What I desperately need are some words of inspiration, some encouragement on this rainy and snowy day…a way to silence that tiny voice inside my head that is saying, “Why bother?” I don’t want to listen, but maybe it has a point. Why do I feel that I can’t write anything worthwhile, that editing my latest is pointless? (The little voice just whispered that it is because I’m not a writer…oh, and never will be). I suppose we all feel this way at times…And so, it is time for me to pull out some of my favorite books on writing. I’ll share them with you.
The books that have inspired me to get off my ___, er… to relocate to my desk and face that terrible blank page, to type those first words, to tell me that, yes, maybe you can write, or should at least give it a try are, in no particular order: Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande. Ms. Brande’s book is a classic, written in 1934. She is kind, encouraging, and gentle. This book is not about technique, but if you’re feeling uncertain or suffering from self-doubt, pick up a copy. Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg, takes a Zen approach to freeing your creativity. The short essay type chapters cover technique, practice, and inspiration. The subtitle of the book is, Freeing the Writer Within—and that’s exactly what it does. Another book I’ve enjoyed and found helpful is, The Faith of a Writer Life, Craft, Art, by Joyce Carol Oates. Prolific and talented, I greatly admire her. Ms. Oates touches on inspiration, failure, self-criticism, and the writing process. The book is filled with essays in which she shares excerpts and thoughts on the works of those who have inspired her. Many personal insights/influences are also included.
The following titles focus on craft. Writing Tools, 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, by Roy Peter Clark, is literally filled with the tools necessary to craft a captivating story, whether it is fiction or nonfiction. His advice is practical and pithy, there are many Aha moments, where you can see exactly how it’s done—and improve your own writing in the process. It is filled with 50 “tools” that can be referred to over and again. You needn’t read it in any particular order, it’s all good. The book is divided into four sections: Nuts and Bolts, Special Effects, Blueprints, and Useful Habits. I highly recommend it. Immediate Fiction, A Complete Writing Course, by Jerry Cleaver, was also helpful. He has an easy, informative style and also provides you with inspiration and tips on how to deal with doubt, fear, writer’s block, etc. The cover states that it’s about story craft, the creative process, self-editing and self-coaching, time management and getting into print. He does a very nice job covering those topics. I’m currently reading, The Anatomy of Story, 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller, by John Truby. He promises precise techniques to help you become a successful storyteller. He asks the deep questions that will help you, as a writer, to discover exactly what story you are meant to tell.
Last, but not least, The Writing Life, Writers on How They Think and Work, Edited and with an introduction by Marie Arana. This is a nice collection of essays by contemporary authors talking about “the writing life.”
I guess it’s time to crack open a few of those books—and then get back to writing. I’ll let you know how it goes…