Learning from Creative People – Bob Dylan

I have been making a concerted effort of late to spend at least an hour a day reading books on creativity and/or interviews with creative people (mainly writers, artists and musicians); to understand what inspires them, how they work, where they work, and how they tap into their creativity to access the ideas/inspiration which allows them to write with such beauty and intensity.

A hefty tome that sits on my desk at present is “Song Writers on Song Writing”, the expanded 4th edition by Paul Zollo.


It covers every genre of music form blues to pop and rock, interviews with 62 musicians/song writers. What is so interesting and inspiring for me, when reading the interviews is to discover that not all the writers just grab the lyrics from the air, some of them really anguish over them. Leonard Cohen took 3 years to write Hallelujah!

I have spent the last week, reading the Bob Dylan interview over and over again; I am a huge Dylan fan, have almost his entire song collection on vinyl and mp3, plus all his song lyric sheets and numerous biographies. For me he is a musical genius and one of our greatest living poets. Van Morrison agrees with me re him being our greatest poet 🙂

His comments on the environment that one needs to be creative ties in with what I read in the War of Art; one needs a peaceful, invigorating and stimulating environment to write. Although he does go on to say:

“Some songs are better written in peace and quiet and delivered in turmoil. Others are best written in turmoil and delivered in a peaceful, quiet way.”

He also says that he does not consider himself a professional song writer, and he clarifies this by saying it has always been more con-fessional that pro-confessional. That got me thinking about my writing, and what aspect/perspective am I writing from, i.e. inward or outward looking, and just how naked does one want/need to be, how close to ones “soul” must we dig, when one is writing?

Dylan refers often to how songs “come to him”, which brings me full circle to the muse/genius train of thought. Even if that is the case though you need to be receptive to the “arrival” of the inspiration. This is an area of my creativity that intrigues me, especially as I am science, logic and process driven. Despite this I too am finding ideas coming to me at strange times of the day and night.

Well that’s enough of my musings today, but I will be back with more ramblings and thoughts on making the entrance hall welcome for the muse/genius to arrive, and spoil me with his/her thoughts/dreams/visions.

Eternity is in love with the creations of time – William Blake

The War of Art

I just finished reading this fascinating book by Steven Pressfield yesterday and want to share some of what I learnt/discovered during the process.

The book subtitles itself as:
“Break through the blocks and win your inner creative battles”

I highly recommend this read, I found it both inspiring and thought provoking it also has pushed me to think deeper about what it means to be a writer and the responsibility that the tag carries.

Here are a few extracts which have got my mind buzzing: (I have paraphrased or changed some of the sentence layouts to make sense to me), but they are still Steven’s words.

The professional seeks order and eliminates chaos from his world and he wants the threshold swept and kept clean, so that the Muse may enter and not soil her gown – page 77

We must not become distracted by our own nonsense – page 123

The instinct that pulls us toward art is the impulse to evolve, to learn, to heighten and evaluate our consciousness. The Ego hates this. Because the more awake we become, the less we need the Ego. – page 140
This is a form particular interesting few chapters that delve into Jungian psychology. It explains the difference between the Self and the Ego and how having an understanding of this can nudge us towards our goal of being a writer/artist.

Our biggest fear holding us back, might be the fear that we will succeed, that we will become the person that we sense in our hearts we truly are; the artist/writer. – page 143

And his closing sentence at the end of the book (spoiler alert) 🙂

Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got!

This is so true, let just do it .. and write, paint, create, lets achieve our own greatness.

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic and power in it. Begin it now.”  – WH Murray

Books on writing and creativity..

Purchasing a few books to aid me in my creativity…and writing output, looking forward to them arriving at my new writing studio in SA.

Songwriters on Songwriting (Paperback, 4th Revised edition) by Paul Zollo

The War of Art – Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles (Paperback)  by Steven Pressfield

The Elements of Style (Paperback, 4 Revised ed of US ed)  by William I. Strunk

and then one to push my creative boundaries:

Guillermo del Toro Cabinet of Curiosities – My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions (Hardcover)  by Guillermo Del Toro