As I have mentioned many times, I believe creativity comes when someone is involved in creative work. Do it and it will come. That doesn't mean I don't think there has to be craft behind the doing. Mine came through assorted ways from classes in college, writing essays, from extensive work with a consulting writer, discussions, and reading a LOT of books. Recently someone was asking for books that others had considered helpful for writers. It led to my thinking which ones had been part of my stable.
If a book helps you unlock your own creativity whether that is painting, sculpture, writing, cooking or whatever, then you're likely to find it helpful in other ways. Creativity is letting loose that inner voice. I think ideas for creative work come from what we see, read, observe, and dreams. Don't discount the power of dreams if you can learn to remember yours.
One of my favorite books on releasing your creative spirit is not on writing at all but on painting by Robert Henri. Like so many of my books on creativity, it's not a recent publication. The Art Spirit was published in 1923. I have no idea what year I bought it, but it's yellowed with age. It also is the most marked up book I own.
"One of the curses of art is "Art." This filling up of things with "decorations," with by-play, to make them "Beautiful."
"Technique becomes a tool, not an objective."
"There are many who go through their whole lives without ever knowing when they have liked or what they have liked."
"Real students go out of beaten paths, whether beaten by themselves or by others, and have adventures with the unknown."
Books that encourage connecting to your own creativity:
Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way isn't so much on a type of art but on loosening up and letting the juices flow. Her books which include The Vein of Gold, The Sound of Paper and The Right to Write are very good for getting you to write something-- anything and not judge it. Morning papers are getting someone in the habit of writing every day with whatever comes to mind.
Another along this same line is Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg who is writing about writing. Just get it down. Block the internal censor. Timed exercises are one of her techniques. She has a chapter called The Action of a Sentence where she suggests you list ten nouns down the left side of a piece of paper and then fifteen verbs on the right half that go with a certain profession. Then try joining the nouns to the verbs.
Brenda Ueland's If You Want to Write, a Book about Art, Independence and Spirit is also on my shelf as an encouragement to connect with the inner voice. She says something at the beginning which I also believe, "...everybody is talented, original and has something important to say." The ones who are writers are those who have believed in themselves and kept at it despite discouragements.
One of the important points she makes is something I also believe-- write truth. It will be your truth; and it is what has made classic writers still current to future times. If you write truth, you are putting out something worth having. That truth might be in a romance, sci fi, horror, chick lit, but it will be relevant to life and it will be truth as you know it.
Of all my favorite books of all times, Annie Dillard wrote one of them. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is not only a great example of naturalist writing but on observing. Observe the small things of life and you will find they often relate to the big things. When I had read she had a book on writing, The Writing Life, of course, I had to have it. It is about what the writing life is like, how it feels.
"It should surprise no one that the life of a writer-- such as it is-- is colorless to the point of sensory deprivation. Many writers do little else but sit in small rooms recalling the real world. That explains why so many books describe the author's childhood. A writer's childhood may well have been the occasion of his only firsthand experience." Annie DillardAnnie Dillard, like many of my favorite writers, flows her words onto a page as she paints a word picture. I don't write like her. I can't even say I want to write like her. I just want to read her books now and again. And this one on the writing life is very honest and full of her mastery of words as inspiration.
I could go on with these kinds of books because I have a lot of them on my shelves but there are other books that I considered very important when I began crafting stories. They aren't by names you may ever have heard. These are on the craft of writing.
Of course there are the basics, thesaurus, dictionary, Chicago Manual of Style, and a plastic cheat sheet of basic punctuation. I grew up in the time where teaching us to write in school included diagramming sentences. Basically I still understand that but once in awhile it's good to have a manual where I can double check something.
These days instead of grabbing my dictionary all the time, I go to the Internet and do a search for meanings, etymology, and usage of words. Do kids today even learn to find and use books as tools, which at one time we all had to master, if we wanted to write legibly and cogently on any subject?
Today, while I am writing, my Word program hits me with underlines when a sentence seems unwieldy or has misplaced a comma. Sometimes I admit I want to argue with it over some of its opinions; but to be honest, I miss that when I am writing something here in blogger.
Books on my shelf regarding the craft of writing:
The Writing Room by Eve Shelnutt;
Beyond Style Mastering the Finer Points of Writing Form,tone, subtlety, pacing, tension, metaphor, theme, viewpoint, slant, flashbacks, etc. by Gary Provost;
On Writing Well by William Zinsser which is on non-fiction but writing well is writing well;
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King;
Writing the Natural Way by Gabriele Lusser Rico;
The Writer's Journey Mythic structure for storytellers and screenwriters by Christopher Vogler;
The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
Most of these books I bought years back and read, absorbing the lessons I needed and I haven't looked at them in years. Even though I have never had what some call writer's block, I like reading ways to expand my mind and options, to loosen up, to let go of preconceptions.
Likely part of why I don't feel blocked is because with creativity as a part of my life, from as far back as I can remember, I have many ways to express it. When one form isn't working for me, I switch to another for awhile.
Where it comes to the craft of writing, I don't always agree with the experts. Don't use adverbs is one of the things I've read. Except, I like adverbs. There is an encouragement always is to use active verbs, not passive and with that I mostly agree. Whether it's a passive verb or adverb, anything can get in the way of the action. Anything can be used too much or wrongly and become awkward or even become laughable. When I am reading someone else's book, I want whatever takes me into the scene to truly feel what's going on. That's the goal when I write also.
This winter I had two novels to finish (one based in Arizona, the other in Oregon) when I headed for Arizona to get work done on the Tucson house before rental season kicked into gear. On the way down was when I got the idea for a novella, talked out what it would be about, and let myself be diverted from my original plan to write it as soon as I got there.
It wasn't until I got back to Oregon that I finished the Arizona historical. Between research, art work, and family life, I've not quite got the Oregon one finished, but it's on its way.
Then for the first time in quite a long while I won't have anything to edit or finish. I will have a chance to begin something new. I am excited for what that might be with several possibilities. I listen to the news (or these days mostly read the news) and it is full of ideas for contemporary stories. Either the Arizona or Oregon historicals did have some characters that could have a story of their own.
Writing for me is not the problem. Marketing, now that's another story.
All photos from Sabino Canyon in Arizona-- flowing water and stone. Great metaphors for the process of creating.