Guardian Australia’s book club: join Charlotte Wood on creativity, curiosity and a rich inner life - The Guardian

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Like many writers, Charlotte Wood is obsessed by descriptions of other artists’ working routines. Do they follow rules? Do they break them? Do they hide their work-in-progress or let it all hang out in its unfinished, unpolished glory for everyone to see?

In her latest book, The Luminous Solution: Creativity, Resilience and the Inner Life, the award winning author probes all manner of creative impulses and processes in a collection of essays that, all added up, seek to answer the overarching question: what is a rich inner life?

At its heart, says Wood, it is certainly not only the preserve of the arts. “The joys, fears, and profound self discoveries of creativity – thought making or building anything that wasn’t there before, any imaginative exploration or attempt to invent – I believe to be the birthright of every person on this Earth.”

Wood is a writer at the peak of her power, and this collection of essays – drawn from previously published work or speeches – pulls together to make a sum greater than its parts.

The Luminous Solution is a term taken from a summary of the creative process by the American author Janet Burroway: “Once I’m working, the process is much the same in every genre: the effort to get myself to the computer, a period of grumpy struggle, despair, the luminous solution that appears in bed or bath, joyful work; repeat, repeat, repeat.”

The author of nine books, Wood draws on her experience, her doctoral studies, her deep curiosity of the inner creative lives of artists, and her analysis of frequent meetings with a group of other writers to identify nine different kinds of creative thinking.

She lays them out in The Luminous Solution, not so much as a prescription or a set of orders, but as a touchstone for those facing a blank canvas or page, or stuck somewhere in the process. The great mystery and purity of art-making is by no means undermined.

Otherwise Wood writes about how to nourish the inner life, of the necessity of humour, the power of ageing, how actively altering your mood state can affect the way you work (and her own experiments with this), and why deliberately looking for problems and trouble is an important part of the creative process.

Most fundamentally, Wood honours the force of nature in her creative life and psyche, and here we’re saliently reminded of her writerly skill as she takes us into her garden, into the bush and the ocean and into both the minute detail and the majesty of the natural world.

Many of the essays reference Wood’s Stella Prize winning novel, The Natural Way of Things, and all she learned from the writing of it. But not only that: all she learned from what she terms the “vast, delicate, yet strong safety net” unwittingly made by the writers and artists who have informed her work. The Luminous Solution is a response, her own generous contribution – “a thread of a similar net for other people straying into their own new creative ground”.

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