Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Lamott reminds us to set realistic goals for our writing (like writing one or two pages before we worry about writing the whole book), and encourages the idea of forming a writing group that can also be an emotional support group. Bird by Bird is a classic for a reason: you come out of it feeling not so alone in this whole writing thing.
Writing Down the Bones
Goldberg infuses writing method with Zen practice. This is a short little book that you can probably finish in a day or two, but can reference for years after. And if you really dig this guide, you can pick up some of her other books: Old Friend from Far Away is about writing memoir, and Wild Mind is about living the writer’s life.
The War of Art
When I first read the War of Art in 2009 it completely changed my writing life, and I’m not exaggerating. If you have problems with procrastination, perfectionism, fear of failure and self-doubt, this is the guide for you. Pressfield doesn’t sugarcoat his advice, but somehow it doesn’t come out sounding harsh, just inspiring. If you need a serious kick in the pants, get your hands on this guide.
The Elements of Style
William Strunk and E.B. White
It’s the very nice man who wrote Charlotte’s Web! He teamed up with a professor from Cornell to write a kick-ass little guide to using the English language with style and—dare we say—flair. These guys are the Batman and Robin of grammar. Get this guide in your personal library, ASAP.
If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit
They broke the mold when they made Brenda Ueland. She’s like the Katharine Hepburn of writers. Totally unconventional, eccentric, high-spirited and truly inspiring. After reading Ueland, you come away feeling like a gushing fountain of creativity, and also like it’s okay to eat ice cream for breakfast. Yeah, she’s that kind of awesome lady.
The Artist’s Way
This guide to waking up your creativity requires you put a little elbow grease into it. The book is designed as a 12-week program that includes writing 3 pages every morning and setting aside two hours a week devoted to experiencing and observing. If you’re serious about dissolving your writer’s block, Cameron is the way to go.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
This is an excellent book even if you’re not a Stephen King fan. In addition to providing great advice on the nuts-and-bolts of writing (verb choice, character description, etc.), King also wraps up on a really encouraging note. Not only do you feel like it’s possible to write your book, you come away feeling like it’s also possible to actually get published. And that feeling alone is worth a million bucks.
Writing guides are like diet and nutrition. There are a ton of choices out there, but you’re a unique individual and some types of food are going to work better for you than others. Nibble at this and that and see what agrees with you—then try cooking something all on your own.
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