Friday, 22 November 2019

Sustaining a Lifelong Creative Practice - Heather Dyer

Following a creative pursuit can sometimes be lonely and frustrating. Here are five books I’ve found particularly inspiring because they contain practical advice from other writers and artists who’ve ‘been there’:

David Whyte is a poet. Only indirectly about creativity, this book is about integrating our work, our relationships and inner selves in order to live a fulfilled and productive life. Writers often talk about finding 'balance' between day jobs, family and creativity - but Whyte's advice seems to be to knit them all together rather than think of them as separate. He includes nice examples pulled from authors’ lives.

Booth explores that small ‘pull’ that makes us want to make art in the first place, and shows us how to fan those flames. This book, ‘illuminates the artistry we all practice, and it enables us to reclaim the fun and satisfaction that is already happening unnoticed right under our noses’.

Creative Quest by Questlove

This book might best be described as a riff on retaining your creativity throughout your career. Questlove is a musician. One of the things he says is that, as emerging creatives, we are hungry to be influenced by others, but as we solidify our practice we become more concerned with influencing others. Stay open to being influenced, is his advice. I also like his description of what collaboration should look like: “Collaboration isn’t about what’s there so much as what’s not there. It’s the jigsaw puzzle with a few pieces missing and a pile of bright pieces nearby.”

This is an accessible how-to-sustain-your-practice guide for emerging creatives. The book is described as helping the reader ‘search memory for inspiration, understand his or her individual artistic profile, explore possible futures, design a daily process and build a structure of support.’ In the past I’ve drawn from this book for exercises for an 8-week ‘Developing Your Creativity’ course.   

Chase Jarvis is a photographer who now runs a successful online learning portal. The book includes a lot of advice about how to find your 'tribe', network virtually and in person, and market your work. 

What all these books endorse is listening to that early intuitive pull, exploring by doing, drawing inspiration from living, creating a regular practice (however short) and staying open to flow by letting go of expectations and setting out anew, each day, into uncharted territory. If you have your own recommendations, I'd love to hear them.

Heather Dyer is a consultant in writing for children. She provides writing and publishing advice through The Literary ConsultancyThe Writers' Advice Centre for Children's Books, and privately. If you’re ready for feedback on your work-in-progress contact Heather at

Heather’s children’s novel The Girl with the Broken Wing was one of Richard and Judy’s book club picks, and The Boy in the Biscuit Tin was nominated for a Galaxy Best British Children’s Book award. Heather also teaches creative writing for the University of the Creative Arts, and facilitates workshops in creative thinking techniques for creatives and academics.

1 comment:

Anne Booth said...

I hadn't heard of any of those books - thank you for recommending them!