A Great Writing Guide: The Creative Compass

creative-compass

The Creative Compass: Writing Your Way from Inspiration to Publication by Dan Millman and Sierra Prasada.

I took quite a few notes as I read this book. Here are some of the passages that really spoke to me.

On the importance of giving ourselves time to think . . .

“Dream. Set your mind loose to roam when you’re stuck in traffic, for instance, or in the shower, cooking, or eating lunch at your desk. Let waves of ideas and images break over you. Every now and then, you’ll connect with a sticky idea, the tightly coiled germ of a personally meaningful story poised to expand dramatically.”

On improvising . . .

“I’m not the kind of writer who can put a sheet of paper into a typewriter and improvise . . . . only by experimenting can you determine how familiar you need to be with your story before you’re truly prepared to draft.”

I am the opposite. I love to work with a blank page and discover my story as I write. Improvising is pretty much the way I work.

Every writer works differently . . .

“The questions we pose throughout the book have no right answers, only those that work for you.”

and  . . .

“Your ultimate goal should be to identify your current capabilities, along with the routines that enable them, and to surpass them both, continuously expanding those situations in which you can dream. . . Ask yourself: What do I do regularly now that once seemed impossible? What made it possible?”

I love that passage. Writing a book can seem like a huge task. It can seem impossible. But we do impossible things every day, things that our younger selves would never have been able to do.

So, if in the process of writing, you start to feel like you aren’t good enough, and that you want to quit . . .

Just remember this . . .

“We choose to stop writing, or not to begin, because we don’t believe our words are good enough, which must mean we’re not good enough. And never will be good enough. Ever.”

Of course, that simply isn’t true.

I marked up quite a few more passages in this book. It’s a great read for beginning and tried authors alike. I especially like the advice they give about getting open and honest feedback from peers.

They suggest including a questionnaire for your readers that will help you revise and polish the manuscript. This way, you will get some useful information and opinions that you can work with.

So, when you send your manuscript for someone to read, make sure to include . . .

“a printed questionnaire for readers, intended to accompany your manuscript like a cover letter. . . Instruct your readers to peruse these questions before they start reading your manuscript and to return them afterward.

  1. After you’ve read the full manuscript, please step away for a few days. Now, presuming you’ve done so: What do you recall of the story’s events? Please summarize in writing all that you can recall of the major events of the story—including its beginning and ending—without consulting the manuscript.
  2. On returning to the manuscript, imagine that you’d come across it, not knowing who wrote it. Out of idle curiosity, you flipped it open and read the first line—would it make you want to read on of you had no other reason to do so? Does reading the first paragraph make you more likely to want to continue? Why or why not?
  3. At which points in the text, if any, did you have to stop and go back to reread?
  4. What did the story make you feel and at what point? With which character did you sympathize? Whom did you want to succeed? Who did you dislike? Why?
  5. At what points, if any, did you have trouble believing what happened? what do you think made you doubt?
  6. Did the story world (or setting) feel like a real place to you? If yes, do you recall any particular description or details that made it so? If not, where in the text did you find a clear sense of place lacking?
  7. Did any specific words or phrases detract from the story, either because you couldn’t understand them or because they pulled you out of the text and slowed you down? Please mark any such sections in the manuscript.
  8. I welcome any general impressions or feedback that you have. The above questions were to guide your feedback, not to restrict it. Please add anything suggestions or comments that you have about this story below. Thank you for everything!

I really enjoyed this read. I even found inspiration in it to use in my teaching of instrumental music. It’s amazing to see where inspiration can come from.

My 2014 Reading Log – will continue to be updated every time I read a new book this year.

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