Fixed this pie chart.
I came to this book, The Writer's Process, Getting Your Brain in Gear, with extreme
prejudice. I find it hard to believe creativity can be taught. After reading Anne Janzer's book I still feel that way, but she's made me believe that creativity can be nurtured and maybe even enhanced.
Janzer's approach is scientific and it's backed by experts in the field of psychology and cognitive study. But understanding the mental process doesn't tell us how to activate it. What the author sets about to do is "label groups of mental processes that we can activate when needed."
The book is divided into three parts.
The first part, The Inner Gears, describes how the brain works using the term Scribe for areas of focus, discipline and writing craft. Processes like intuition, creativity and empathy are the domain of The Muse.
The second part, The Process, Start to Finish, sets forth and elaborates on the seven steps of the writing process beginning with research and ending with publication. The chapter on Revision in itself is worth the price of the book.
Part three, Writers in the World, has some practical advice on how to address problems all writers face including finding time to write, dealing with criticism, and working through writer's block.
If you're a creative person, specifically a writer, you're likely incorporating many of the suggestions Janzer puts forth in The Writer's Process. If that's the case this book will not be so much revelation as a validation.
And what's wrong with that?
I received an ARC of this title from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Published by Amazon Publishing, January 20, 2015
What are we looking for when we look at the lives of great writers? I would assume many of us want the dirt; the broken relationships, alcohol problems, madness and eccentric behaviors we associate with artistic types. This is not a book about those things.
Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors, is exactly what it says it is. These are not biographies of writers in the grand sense, but a focused look at the schedules, behaviors and work preferences of particularly successful and memorable authors. In the introduction, Stodola states her intent to create a book that is of interest to both writers and general readers, and while probably true, I think it may skew slightly more towards writers than fans of particular authors. The information that has been rigorously gathered by Stodola (and rigorously cited- this book is 20% end notes) is fascinating, though occasionally on the dry side. There are bits of interesting trivia to be had, and lots of encouragement if you are looking for writers that succeeded despite strange or unexpected working habits.
All of the writers chosen are novelists, in that they have published at least one novel, and all began publication in the 20th and 21st centuries. The chapters each cover a pair of writers, placed together either because of a similarity or to compare and contrast. There are the Nine-to-Fivers (Kafka and Morrison), the Productive Procastinators (DFW and Richard Price), and others defined by their particular style. Later chapters contrast the Social Butterfly Fitzgerald with the Lone Wolf Roth. The closing chapter looks at the different approaches of Margaret Atwood and Zadie Smith in relation to technology (specifically the internet and social media). Each is straightforward and mostly undramatic, with lots of quotable facts sprinkled throughout, like Virginia Woolf’s preference for purple ink, or Vladimir Nabokov’s habit of writing in the bathtub. Each author’s entry ends with “A Day in the Writer’s Life” segment, which is interesting but unnecessary, as it really just sums up what was already covered in the longer text.
In the end, what Process does, aside from providing an enjoyable look at famous authors, is show us that there is no one correct or commendable way to write. There is always a lot of talk about writers absolutely having to write something every day, establish set times and word counts, which the many examples in this book proves to be untrue, or at least nebulous. There is no one way to write, and even the hardest circumstances don’t have to limit a writer’s potential, if the drive is there. Joyce went blind, Woolf and DFW dealt with severe mental illness, Nabokov was a perpetual refugee, Morrison was a single mother, Kafka was thwarted by his family, Rushdie was driven into hiding by a fatwa- and yet they all worked within their limits to the best of their abilities, and we are still reading their work and analyzing their lives today.
Cross-posted on Goodreads:Process