Anna Campbell

September 2016


Recent Revelatory Reading Part 1

MFT 3At the start of this year, I joined my local library because I discovered they did a mobile van stop very near where I live – the main branch is too far for me to travel to on a regular basis.

Well, talk about something that’s transformed my life. I’ve been reading all sorts of wonderful things that I doubt I’d have even known about otherwise. About two years ago, I had my house on the market and I cleared out thousands of books. I didn’t want to get into that state again when there was no room for me and books piled everywhere! The beauty of the library is that I can read great books and then return them – they don’t have clog up my bookcases.

So I thought for the next few months, I’d share some of the books that I’ve read this year that I’ve really enjoyed. One of the surprises when I went through the list is the majority of books that really worked for me are nonfiction. I’ll do a piece on a couple of novels I liked next month so if you’re purely a fiction reader, don’t miss that.

Today I thought I’d talk about three books about writing and the creative process that really struck a chord with me.

First up is a book a lot of my friends are talking about: Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull. Ed Catmull is the CEO of both Pixar and Disney Animation, which basically makes him king of animation films, and he’s been part of producing some of the most successful films in history. Films that combine heart and head and story in a way that has made them hits worldwide with children and adults.

MFT 4Creativity Inc. describes how Pixar was established and the way the brand has become a guarantee of quality. Which, of course is all very interesting for someone who has enjoyed their movies (I’m a big fan of Up in particular). But the best part of this book for someone engaged in creative work is how Catmull talks about how near enough is never good enough and how they keep raising the stakes at Pixar when most corporate culture tends to settle for what’s safe rather than what’s risky. It’s also a great manual on working with creative people and getting the best out of them. Definitely essential reading for anyone who works in creative industries or who works with creative types and needs to know how to keep them on track and putting out the good stuff.

My next recommendation is quite an old book, published in 1982. Daybook: The Journal of an Artist comprises excerpts from artist Anne Pruitt’s daily journal. There were a lot of things I liked about this: the format allows her to move backward and forward in time between memories, present activities and future plans; the honesty and bluntness about the costs and rewards of this life; the way she has to juggle her tasks as a mother and citizen with her tasks as an artist, and how all those roles don’t necessarily work together smoothly. When I was reading it, I kept saying, “Oh, yes, that’s what it’s like,” even though Truitt is a world-famous visual artist and I work in a completely different medium. The artistic process is much the same. There are some incredibly moving pieces in this too about her relationship with her late parents and her children.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live as a creative artist, especially a female one, I highly recommend this book.

MFT 5My last recommendation today for writers and those interested in the creative process is Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. I really enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert’s mega bestseller Eat, Pray, Love (although I feel shallow when I admit that my favorite bit was Eat!) and I found her book on marriage, Committed, fascinating. But my favorite piece of hers by far wasn’t a book, but a TED talk she gave a couple of years ago about the creative process and working through the fear that is a constant companion for anyone who sets out to work in the arts. Fear of ideas drying up. Fear of not doing justice to your talent. Fear that you’ll never succeed. Fear that you WILL succeed. I could go on forever with the fears that assault anyone engaged in creating new work. Here’s a link to her TED talk. If you haven’t seen it, take the time to watch it – it’s revelatory:

Big Magic takes the themes of this first TED talk she gave, and the later ones that built on this first one, and expands them into an inspirational book about having the courage to create and the faith to trust your instincts. Some of it is almost mystical, which works for me – I’m in awe of where my subconscious takes me whenever I set out on the journey of a new book so I can handle a bit of woo-woo when people are talking about this mad business I’m in. Well worth reading if the demons in your head are drowning out the good stuff.

So that’s my three this month. Next month, I’m talking about the three novels that I absolutely loved in 2016. Make sure you swing back to see what I chose!