In Minding the Muse: A Handbook for Painters, Composers, Writers, and Other Creators ($13.95, 128 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-363-1), Priscilla Long shares her secrets to harnessing the creative gift, increasing productivity, and handling the business aspects of the creative life.
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Minding the Muse is a practical handbook for the artist or writer—highly experienced, aspiring, or somewhere in between. Long draws from her extensive background as a poet, writer, and master teacher, but also gathers the insights and practices of a wide range of high-achieving artists, including mystery writer Raymond Chandler, choreographer Twyla Tharp, poet and performance artist Patti Smith, and the painter Joan Miró. Beginning with the first sparks of artistic creation—“Gathering, Hoarding, Conceptualizing”—Long moves through the various stages to “Completing Works” and “Poet as Peddler, Painter as Pusher: Marketing.” Every creative worker will find something here to take to heart and into the studio or workroom.
“Priscilla Long’s slim handbook for artists suggests ways to reflect on one’s creativity and so become a more effective creator. It is pithier and more intellectually respectful than recent creativity how-tos like Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, and old standards like Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.” Read more….
—Pamela Hobart Carter, The Seattle Star
“One hundred and twelve pages of pure creative gold are here for the taking. No matter the form your creative gifts take, there’s something in Minding the Muse that will excite, motivate, clarify, or entertain you.” Read more….
—Krysta Gibson, New Spirit Journal
“I found Long’s advice, along with the examples she pulls from other books and studies on creativity, to be reliably fresh and unorthodox. I loved being reminded to strictly cordon my messy drafting stage from the critical revising stage and the gutty purveying stage. I liked her form of telling me flatly what to do without pandering to my ego. I admired her various elegant ways of commanding me to embrace the old-fangled: get back to work, and work hard.[….] The simple fact is that I read these two self-help books and I went sweetly adrift in them [….] and when I came out the other side I felt somehow both richly served and pleasantly on my own again.” Read more….
—Bonnie J. Rough for the Seattle Review of Books
“This is a relatively small book, fewer than 75 pages, but contains many memorable passages…. In addition to invaluable tips, Long includes helpful questions at the end of each chapter intended to serve as guides for artists to use as they explore their own artistic methods and goals to help you forge new work. On days when the isolation of working in solitude can feel overwhelming, it helps to have the wise and supportive voice of Priscilla Long whispering in your ear that making art is a possibility, and that you, like the many artists quoted in this book, have something to say. Her book will help you say it.” Read more….
—Bruce Black, Wordswimmer Blog
“It’s as if Priscilla Long has sat down on the couch beside me, offering all she knows garnered from a long life as a working artist. This is the kind of book I want to put into the hands of all my poet friends and students. It’s a book I believe I’ll be using in my teaching and in my own contemplation about my role as an artist for a long time to come.” Read more ….
—The Alchemist’s Kitchen
“Long has done a terrific job of compiling short chapters, rich with fresh quotes from all sorts of creative people. This small but deeply intelligent book contains some savvy messages you’d do well to heed.” Read more….
—Psychology Today Blog
“Priscilla Long has read wide and deep in the practice of artists of all stripes, and she has meditated to good purpose on what she’s found. She is particularly good on the cross-fertilization of artistic methods, with the result that this book is wise, practical and illuminating, a friendly aid to creation.”
—Janet Burroway, author of Losing Tim, A Story Larger Than My Own, Bridge of Sand, Imaginative Writing, and Writing Fiction
“On days when the isolation of working in solitude can feel overwhelming, it helps to have the wise and supportive voice of poet, writer, and master teacher Priscilla Long whispering in your ear that making art is a possibility, and that you, like the many artists quoted in this book, have something worthwhile to say.”
—Bruce Black, author of Writing Yoga
“Like mushrooms, facts must be gathered; like dough; a draft must rest in order to rise. Drawing on vivid anecdotes from a range of artists, this book makes her case that creativity thrives in the balance between spontaneity and discipline. Long’s voice is conversational and witty, seasoned by her experience as an accomplished poet and essayist. Minding the Muse is a gift to anyone ready to take their craft more seriously.”
—Sandra Beasley, author of Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life and Count the Waves
—Susan K. Perry, PhD, author of the bestselling Writing in Flow, “Creating in Flow” blogger at PsychologyToday.com, and author of the novel, Kylie’s Heel
“Do you get bogged down in creating the works you imagine? Priscilla Long’s handbook pulled me right in, to help me move beyond where I get stuck—making space, dealing with feelings, getting out in the world, and more. This accessible, comprehensive, and, well, creative, book is a gift for anyone who wants a fruitful, creative life.”
—Sondra Kornblatt, author of Restful Insomnia, and A Better Brain at Any Age
“Minding the Muse is an artist’s answer to the over-asked questions: ‘Do you write with a pen or pencil?’ Priscilla Long’s new book, rich with real life examples, gives creators in all disciplines concrete ways to shape a personal daily practice that invokes the power of the sleeping muse.”
—Barbara Earl Thomas, painter
Priscilla Long is a Seattle-based author and teacher of writing. Her work includes poetry, creative nonfictions, fictions, history, and science. Her other most recent book is Fire and Stone: Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? Her book of poems is Crossing Over: Poems. She is also author of The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life and the scholarly history book Where the Sun Never Shines: A History of America’s Bloody Coal Industry. For more information, click here.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
Invitations proliferate; time evaporates. But if you start declining invitations, invitations start declining. You will rightly feel that you are hurting your chances for your work to gain a wider audience.
If you want to keep working though, you must set limits. It’s as if an invitation were a chocolate gelato—good in small bites, bad as a stand-in for leafy greens. Determine the number of talks you will give per year, the amount of money you will charge for a talk, the number of pro-bono presentations you will give per year. If money starts coming in, even in moderate sums, consider employing a part-time assistant to help you plan or to just plain help.
I’m not famous. Still, on some days I get interrupted so incessantly you’d think I’d won the Nobel Prize in Literature. My best help with this problem of distraction and interruption is my intention to get four uninterrupted hours of work per day. The goal of time on the job—the job being the creative work itself, not teaching, answering email, sending work out, applying for grants, or other related tasks—is what keeps me on course. And make no mistake. I am looking with deep envy at the routine of three morning hours and three afternoon hours set up by Chuck Close (and also by the ultra-prolific Joyce Carol Oates). For now, given my other responsibilities, I am usually getting four hours. My timer is my taskmaster.
As your work begins to gain more attention, it’s useful to pay attention to how you want to present it, and to how you want to present yourself in public. As an artist who is visible, what is it that you want to convey? What values do you want others to take away? What do you want to say and what do you want to model about art and about making art? When you serve as a public figure, whether on the radio or in the classroom or in a live performance or at a gallery opening, you stand for art—for the particular form of art you make, as well as for all art. That’s a responsibility.
It may be helpful to take a class in acting or in the Alexander Technique, a body alignment practice developed originally for performers. I’ve done both and both helped me overcome my original stage fright. There are improvisation classes, classes in performing, classes in public speaking.
Look for model creators, past and present, who are visible in the culture, artists you admire. What can you learn from them by way of comporting yourself as a public figure? One I stand in awe of is Twyla Tharp as interviewed (on YouTube) by Norma Kamali. Check it out (youtu.be/atGJkkzVe54). I’m looking at Tharp’s posture, her thoughtful and erudite responses, her dress, her lack of stuttering and stammering, her sincere and extremely professional presentation and the quintessential brilliance of the content she presents.