5 Crazy-Good Books On Writing
by Thea Fiore-Bloom, PhD
Wanna be a published writer? Even get paid to write?
Just don’t do what I did.
Don’t take fancy-pants writing workshops and don’t go to school forever.*
Instead, staple your butt to your chair, write 15 minutes a day to start, and read at least one of the books below.
I promise there are no academically correct **Elements of Style recommendations here.
You won’t need a dictionary or amphetamines to finish any book on my list. Many are under 9 bucks.
One thing all 5 texts have in common?
Each author will support you to overcome the biggest stumbling block writers face every day; the stomach churning fear of letting others see the real you on the page.
1. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Ann Lamott
This is one of the best-selling books on writing for a reason– it’s a life changer. Flocks of formerly blocked writers are flapping about free today because they read the section in this book where Lamott gives you permission to write a “shitty first draft.”
Get Bird by Bird if you want to feel like you have a new, bawdy best friend who will love and encourage the heck out you (and just happens to be one of the savviest, sassiest writing teachers in the U.S.)
Don’t get this book if you are sensitive to “colorful” language or you file recovery stories from former alcoholics under TMI (too much information).
2. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
I have zero interest in horror so I avoided this deceptively simple guide by King for decades. Don’t make the same mistake.
If you ever thought you were a failure because you sent out a manuscript once and got rejected, don’t miss King’s story on his rejection nail. A nail, turned spike, that he kept near his desk to house a burgeoning stack of “thanks but no thanks” replies from publishers.
Better yet listen to King’s teaching stories in his own voice in the stellar audio version of this book.
It’s ironic that a man whose bread and butter is instilling fear, wrote one of the most comforting, cheering, fear banishing books a writer could hope to read.
On Writing is a thoughtful gift for any writer, novice to pro.
3. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield.
Want a tough love, Charles Bukowski-badass-boxer alternative to the patience and empathy of Julia Cameron’s classic The Artist’s Way?
The War of Art is for you.
Ever heard of the phenomenon of resistance? You will be well versed in its wiley ways by the end of this page turner.
The War of Art is a wake up call, that works.
It can raise the writing dead. Great for visual artists too.
The audio version of the book narrated by George Guidal is a wonderful thing to have tucked away on your smart phone. Listen to a chapter when you are feeling loony and listless. In no time Pressfield will have slapped you about, thrown cold water on your face like a great cut man and have you back at your desk typing away.
4. Unpublishable!: Rejected Writers from Jane Austen to Zane Grey by Elaine Borish
Unpublishable is an overlooked, profound yet laugh-out-loud funny, round-up of rejection letters sent to now famous authors. Tuck this into your writer’s rucksack for those inevitable bad days.
Borish will have you spit-taking that skinny latte as you read the obnoxious, wrong-headed, ivory-tower criticism that stunning authors like Hemmingway, initially endured. (Do I have an axe to grind or what?)
Four or five letters/essays in to Borish’s alphabet, it dawns on you not to take rejection personally. The message I get from Borish is forge ahead, find your kind of editor at your kind of publishing house who will celebrate your kind of work.
Don’t get Unpublishable if you want direct writing advice, it’s letters only.
5. You Are A Writer ( So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins.
If your knees buckle when you try to stand up and call yourself a writer, start here.
Goins is a millennial motivator who revs readers up to the stratosphere, pronto. You can read You Are A Writer on your kindle in under 3 hours, and emerge with a shiny new attitude.
This is not the book for you if the last words you want to here are platform or blogging. And there are two books I believe are better for teaching writers how to pitch pieces to magazines. But the rest of Goin’s advice is top-notch in my opinion.
Stay Tuned! In the coming months I will be doing Best Writing Book Lists for: screenwriters, fiction writers, children’s book authors, magazine writers, academic writers, memoirist and poets.
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