Novelist and memoirist Dani Shapiro offers a whole slew of worthy advice in her delightful little book: Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of the Creative Life, but what really struck me was the list that she says she has had pinned over her desk for the last 20 years, which comes from the poet Jane Kenyon.
Protect your time.
Feed your inner life.
Avoid too much noise.
Read good books, have good sentences in your ears.
Be by yourself as often as you can.
Take the phone off the hook.
Work regular hours.
(Dani says she would add:Then there are the 11 Steps of artist Robert Genn , whose twice-weekly letter I subscribe to and usually find quite interesting.
Disable the internet.)
Step 2. You are solely responsible for doing the work required to become better.
Step 3. You are responsible for understanding your limitations.
Step 4. You are responsible for radicalizing your strengths.
Step 5. Make a searching and fearless inventory of your creative curiosity.
Step 6. Pay no attention to the less courageous.
Step 7. Learn from the greats, and expose yourself to better work.
Step 8. Read in order to write, but paint in order to paint.
Step 9. Be artistic, choose taste, set an example.
Step 10. "Play" is your route to mastery.
Step 11. In the art game we do our own cooking.
And finally, I always return to the wise and funny "10 Rules of Thumb" offered by the brilliant furniture maker, Wendell Castle.
1. If you are in love with an idea, you are no judge of its beauty or value.
2. It is difficult to see the whole picture when you are inside the frame.
3. After learning the tricks of the trade, don't think you know the trade.
4. We see and apprehend what we already know.
5. The dog that stays on the porch will find no bones.
6. Never state a problem to yourself in the terms it was brought to you.
7. If it's offbeat or surprising then it's probably useful.
8. If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it.
9. Don't get too serious.
10. (And my personal favourite...) If you hit the bull's eye every time, then the target is probably too near.