Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Five Fabulous Writing Books to Re-read
There's so much to be said about writing—and much of it has already been said, by wonderful writers. Here is my short list of the best books I've read about writing. Each of these jewels is brimming with advice and instruction, but each one is different, so there's something here for every aspiring writing.
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is the first book I refer to new-to-the-craft writers. Her clear and practical "way" is a great method for kick-starting your writing at any stage, but is ideal for those who've not yet settled into their writing rhythm—those who want to write, but who just haven't yet made it a part of their life. I would suggest that all new writers read this book, preferably in conjunction with Natalie Goldberg's book below. Cameron's process is also effective for experienced writers who are struggling to birth a new work, and can't seem to get the words flowing.
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard inspires me each time I dip into it. Dillard is one of the best non-fiction writers ever and you'll know why when you read this slim book—it carries the weight of years of deep knowledge. Like her masterpiece, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, her book on writing resonates with images of the natural world, and is one you'll want to own. Though she can be a bit tough about what is required to pare your prose down to its essence, it is tough love, not strictness for the sake of itself.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. You've probably heard of him, so I'll say no more about his credentials. The thing is—no matter if you like and read his fiction or not—the man can really write, and he also writes quite well about "the craft" of writing, as he calls it. And he's funny. Enough said.
Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on the Writing Life by Anne Lamott. This is Lamott at her best—and her best is very good indeed. For those who like a little bit of philosophy and theology with their writing instructions, this is the book for you. In this book, she writes: “I heard a preacher say recently that hope is a revolutionary patience; let me add that so is being a writer.” But she also includes some very funny lines that will inspire you to quote them again and again—like this one: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
And, last but certainly not least, is Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. Yes, she has words of wisdom, and yes, she has tips to offer, but the reason this book changed my life (yes, it really did!) wasn't because of all that, so much as her inspirational style. Her voice is the voice of the best friend you can imagine, who will drop everything, anytime, to go with you to a cafe and just write. And listen to your writerly bitching about your story and how it just won't work right, and give you encouragement, and buy you a cup of tea, and keep listening; who offers a shoulder when you need one, and a nudge back toward your work—with a quick word about what she loves about your writing—when that's called for. I love this author and can't recommend her book enough.
Whichever of these books you choose, I hope you'll be inspired to write, and to keep on writing. Remember: "Tell your stories."