you to suck-it-up and accomplish the task at hand. There is more compassion and insight than that. There is a deep ring of truth to this section and therefore it is applicable for any living, breathing, individual who has even the smallest wish to accomplish something in this lifetime. Anyone in any industry, living in every facet of the human experience can benefit from this book. The third section is the weakest. It ponders such questions as “Where does creativity come from?” and he speaks at length (a little bit too long) on the ideas of higher powers, mythologies, muses, and gods. It was a weak ending to an otherwise excellent book. I write thirty minutes a day, every day, and this book was beneficial to me to stay focused and not to get down on myself when my brain feels empty. It is all part of the creative process, all part of being human. Accept the pace of grace—and brilliance will flow forth; fight God’s timing and Resistance will be at your doorstep, kitchen table, and bedroom. The creative process does not originate in us; it originates with God and flows through us. We have the honor of giving its birth and it bears our likeness.
9 responses to “On Writing and the Creative Process”
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Troy! I thought of you when Pressfield invoked Campbell and Jung. His connections were certainly rudimentary, but I thought made a valuable connection to myth and psychology. How would you have strengthened the third section of The War of Art?
Being a Christian guy, I would have loved to seen some scripture that speaks to this subject (specifically on the 3rd section). I’m not opposed to the direction he went–it reminded me a little of “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” and all the different truths that surface from various places.
You were asking about a Christian sculpture. It reminded me of a fascinating work that captures the creative spirit in the Christian expression. It also connects to the hero’s journey. The artist is a Canadian Israeli who has sculpted a mirror journey of Christ’s crucifixion and a Holocaust survivor. Check it out and let me know if this is what you were thinking https://www.fountainoftears.org/ .
Troy, great post. I admire your commitment to write 30 minutes a day! You say about Pressfield’s second section, “There is a deep ring of truth to this section and therefore it is applicable for any living, breathing, individual who has even the smallest wish to accomplish something in this lifetime.” Do you see any ways that insight factors into your new ministry role? Also, you mention the other books you’ve read about writing – which book proved the most helpful to you and why?
Of those other books about writing that I mentioned, “On Writing Well” by Zinser was the most helpful. It was “The Elements of Style” for adults. So good. I’m trying my hand at writing a 365-day devotional, it is soooo hard to try and be creative and insightful, but I love the challenge. So I’m going to try and stick with it, just a chip away at it a little at a time.
Troy: I’m interested to know more about your discipline of writing 30 minutes a day. Is that for homework, are you working on projects for fun, etc? How do you navigate any periods of ‘writers block’ if they come up?
Hi Kayli: I wrote 30 minutes a day in the morning. I’m trying to write a 365 day devotional, just a little bit each day. It is good for my thinking, I can feel the creative juices flow as I drink my coffee–and it’s a good routine for me. Have you ever tried such an endeavor? You write well.
I too enjoy journaling, but am not as consistent with it. I have never tried writing as a discipline but perhaps I should…
Thanks Troy. That is a great discipline to be writing every day. I bet King’s suggestions were helpful to you on this front.
As you think about this program and the work the Lord has before you, in what was do you see that to involve (or not involve) writing?