Guide to a Creative Life

Posted by on Jun 28, 2018 in Catherine Ann Jones, Catherine's Blog

Here is an excerpt from my first book, The Way of Story:


“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work and gave to it neither power nor time.”

                                                      – Mary Oliver

At the Esalen Institute and elsewhere, I found those receptive to an alternative approach to writing.  Unlike students in university classes where I taught for several years in New York and in Los Angeles, most of the workshop participants are no longer in their twenties, but have borne the slings and arrows of the world, and feel a keen need to return to Soul or Self.  Only then will they find the necessity and courage to write about what they really care about — and in so doing, heal the split many feel today, both personally and collectively.  It is wonderful to teach those who know what they want to say.  Life, the best teacher of all, has usually led them to this awakening.  I need only teach enough craft for them to put it down on the page, and create a safe environ to summon the muse. The aim is that The Way of Story workshops become a temple wherein attend oracles and angels.

Writing is not about being a writer, but about the experience of writing itself.  I write in order to know myself.  Through the inner journey of writing, I am better able to understand the world around me.

What I represent every time I set out to achieve

something is Myself.

                                               – Maya Angelou

For six years, J.K. Rowling worked at a number of jobs, saying “I  proved to be the worst secretary ever.”  In meetings she would jot down story ideas instead of taking notes.  She was fired from several jobs and quit others out of boredom.  She drifted for a time.  Then one day she was on her way to London when the train broke down for four hours.  She was staring out the train window when the idea that would change her life came to her out of the blue.  “I can’t tell you why or what triggered it, “ she stated in a School Library Journal interview, “but I saw Harry and the wizard school very plainly … the idea of a boy who didn’t know what he was.”  By the time her train reached London, Rowling had the basic story figured out for the first Harry Potter book!  The rest is history.

Between acting jobs in New York, I once took a temp job as a typist for a medical research company.  This was the first and last time I worked full-time in an office.  After two weeks of typing graphs and figures, and slowly going bonkers, my boss discovered that the long list of columns of numbers didn’t match. Consequently, the work of several days had to be discarded — as was I.   Later that day, my agent arranged an audition for me for George C. Scott’s production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.  I said a quick prayer knowing that I wasn’t equipped for anything else but to act and prepared to meet the formable Mr. Scott.  You know what?  I got the part. After some years acting, I began to write plays and saw twelve produced, winning awards on the way. Then Hollywood beckoned and I wrote films and television, later writing books. (The Way of Story, etc.)

One thing is certain: the creative, if it is strong, will sooner or later find its path.  It is as inevitable as a small stream of water pushing through rock.  Of course, it may take time, and there may be twists and turns along the way.

Creativity demands commitment and risk, and often mistakes can be as important to the process of creativity as success.  What helps to get through the night is to see the whole not as product but as process — mistakes included.  James Joyce once said, “Mistakes are the portals of discovery.”   Also, it is always valuable to know what you cannot do in order to focus on what you should be doing.

Don’t listen to those who say, “It’s not done that way.”

Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor and it

would surely be rubbed out by today.

                                                           – Neil Simon

In these uncertain economic times, I observe many who have sacrificed their dream of writing for seeming security.  They take full time jobs — only to lose them during an economic recession.  Great companies demanding loyalty and long hours now dismiss thousands of workers daily.  I cannot tell you how many individuals have come to The Way of Story workshops having lost their jobs in Silicon Valley, or quit their jobs as speech writers in Washington D. C., or as advertising executives in order to return to their first dream: that of writing for and from themselves.

Don’t play for safety.  It’s the most dangerous

thing in the world.

– Hugh Walpole

My aim as a teacher and writing consultant is to launch an alternative approach to writing, an approach that values craft yet served soul.  It is my job to help you create a work that while honoring your vision can be marketed and made available to the world.

Remember, it is never too late to follow your dream.


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