What I classify as a good writing book will vary according to my mood and aptitude. It will depend on what I am seeking. Is it the development of writing technique? Or an increased understanding of that elusive trick, what makes writing work?
Some of my favourite writing books to date have offered insights into a famous writer’s life. On Writing by Stephen King comes to mind. King’s no-nonsense approach to the craft made it memorable. It is often recommended to writers, offering insights into the reality of a working writer’s life.
Another book that explores the act of writing is Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. This book conveys the sheer joy of writing with a sense of zen. There is an enthusiasm and passion in Goldberg’s work that has stayed with me over the years. I still dip into the book when I need inspiration.
I look for similar things in a writing book and a writing group. I want to find a place that is supportive and inspires the act of writing. This can include examples of writing or tips on craft, but it needs to result in making me want to put pen to paper. One of the most influential books I read about this applied to any form of artistic creation. It is about six years since I worked my way through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. There were elements of it that I found challenging, including exercises on obstacles. This included real and imagined obstacles about writing and what I could do to give it priority in my life.
I started the morning pages during this time and it remains a daily way of connecting with my writing self. It is often where ideas begin, or space where the negativity and doubts can be expressed and released. Another enduring practice has been that of the artist’s date. I’m not as consistent with this but I challenge myself to seek out things which help my curiosity. That has been important too.
Recently I picked up Cameron’s The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life. It is early days but already it has me writing, and for me, that’s what it’s all about.
What do you look for in a writing book?
[Photo: circle of support]