Marianne Musgrove

Unsticking Stuckness: the Unexpected Benefits of Book Spine Poetry

I found myself struggling with writer’s block today. I was a bug stuck to the fly paper of my plot, flapping about going nowhere. It was time to free myself and, as so often happens, that required doing something completely different. So I set aside my novel and decided to have a go at book spine poetry.

Here’s my first effort:

Book spine poem: The LIst of My Desires, Chocolat, A Room with a View, I Can Jump Puddles, Available Light, The Getting of Wisdom, Blue Shoes and Happiness, An Authentic Life, Led by Love.

For those of you who haven’t heard of this increasingly popular art form, it’s very simple and a lot of fun.

How do you make a book spine poem?

Step 1

Raid your bookshelf for interesting titles. Each title will be a line in your poem.

Step 2

Arrange the titles so they run together to make poem.

Step 3

Stack them in a pile and photograph it.

Step 4

Send the photo to your friends and family and await their admiration!


If you have a lot of book shelves, you might want to write down where you found each book so it’s easier to put them back later. I learned this the hard way!

If you go to school, have a chat to the librarian and see if they’d be up for a book spine poetry challenge.

Here’s another one of mine, this time on a serious topic:

Who is coming to our house book spine poem

And a final one to close:

Way of the Heart book spine poem

And remember, “There’s no money in poetry, but there’s no poetry in money, either.” (Robert Graves)




Creativity versus Shame

Welcome to my new blog!

As a creative writer, I thought it only fitting to devote my first ever post to creativity. With that in mind, here’s a picture of me (fourth from the left) having a cup of tea in the sea.

Marianne at Surrealist tea party standing in the sea dressed in suit, bowler hate and tie with several other similarly dressed people.

“But I’m just not creative.”

For some, creativity comes easily, for others, not so much. In an effort to conquer his writer’s block, one famous author went into his study, gave his butler his clothes and told him not to return them until he’d written three chapters. I myself even tried hypnosis!

So why go to such lengths to overcome our blocks? The way I see it, we’re born without a map. Creating stuff is how we chart the country of ourselves.

Shape of a girl walking. Her body silhouette is a map.

Marianne: inner cartographer.

Shame: mortal enemy of creativity

Shame researcher, Brené Brown, argues that creativity only comes when we’re courageous enough to be vulnerable. Unfortunately, being vulnerable tends to prompt shame to rear its ugly head. Shame makes us:

  • numb our feelings (“It doesn’t matter if I get published. It’s not as if my stuff is that important.”)
  • hide (“I won’t show my photographs to anyone and then they can’t say they’re stupid or accuse me of being up myself.”)
  • attack (“I can’t believe those talentless fools got published when I didn’t!”).

I’ve done all of these – still do!

Combatting shame

  • The first step is to recognise a shame reaction for what it is: an attempt to protect yourself from rejection. It’s message of “Hide!” feels legitimate, but it’s not.
  • If you find yourself holding back until your creation is perfect, that’s shame up to its old tricks. Perfection is a myth.
  • Shame fears rejection so it puts the opinions of others front and centre. Keep an eye out for thoughts beginning “People will think …”

For further tips on shame resilience, see Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly.

Getting surreal

I recently had the opportunity to take part in a surrealist tea party. Local artist, Andrew Baines, invited members of the public to come down to the beach dressed in a black suit, bowler hat and tie. It looked like fun, but after my initial enthusiasm, I thought: people will think I’ve lost my mind! There it was: “People will think…” Luckily, I recognised my reaction and decided to take part anyway.

Marianne dressed in suit, bowler hat and tie holding a tea cup and saucer at a surrealist tea party at Henley Beach.

130 of us stood in the sea and drank tea while the artist took photos.

Surrealist Tea Party with wave

The outcome? Creativity: 1  Shame: 0. All in all, it was a very good day!

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