Thought I’d spend this post offering some recommendations for good writing books. Throughout my life really, I have just inhaled writing how-to book after writing how-to book. Something about their tone just appeals to me. Much like my favorite genre, memoir, it’s the mix of personal confessional tone along with the story of one’s birth as a writer that appeals to me. Most of my favs are pretty well-known. In my early teens I gravitated toward Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. It may, in fact, have been a gift from my grandmother, who was a poet. I loved Writing Down the Bones and loved hearing about Goldberg’s experiences with a Zen Master in Minnesota. She also describes her experiences coming out to her parents, and uses this as a model for how not to hold back in writing. This was the first time I heard the very common writerly advice to lay it all out in one’s writing practice, regardless of your sense of family reaction, etc. I was happy to find Goldberg’s other titles Wild Mind, which was almost equal in terms of how much I liked it, and Long Quiet Highway: Waking Up in America, which seemed like drivel that she was able to publish simply on the success of her other titles! Still, she remains my first influence from the plethora of writing guides that are out there. Others that have been great reads, the very popular Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, the older title, Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande and The Right to Write by Julia Cameron (and, really, any of Cameron’s title on creativity and writing are true gems.)
There are as many writing guides as there are personalities out there! Suffice it to say that the above guides are more like letters from true friends who tell of their successes and most personal foibles as they engage in the writing life. The tone in all of these is very casual, very candid and very conversational. And some of them have great jump-starting exercises interspersed throughout.
If you’re looking for more formal guides, methodical guides, guides that lead you through exercises—or anything else–you can find them at your local bookstore or online. Seek out your writing guides and they will find you–the ones that fit your style and voice.