Love Letters to Writers: Encouragement, Accountability, and Truth-telling

One benefit of being furloughed from my part-time day job in response to CoVID-19 is the time it’s given me to read. When I committed to the Goodreads Challenge at the outset of 2020 after a year’s hiatus, I not only set a goal of reading 50 books this year, but I also committed to finishing all the unfinished books on my Kindle. It’s much easier for me to give up on a book I’m not crazy about if it’s on Kindle because I figure it will always be there if my mood or interest changes, or I’m so bored I’ll even read a subpar book.

I’m pleased to report that two-thirds of the way through the year, I’m eight books ahead of schedule. And I’m still slogging through a couple of Kindle downloads.

creative writingOne of those that had been on my tablet for more years than I care to admit was Andi Cumbo-Floyd’s Love Letters to Writers. I could argue that I was reading it as you would letters from a friend—as they arrive, not in one sitting. The truth is, I did need time between each letter to absorb Cumbo-Floyd’s insight. Not that it was so deep or difficult to understand. Rather, her encouragement came from her heart and her own experience. And that kind of writing should not be rushed.

Cumbo-Floyd’s book originated as a series of letters to the writing community she coordinated. She was writing to people she knew—not an imaginary target audience.  The ability to visualize your intended audience is a great boon to effective writing.  At the suggestion of one member, Cumbo-Floyd selected 50 of the most personal, vulnerable letters for the broader audience of writers—including you and me.

She writes to encourage and nudge. None of her advice is earth shatteringly new if you’ve read other books on writing. Her letters cover the standard writing advice:

  • Establish a routine
  • Write even when you have nothing to say
  • Write even if it’s garbage—it will be
  • Write what you feel
  • Ask for help when you need it – and return the favor
  • Take time for you.
  • Only you can tell your story your way

What makes Love Letters to Writers the kind of book I’m glad to have on Kindle so I can return to it again and again, is Cumbo-Floyd’s honesty and vulnerability. She does not give advice that she herself has not needed to heed. She shares her own failures and disappointments and in doing so she assures even the most intimidated writer that he too can make this creative journey. Even if our writing never is published, the process of writing is a creative activity that is good for our souls.

Called to be Creative: A Guide to Reigniting Your Creativity

ignite your creativityMary Potter Kenyon’s message in her recent release, Called to be Creative:  A Guide to Reigniting Your Creativity, echoes Cumbo-Floyd’s letters. While Letters focus is writers, Kenyon casts a broad stroke. In her mind, creativity encompasses more than the traditional creative arts. She points to her mother—both an example and the inspiration for this book. While raising a family of ten on a poverty budget, her mother became a self-taught woodcarver and painter. Eventually she began a home craft business—before Etsy—and continued to encourage each of her children to develop the talent she saw within them. Irma Potter’s handwritten notes serve as the epigraph for each chapter in Kenyon’s book.

Mary shares her mother’s belief that we all have a creative spark within us. It’s who we are as image bearers of the Divine. It need not, however, be limited to the traditional creative arts. The ability to think outside the box, overcoming obstacles, and resourcefulness all demonstrate creativity.

One of the greatest hindrances to creativity is our belief that we must excel at whatever we undertake to be considered an artist. Nothing could be further from the truth. Creativity ignites something deep within. If your creative bent doesn’t bring you deep satisfaction, find another outlet. Perfection is not the goal in any creative undertaking but touching the deepest part of who you are—your soul.

Kenyon recommends dabbling in many areas simply for the enjoyment of trying something new. Set aside your preconceived ideas of how a painting should look and let your imagination flow. Research confirms that engaging has a positive impact on our emotional well-being. If that’s not a great argument for trying something new or making time for some creative outlet during this season of isolation, I don’t know what is.

The research that I found most enlightening—and Mary did a lot of research—was a longitudinal study by George Land. He gave 1600 Head Start children a test that NASA had devised to identify innovative engineers and scientists, measuring their ability to come up with new, inventive ways to solve a problem. As preschoolers, 98% of the children fell into the “genius category of imagination.” Ten years later, only 30% were in that category and by the age of 15 only 12%. The research supports the idea we are born creative and non-creative behavior is learned.

Like Cumbi-Floyd, Kenyon writes from her own experience and is not afraid to bare her soul. Those are the qualities that make for excellent writing. Isn’t it time to flex your creative muscles?

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