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unhinged

Having ordered a bunch of stuff from Seal Press over the years, most of which has been pretty good, I was curious when Amazon recommended this book from the publishers. As someone who tends to get stalled half-way through creative projects, I thought Susan O'Doherty's Getting Unstuck Without Becoming Unglued might be full of useful exercises that would help me break through writer's freeze. Alas, when it arrived from Amazon today, my hopes were dashed.

I don't doubt that this book might be useful to some people, but it really isn't useful to me. I thought there would be lots of handy tips and fun writing exercises, but no. There are about five exercises in the book, and most of them seem to involve visualising your childhood and dealing with all the people who told you you could never be an artist/writer/musician/whatever. The case studies of stalled creative women all look at people who were either abused or grew up in abject poverty and whatever sort of miserable life they led, any sign of creativity was frowned upon. When I, however, was a small kid who was into creative stuff, my parents and my teachers and even my friends (who regularly asked me to draw pictures of various things for them) actively encouraged me to write, draw, act - you name it. In fact, the book is making me worry that I was some sort of infant narcissist – one who grew up to be an adult egomaniac – because I seriously can't identify with anything in it. It's not that I don't think its contents don't apply to some people - there are definitely lots of women who have grown up believing that women's voices don't matter and aren't important, and this book could be helpful to them. I, however, was brought up by a feminist mother and whatever my issues may be, thinking that my opinions don't matter, whether it's because I'm female or not, really, really isn't one of them. In fact, if I have a problem in that area, it's the other way round.

To be honest, I think my problem with finishing stuff is that I show every sign of having borderline ADD, and am constantly distracted by the next shiny idea that comes along, so perhaps I'm beyond help by books of this nature. But anyway, just as I find that detailed to-do lists really help my constant and pathological procrastinating, I thought this book might contain some useful tips and exercises (ones that don't involve visualising my imaginary childhood mentor). But it doesn't. I'm disappointed!

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( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
leedy
Jul. 3rd, 2007 04:19 pm (UTC)
constant and pathological procrastinating

Further evidence, if such is required, that we are indeed related...
stellanova
Jul. 3rd, 2007 04:23 pm (UTC)
An entire family of egomaniacs who keep putting off all practical work! What a tribe we are...

Still, and seriously, we really were encouraged in our creative endeavours - rendering this entire book pointless to any C***y!
poison_penny
Jul. 3rd, 2007 07:16 pm (UTC)
Helloo there, sorry that this is slightly unrelated to your post, but I added you as I stumbled across your journal on someone elses friends list. Hope you don't mind! Your love for Doctor Who AND Sweet Valley High books is pretty awesome in my book: hence the add.
There aren't that many people out there who can relate to the fact that Bruce Patman TOTALLY did have the grace of a young lion.

Also, out of interest, by creative things do you mean writing or other things?

stellanova
Jul. 3rd, 2007 07:57 pm (UTC)
There aren't that many people out there who can relate to the fact that Bruce Patman TOTALLY did have the grace of a young lion.

Ha, it's true, he did! Although in my opinion his greatest skill was his ability to pick up Jessica and twirl her over his head on the dancefloor in what has to be the most hilarious dance sequence in literature. God, I know too much about Sweet Valley. I actually wrote a demented SVH pastiche for NaNoWriMo a few times - it can be read here, if you dare - just scroll down a bit for links to the earlier installments.

As for your question, I mean writing mostly (I'm a journalist and I attempt to write fiction - I've got a teen novel hopefully coming out next Autumn), but when I was younger I wanted to be an illustrator as well. Oh, and an actress. And I was in a band too. So yes, spreading myself a bit thin, there.
stellanova
Jul. 3rd, 2007 08:06 pm (UTC)
Ah, here's the very first installment of the scary saga. I'll finish it some day, I swear...
poison_penny
Jul. 4th, 2007 03:27 pm (UTC)
Don't forget the time he nearly got to SECOND BASE with the coma-fied Elizabethica before she hit her head on the wash-stand or whatever it was and came to her senses. It's actually quite disturbing that she had to bite him in order to get out of there.
And you're parody is awesomeness itself! I've read the first chapter, and now you've completely enabled my dissertation-avoidance as I'll have to go through the whole thing :D I've done a few pastiches to entertain my friends, makes me think I should bash out another one.

I think it's great that you're all Renaissance womany when it comes to creative endeavours. I tend to stick to writing these days. I try to be quite strict with myself. If i can't envision an ending, then I know I won't sustain the momentum needed to complete a story and I don't start it. It means that you end up really culling the ideas you come up with, and stick with the ones that are worth sticking to.

ps Well done on what I assume is a book deal! Are you working on said teen novel at the moment?
stellanova
Jul. 5th, 2007 08:35 pm (UTC)
I do have a book deal for the teen novel, which is very exciting (for me, anyway, not for the publishing world at large). I've written about a third of it, and it's g

I should add that the acting and illustrating and even the singing (despite releasing two albums with my band in my mid-twenties) have fallen by the wayside a bit, but I'm still writing, and I suppose one out of four ain't too bad...

Enjoy the sadly fragmented From Here To Sweet Valley! As I kept stopping and starting it again a year later, it's not exactly coherent, but hey, it's got a flying monkey...
lizarfau
Jul. 6th, 2007 12:27 am (UTC)
Congrats on the teen novel! Do you know when it'll be published? I'll look forward to reading it.
dorianegray
Jul. 3rd, 2007 07:23 pm (UTC)
I don't know if it'll help you, but I found that when it comes to writing, I can make up scenes for the shiny new idea that's in my head all I like, but if I'm going to get the current project written, I must not put one single word of the new idea on paper. The only thing that goes on paper (or pixels) has to be the current project. Otherwise I end up with ten million half-started stories and nothing else.

(Also, outlines for what I'm writing help me when I get stuck. They don't work for everyone, though.)
thedilettante
Jul. 5th, 2007 05:26 am (UTC)
(hello, just noticed you'd added me. Nice to meet you :))
stellanova
Jul. 5th, 2007 09:02 am (UTC)
Hello! I was enjoying your posts on Feministe so I checked out your blog and saw you had an LJ - hence the seemingly random add.
stellanova
Jul. 5th, 2007 09:15 am (UTC)
And also, when I looked at your LJ, the latest post mentioned that you were reading lots of fluffily entertaining books I love, from Georgette Heyer to Barbara Trapido, which was another reason for the addition!
thedilettante
Jul. 5th, 2007 06:15 pm (UTC)
Feminists with great taste in fluffy literature are always welcome. :)
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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