Creativity Rules! A Writer's Workbook

by John Vorhaus

Published by Silman-James Press

2000, 271 pages


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The Reading Challenge

Reviewed by John Shinnick

 

This is a terrible book for a writer to review. It's a terrific book for any writer wanting to take his craft to the next level. But for a writer to review? It's tough. I would read three pages, then my imagination would catch fire. I would put the book down and find myself getting up from wherever I was reading, drawn to my notebook or computer where I would hack away at my own film script for a while. I would then read another three or five pages, reassess everything I've written in my life up to now and start to rewrite it all from the Vorhaus paradigms.

John Vorhaus offers more ways to turn mental constipation (it plagues some of us some of the time and few of us never) into mental diarrhea. What you do with the flow is your business, but while you're reading him and doing the exercises that come with each chapter, you forget that you didn't have anything to write, that you didn't have an idea, that you were blocked or in a corner.

Reading Vorhaus, you find yourself bombarded with possibilities, with potential, with ideas, with fresh perspective, with the exact opposite of mental constipation. In his Comic Toolbox, the book that preceded this one, Vorhaus discussed the basics of comedy writing, comic structure and comic character development. This book grew out of the workshops he conducts for writers all over the world, going another step to discuss the creative process in general, how to use it, how to hone it, how to give it free rein before you get down to the task of developing a structured story, television script or film script. W.O. Mitchell, the great Canadian author, promoted a similar method, freefall, which he described as "Mitchell's Messy Method." Before you write you've got to have something to say. Before you find what you have to say, you have to look at a lot of ideas. Good ideas don't just fall into your lap fullborn, they come from long lists, from exploratory work prior to character, structure and scene.

There is a gap. It's a given. There's a gap between where we are as writers and where we want to be. Worse, no sooner do we reach one level of achievement than we start yearning for the next. So the gap is always shifting, advancing, dancing away from us as our aspirations change.... How can we make the frustration go away? One strategy is to just embrace it. Set out, as your writing job, to advance the gap. Just try to write something bigger or tougher or truer this time than last.

Although this slice of insight appears midway through the book, Creativity Rules! is about pushing yourself, pushing your expectations, pushing your abilities, pushing your imagination, pushing. It is about letting go. It is also about the contradictions in any creative endeavor that have to be understood to produce something fresh. | March 2000

 

John Shinnick is the editor and publisher of Media Wave and B.C. Shorelines Busines Letter. A winner of the Praxis program for screewriters, he is at work on his fourth feature-length script, Thorn Among the Roses.