Home Commercial book For Todd Mitchell, ‘a bad breakdown’ led to a creative ‘breakthrough’

For Todd Mitchell, ‘a bad breakdown’ led to a creative ‘breakthrough’


Todd Mitchell is an associate professor of creative writing at Colorado State University. He is the author of six award-winning books, including The Last Panther (Penguin Random House), The Namer of Spirits (Owl Hollow Press), and Breakthrough: How to Overcome Doubt, Fear, and Resistance to Be Your Ultimate Creative Self (winner of the Nautilus Book Award). To learn more about Todd, or to book him for a school visit, author talk, or workshop, visit www.ToddMitchellBooks.com.

SunLit: Tell us about the backstory of this book. What inspired you to write it? Where was the idea born?

Todd Mitchell: A few years ago, after the release of my fourth novel with Penguin Random House, I collapsed.

It ended up being a really good experience for me, even though it wasn’t at the time. Having a breakdown (my luck!) gave me the opportunity to reevaluate what creativity really is and discover better ways to go about it.

Since then I have spent years researching creativity and creative practices. The things I learned not only helped me become more resilient and creative, but they made my life much more enjoyable and fulfilling. I wrote “Breakthrough” to share with other writers and creators some of the ideas and techniques that have changed my life and helped me.

SunLit: Put this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the whole book? Why did you select it?

Mitchell: The excerpt I selected is a middle chapter of the book. It incorporates research from a multiple reality study published in Science. I chose this chapter because the study offers a fascinating perspective on commercial success that some writers and creators might find liberating.

SunLit: Tell us about the creation of this book. What influences and/or experiences influenced the project before you actually sat down to write?


Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.

Mitchell: “Breakthrough” is the culmination of over five years of research into creative practices and ways to enhance creativity. The book includes a wide range of sources, from psychological and neurological research on creativity to insights from philosophical and non-dual spiritual traditions.

For me, one of the early influences that inspired the exploration of creative practices that led to this book was an existential therapist named Chris. I share a bit about him, and how he helped me, in the book.

SunLit: Once you started writing, did your subject matter take you in unexpected directions?

Mitchell: Pretty much everything I learned about creativity that I shared in the book was unexpected. I honestly had no idea that for nearly 25 years I had been creating things in a way that was ultimately destructive to me and my creativity, until I embarked on the journey that led to this book.

SunLit: What were the biggest challenges you had to face or surprises you encountered while finishing this book?

Mitchell: This is my sixth published book, but my first non-fiction book. I share a bit about myself, my struggles, and the failures I’ve experienced in the book.


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Although I had taught creative writing for over two decades, I hadn’t fully realized the courage it took for writers of memoirs and personal essays to share some of the most difficult experiences they had. experienced until I started revising this book for publication. . Risking the vulnerability on the page is harder than expected.

SunLit: Did the book raise any questions or spark strong opinions among your readers? How did you address them?

Mitchell: Although “Breakthrough” includes several pragmatic ways to enhance creativity, a few of the later chapters focus on dissolving ego and egoic limitations to creativity. Prior to the book’s release, I was concerned that a few of these chapters would trigger an ego backlash in some readers. But, as far as I know, that didn’t happen.

Instead, I was stunned by the positive reactions I received from readers, including several writers I admire who I never expected to read the book. A few readers even told me that they had already read the book several times.

That said, if some of the later chapters don’t resonate with readers, that’s okay. I wanted to get to the root causes of what’s holding creativity back, and I know not all creators will be into it.

SunLit: Tell us about your writing process: where and how do you write?

Mitchell: I strive to write every day, although some days I only have 10-15 minutes to write. I usually write in my basement, but there’s a cute window where I can watch the squirrels when a sentence hesitates to come out.

SunLit: Tell us about your next project.

Mitchell: I am currently working on a contemporary young adult fantasy hybrid novel (a book that uses art and text to tell the story). It’s unlike anything I’ve seen published before.

If readers want to learn more about my books, as well as my squirrel obsession, I recommend visiting my website, www.ToddMitchellBooks.com. People can find tips on writing and publishing, information about my books and author visits to schools, and a sign-up page for my very rare newsletter (which only comes out a few times a year. ).

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