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The Writer’s Crucible: Donovan's Bookshelf Review

The Writer’s Crucible: Meditations on Emotion, Being and Creativity
Philip Kenney
Inkwater Press
978-1-62901-524-8         $15.95 

The Writer’s Crucible: Meditations on Emotion, Being and Creativity offers a psychological examination of typical obstacles that thwart the creative processes, and is directed to writers who struggle with the process of tapping their wellsprings while facing such barriers. 

Other creative writing books have addressed these issues; but The Writer’s Crucible's approach is different. It tackles self-reproach and the emotional challenges of putting pen to paper by discussing vulnerabilities from a psychotherapist's clinical viewpoint, providing assessments and insights that crack perfectionist tendencies and creativity-thwarting negativity. 

It's unusual to find a trained psychotherapist who believes in the practice and approaches of meditation and spirituality. Writers looking for inspiration will find all three facets influence an approach that considers the motivations of human behavior and writers' efforts, considering the process of being psychologically and spiritually lost and the impulses that stem from both that and the attempt to find one's path in life. 

Creation and destruction are close companions: this, too, is discussed on a psychological, social, and spiritual level, giving writers further insights on the 'rhythms of creation' and how they operate on different levels. 

Most writers will anticipate some sort of how-to title: perhaps a series of guided meditations, or an analysis that takes the process of producing a written gem and links it to psychological understanding or exercises designed to stimulate that process. The Writer’s Crucible digs deeper and promises no quick insights or exercise-based guarantees of success. 

Its insights stem from self-awareness and healing processes and add a personal tone to make it more of a personal reflection than a dispassionate professional assessment: "Maybe you are one of these talented people who can’t get going. Maybe you get going but can’t follow through and finish, or you have a dozen projects going and never move deeply into any of them. Maybe you discredit the work so completely that it ends up on the shelf. It’s okay. You aren’t alone, and you aren’t hopeless. You are constricted and might possibly be shackled by the trauma response. Find someone to help you undo the knots, and I think you’ll find the work will flow." 

Of course, this means that there are no easy answers or solutions. Writers anticipating a course of miraculous exercises that can magically unlock creative impulses will discover instead that The Writer’s Crucible is actually a call to action on many levels, advocating taking charge of  one's spiritual, psychological and social self-discovery process. 

Within the paradoxes of psychotherapy lie routines and ideas that can stimulate and broaden the writer's efforts. Those who are willing to do the work to get to this place will find that Philip Kenney advocates making a greater effort for better writing results: "A life of writing is like that river finding its way to the ocean. It moves from its source, bending with the layout of the land, changing directions again and again, searching for the low ground in a relentless journey to the sea. The adventure of exploration and discovery is one of the great thrills of a creative life and a great liberator of the inner world. Developing a relationship of curiosity with yourself is one way to disempower the menacing negating voices within." 

The fact that The Writer’s Crucible holds much more than exercises or mediations and addresses the heart of what keeps a writer from being effective and meaningful makes it a top recommendation for writers who struggle to achieve their best against the barriers of anxiety, self-deprecation, and fear. 

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