Get a Jump-Start on a Creative Career

By Claudia Deane
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, September 30, 2007

Is your creative side being crushed by pounds of paperwork? Four new self-help books start you on -- or guide you back to -- the artsy path:

Asking the Experts

In Creative Careers: Paths for A spiring Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers (SuperCollege, $19.95), Elaina Loveland has compiled descriptions and salary info for more than 60 arts-related jobs, ranging from voice-over artist to industrial designer to literary agent. Grouped by skill (e.g., "careers for dancers"), each profile includes a practical Q&A with someone in the field, covering topics from how he or she landed there to recommended trade Web sites and magazines.

The interviews also are just plain entertaining. For example, you may have intuited that one of the upsides of being a cinematographer is living "on location" in cool places, but who knew one of the potential downsides is "bad catering"?

A Whiff of Whimsy

One way to spark your creativity is to hold your wick next to someone else's lighted candle. Susan G. Wooldridge's candle is more of a beatnik firecracker. Foolsgold: Making Something From Nothing and Freeing Your Creative Process (Harmony, $22) is a dash of autobiography packed with inspirational quotes, meditations on nature, poems and suggestions for approaching the creative life both deeply and playfully.

The book is geared to the mystical- and whimsical-minded. Whether you find it fools' gold or real gold will depend on your reaction to suggestions like, "If you can, stand on your head outside" or "Write in sleep or sitting in the middle of a creek ."

Blocked No More

W hat if you have the calling and even some ideas about what you want to write/paint/compose but find yourself gripped by a crippling case of the "I am not worthies"? Psychotherapist Susan O'Doherty says she turned her own experience of dissertation-related writer's block into a practice that helps women find the confidence to be creative. With exercises at the end of each chapter, Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued: A Woman's Guide to Unblocking Creativity (Seal Press, $14.95) probes the forces that may be holding you back -- be they negative messages from parents, society or even your own dark side.

Warning: This sometimes gets a bit too Women's Studies 101. But O'Doherty's thoughtful chapters on blending creativity with motherhood or aging may resonate with those whose right-brain longings have been stuck on the back burner.

Just Breathe

Laraine Herring's Writing Begins With the Breath: Embodying Your Authentic Voice (Shambhala, $12.95) employs yoga-inspired breathing and body exercises to lead would-be authors to what she calls "deep writing." It sounds a bit gauzy, but the book is actually practical, accessible and motivational in the least cheesy sense of the word. Herring urges you to "bring writing into your life with the intimacy and regularity of brushing your teeth."

Like O'Doherty, she ends her chapters with suggested activities, sending you to a thrift store to pick out something your main character would never buy or giving writing prompts such as "Freewrite: 'If no one would object, I would . . .' ." Herring also includes a nice annotated list of recommended books on both writing and yog a.

Claudia Deane is a writer in the District.

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