Friday 12 January 2024

Review by Teika Marija Smits of "The Alchemy: A Guide to Gentle Productivity for Writers" by Anna Vaught

In the ‘Welcome’ to The Alchemy, Vaught writes that: “This is a book for everyone, but with a particular eye on those who are tired and lacking in confidence; those who are disabled, chronically ill or perhaps care for a loved one who would struggle without them.” And that, in a nutshell, summarises the two major hurdles to the creative process of writing: a lack of self-confidence and enough time / energy. 

Vaught, in all honesty, explains that “I had been raised to think poorly of myself” which led to a delay in getting going with her writing. But once she did get going, the words came thick and fast. 

Refreshingly honest, Vaught, in her own unique voice – which is full of love, encouragement and some sweariness – shares her own struggles with the reader, and offers tips and suggestions for gentle productivity – an idea that I really like. For although my own two hurdles to writing are relatively small compared with the hurdles of some other writers, time is not an infinite resource for anyone. Neither is an unfailingly “zen” and positive attitude to the publishing industry, which (as Vaught says) can sometimes feel like a brutal place. By placing an emphasis on gentle productivity, Vaught reminds us that thinking is also writing; that living in and observing the world from wherever you are is also writing; and that penning any number of words is an achievement. She is also keen for writers to use any kind of small creature comfort – be it a hot chocolate, snuggly blanket or set of fancy pens – to encourage us to make progress with our writing goals. (Another idea I like very much!)

I read this book relatively quickly since the chapters are short and Vaught’s breezy, chatty style of writing is thoroughly engaging, and I found it to be an inspiring and comforting read. I am sure that many writers will find it an invaluable resource.

About the reviewer
Teika Marija Smits is a Midlands-based freelance editor and the author of the short story collections Umbilical (NewCon Press) and Waterlore (Black Shuck Books), as well as the poetry pamphlet, Russian Doll (Indigo Dreams Publishing). A fan of all things fae, she is delighted by the fact that Teika means fairy tale in Latvian.

You can read more about The Alchemy by Anna Vaught on Creative Writing at Leicester here

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