Have you seen Holly Ringland’s new book? It’s the prettiest book of the year by far but then her novels, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart and The Seven Skins of Esther Wilding both have glorious covers. The middle cover is pearlescent. So pretty.
Holly’s new book is non-fiction, on creativity, possibly my fave topic, has inspired me since the moment I saw it on front table at Bookness. The cover looks cute in the picture below but when you get to run your hands over it, it’s shiny in places, giving your fingers a zing of pleasure.
While reading, I told myself ‘if this book had existed when I was trying to find my way back to my creative home 30 years ago I would not have been lost for so long.’ But then… everything in its time. I had things to do, I guess. Besides, I had the OG creative map for freedom, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (click here for more information on Cameron’s remarkable book) and I still wandered about in the artistic wilderness for years.
Ringland credits Cameron’s guidebook with showing her she could be creative again despite the trauma and loss. The House that Joy built is a lovely read, very life-affirming, but I kept telling myself it wasn’t really for me. After years of making art for designers and smashing out hundreds of blogs, dozens of short stories, a couple of novellas and novels, I believed I didn’t really need help in the creative confidence department.
I told myself, ‘I don’t need any of this. It’s research for my own non-fiction project.’ (Did I mention this project has already won a prize and it’s barely a rough draft.)
Of course, I was four-fifths into the book before something hit me right in my unsuspecting feels. I’m not sure if this is my long-silenced inner-critic at work but reading Holly’s beautiful words stopped me in my tracks…
If I’m too much in my own head when I’m writing and feel myself tangled up in fears of what other people are going to think of what I’m creating, I practise asking myself one question: Do I love what I am writing?Holly Ringland ~ The House that Joy Built
This non-fiction project has been a passion of mine for a few years now. I’ve been plugging away at it, tucking away ideas and mentioning it to trusted people on occasion. It grew wings when I pitched it to Jane O’Connell, editor and journalist and now she’s just as excited about it as I am.
So yes, I do love this project on using criticism to fuel your creative fire. I’ve been blogging about the subject for years and it’s really close to my heart.
However, I’ve also been writing a crime novel for two years and if I asked myself this question it might have answered in a meek voice… yes… I think so…
The story has a decent premise with what I think is a couple of great twists. It shortlisted in a big prize two years ago and I got a full manuscript request from one of the Big 5 here in Australia (they said no because the genre was ill-defined.)
My first two books were Magical Realism and I love them. I loved writing them and I still love the characters today. They both have a cast of quirky women with arty vibes, they’re set in France, in old houses, with time-slipping twists and turns. This new book has an old property that has been largely stripped of its beauty and a dead body in the back yard. The art is there: A young male character paints murals on the windows of the old Emporium and then smashes them in a fit of rage.
Do I love this crime story? I love parts of it and I think it’s a good story but do I love it enough to chase down publication and commit to writing another book in the same grim genre every year for the next five or six… if I’m lucky?
No, probably not.
So, now what?
Post-script Epiphany – During my morning journaling (every day, 3 pages a la Julia Cameron) I realised that I can REWRITE the damn crime novel! It can return somewhat to it’s original form and become a contemporary women’s fiction story. Seriously, if I had to choose one thing, journaling is that ONE THING I’ve done over the past six years that has made all the difference.