I’ve written about when to step back from devouring how-to-write books like you’re cramming for a big exam. Now I’d like to mention six books on writing that have kept me moving forward through the years. Many books on craft have been invaluable resources, but I’m not listing them here, because they’re already on most writers’ lists.
The following books woke my spirit when I first read them years ago, along with Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. They inspired me at a deep level and set me back on course whenever I was derailed. These are just a few:
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s one of the first I read that was a triple whammy of self-help guide, spiritual practice and specific tasks. She suggested writing three stream-of-consciousness pages every morning. As a result, I’ve been doing morning pages for twenty years. I feel unmoored if I haven’t done them before starting my day.
One Continuous Mistake by Gail Sher. Sher said, “Staying focused on who you are (with all your faults) requires maturity, perseverance and tremendous self-compassion. Act like and treat yourself as though your mind were joyful, kind and big—as though it were radiant, unlimitedly friendly and large. In reality, your true nature is such and if you treat yourself this way, you just may rise to the occasion.” It’s so easy to let negative thoughts creep in, and Sher reminds us to be our own champions.
If You Want to Write, A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland. In her preface Ueland said, “Be Bold, be Free, be Truthful.” Simple words that can take a lifetime to achieve.
The Passionate, Accurate Story, Making your Heart’s Truth into Literature by Carol Bly. Her advice discusses writing in a moral, political and emotional context.
The Spooky Art by Norman Mailer. Best advice on what to read when you’re in the middle of writing a novel. Mailer said, “It’s disturbing to read a novelist with a good style when you’re in the middle of putting your work together. It’s much like taking your car apart and having all the pieces on the floor just as somebody rides by in a Ferrari.” I understood exactly what he was talking about even though I’ve never taken a car apart.
Writing Alone and with Others by Pat Schneider. Schneider started Amherst Writers & Artists writing workshops thirty years ago on the principal that teaching craft can be practiced without damage to the creative spirit, a writer is someone who writes, and every writer has a unique voice. I’ve written about my wonderful experience of attending an AWA writer’s group in this blog.
I’d love to hear what books on writing have inspired you on your writing journey.
What a great list — thanks! I look forward to your blog every Tuesday!
Thanks Julie, I’m sure you could add many more great writing books to the list.
I was not familiar with several of these, so I am grateful for the suggestions.
Most of them go way back, but they really had a big impact on me.
Thanks for this post, Linda. I had not heard of a few few these books and they sound intriguing. Several years ago I devoured writing instruction books to the point that I forgot to write. So, I eventually put them away. I’d have to say “Bird by Bird” is the one I go back to when I need some inspiration or instruction (I appreciate Lamott’s honesty). I enjoyed the text of “The Artist’s Way” but lacked the discipline to do the exercises (my failing, not the book’s). “Write Tight” introduced me to the concept of using only the words needed, but I took it to the extreme and edited while writing to the point of frustration. Recently, I’ve just tried to write for pleasure but I know many of these books inform my thoughts and process. I continue to appreciate your blog!
I’ll have to check out Write Tight. I’m also guilty of editing as I write. It makes for slow going on a first draft. Thanks for commenting!