Title: The Luminous Solution: creativity, resilience and the inner life
Author: Charlotte Wood
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, 2021; RRP: $32.99
Charlotte Wood is an established Australian writer of fiction and non-fiction who counts the Stella Prize and the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction amongst her accolades.
The author had earlier conducted a series of in-depth interviews with writers exploring the creative process, which she later published in her highly successful book The Writer’s Room. She also explores the writing process in her podcast The Writers’ Room. Much of what she discovers from these conversations and her own practice is contained and developed further in The Luminous Solution.
The phrase ‘luminous solution’ is how the author describes that experience when a writer hits a wall with a new work and, despite all their efforts, is unable to progress, but then, inexplicably, a resolution presents itself, often involving a radical rethink of the entire work.
She gives as an example her own struggle with The Weekend, which she ‘initially envisaged (as) a wry celebration of domestic realism’ based on the friendship of three old friends, but hit a creative dead end, putting it aside in despair for several months.
A ‘decrepit, geriatric dog’ belonging to one of the three friends, however, kept haunting her and one day, months later, she suddenly realised its dereliction and confusion represented less comfortable, hidden aspects of the women themselves and their relationship. This was Charlotte Wood’s own ‘luminous solution’.
In the process of pinning down how this sudden illumination worked and how it could arise, the author found other creatives – not just writers – experienced this sudden resolution and also discovered that the experience and the nurturing of it could be found in certain patterns of behaviour and background that creative people shared.
Throughout the book she constantly references the work and practices disclosed in comments by other creatives, both Australian and international. In the process she discovers practices that were repeated, including some she realised she did herself but had not really thought about. These practices formed the foundation for and fed these sudden, inexplicable breakthroughs that often broke the practitioners’ previous approaches and/or the norms of what they were trying to achieve.
The Luminous Solution is a freewheeling ride through a wide range of topics – writing tribes, the use of anger, humour, nature, teachers, dreams, identifying what was missing, sharing work, art, therapeutic reading, feral writing, spirituality and religion, writing the un-writable and more – synthesising all parts into a coherent whole.
Each creative practice is developed in separate chapters. They are disparate: some internal states, some a particular environment, some ordered and routine, some involving spontaneity and letting go. But combined they lay the groundwork, fertilising the creative mind and making it possible for the sudden leaps that carry both creator and creation forward, whether it be a painting or a piece of writing.
The writing style is very close and immediate and captures a sense of a mind probing deep inside to voice something that by its very nature cannot be pinned down or reduced to a series of steps. Capturing – naming – the ineffable. The writing voice is reflective and what could easily have been something fuzzy and disconnected comes together with a precision and immediacy that brings all separate, sometimes opposing, elements together into a coherent whole.
The Luminous Solution will appeal to those who create as well as those who simply love reading and literature and who wonder sometimes how writers come up with the scenarios, characters and outcomes that they do. Serious students of literature and those who study the practice of writing also would benefit. There is also a psychological aspect to it in her references to dreams, creativity and the subconscious that would appeal to those who are interested in a more scientific or academic approach to the workings of the human imagination.
Reviewed by: Rhonda Cotsell
Ballarat Writers Inc. Book Review Group
Review copy provided by the publisher