Reading that Lamott last month really unlocked some sort of latent yearning in me to understand the creative process. I read four more books on the subject this month and I feel like I’m only just scratching the surface of the topic. I’m off on a short holiday at the beginning of April and only packing fiction so that should address the fiction/non-fiction imbalance. Meanwhile, it was a jam packed month for books, here’s all of it.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain (audio)
Full disclosure: I am an introvert. More disclosure: I was skeptical about this book going in. Ever since I first ran through the Myers-Briggs assessment (MBTI), I’ve struggled with this notion that I could only ever be one or the other, an introvert or an extrovert (incidentally, my MBTI always skews to extroversion — I think that’s behaviour I’ve learned specifically for the workplace), and with the fact that there never seemed to be any room for introverts with extrovert characteristics and vice versa. Then there’s that maddening underlying sense of judgement when it comes to introversion and extroversion and how, depending on who you talk to, one is always better than the other. In my reading of this book, Cain only falls into one of those three traps (i.e. introverts are thinkers, extroverts are doers, and thinking is definitely more highly valued), which probably accounts for why I responded so generously to it. The three elements of this book I found most interesting were the physiological context, the cultural discussion around how many modern day environments (workplaces, schools, etc.) are structured for extroverts and to encourage extroversion, and the advice for how to raise introverted children in ways that allow them to truly flourish. I really enjoyed reading this.
Show Your Work! 10 Ways to Share your Creativity and Get Discovered, Austin Kleon
I really enjoyed Steal Like an Artist and I loved this follow-up, too. Kleon’s got a lot of great ideas (which you see in action if you read his blog or follow him on Twitter/Instagram/wherever) and he shares them in this unique and thoroughly authentic voice. This is a quick little read that gets you excited about your work, whatever that work may be.
On Writing, Stephen King (audio)
What a thoroughly enjoyable book. If you’ve read any Stephen King at all you won’t be surprised to hear that this book is chockful of witty, no-nonsense advice. And the audio is narrated by King himself! So good.
A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki
I wanted to love this book, truly I did. I do generally enjoy alternating perspectives as a literary device and I think Ozeki handled that capably. And there are many parts of this book that are beautifully lyrical. Ultimately though, I found Ruth’s melancholy about as dull as I found Naoko’s story compelling.
It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, danah boyd
I’ve long been a fan of danah boyd’s work, having read her blog and followed her research for years. This book is a condensed version of that research, based on years of interviewing teens, and written for a general audience. It’s a really solid look at how teens interact with and on social media, debunking a lot of the negative and alarmist stuff that gets reported in the mass media (Online predators! Time-wasting! Anti-social behaviour!) in a very level-headed, evidence-based way. It’s a good, quick read.
Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell (audio)
Sweet, funny, charming, and smart. I got sucked into this story pretty quickly and I struggled to put it down. Easily five stars if it wasn’t for the ending.
Creative Block: Get Unstuck, Discover New Ideas. Advice & Projects from 50 Successful Artists, Danielle Krysa
I fully expected to love this book. I’ve been reading (and loving) The Jealous Curator for many years and Danielle has featured a bunch of these artists on her site. What I didn’t expect was to read this book, cover to cover, in sequential order, in a matter of days. I thought I’d leave it there on the coffee table and just sort of pick it up and paw through it occasionally, when I felt like looking at pretty pictures, being inspired, or, yes, when I needed a bit of unblocking. Instead I opened it to page one on the day it hit my doorstep and that was that. I took it to bed with me at night. I stuffed it in my bag when I went out. I couldn’t stop greedily reading about artist after brilliant artist (I am *this* close to challenging myself to try every single “Creative Unblock” project in the book). This is such a lovely, inspirational read, so tightly packed with useful advice and project ideas. I’ll be going back to this book for years.
Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage, Rob Delaney (audio)
Amusing, brave, nauseating. You can’t help but wonder how Rob Delaney is still alive.
One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, B. J. Novak (audio)
Some books are just better in audio. This is one of those books. Not only does this version feature some awesome guest narrators (Lena Dunham! Rainn Wilson! Mindy Kaling!), but the stories themselves are hilarious, clever, and thoroughly entertaining.
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles, Steven Pressfield
A quick little read that recaps a lot of what I read in King’s On Writing. Bottom line advice? Just sit down and do the work. Hearing (reading) that advice over and over is never a bad thing.