Need inspiration on how to be more creative? Then you should buy this book:  What It Is by Lynda Barry.

What kind of book is What It Is? Now that’s a tough question. The short answer is that it’s a
non-fiction autobiographical how-to-write comic book.

Confused? Quite frankly, so was I. I found the book after attending a web workshop called Visual Thinking for Writers, produced by VizThink, an organization that promotes visual thinking.

So, I bought it. And, when it arrived, I didn’t know what to make of it, so I left it on the table in my office, occasionally flipping through the pages to browse the funky drawings and comic-strip-looking pages.

Then last week, I decided I would sit with the book until something happened. Somewhat to my surprise, something did. About halfway through, I was completely transfixed. I developed a crush. I fell in love.

Here’s why:

  • What It Is is a valuable book for writers, especially if you need inspiration, are trying to get out of the corporate-speak trap, or need to overcome a block. Although the advice is geared toward writing fiction, I’m finding that it applies to any kind of writing.
  • Artists would also benefit from the book, especially to understand the interplay between memory and visuals and writing.
  • If you need help being creative, What It Is offers practical suggestions for how you can “keep the pen moving” to stimulate ideas.

Are there any negatives? Yes, indeed. The title is terrible (What? It Is?). A contents page and some introductory copy would have been helpful; as it is, you have to plunge into the book without knowing how it works. And if you’re very literal, and expect precise recipes, What It Is will probably not work for you.

For me, despite its weaknesses, the book is a revelation. It not only is helping me with my writing, it's also encouraging me to learn to draw.

Seek inspiration? Consider What It Is.

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