Books on Writing
Writing books, what works and what doesn’t
Here are my favorites and we will discuss what they are and why.
Books specifically focused on the How To of Writing
Don’t write like You Talk – Catharine Bramkamp
Funny grammar advice as well as writing advice. If you don’t want too much sanctimony in your inspirational work, I’m your woman.
The Cheap Retreat Workbook – Catharine Bramkamp
How do you get the benefits from a writing retreat without the cost? Do it at home. I also include a wealth of writing prompts to shake loose your creative ideas.
Okay, I had to mention my own books, otherwise marketing people will yell at me.
The Artist’s Way
One of the classics – Cameron will help work you through the creative process and give you permission and encouragement to write every day. The only caveat is that Cameron has a charmed, famous, wealthy life. So if that gets your hackles up, pick up Goldberg’s books.
Writing Down the Bones
These were my very first writing books, so I have a deep fondness for both the ragged books and for the Taos based author. Goldberg is more approachable than Cameron, a real woman adrift using writing to paddle herself to a more solid shore.
Both books deliver sketches, examples and strong writing prompts. Great for beginners and for writers who need to re-discover their beginner’s mind.
Naked, Drunk, and Writing
I’ve been a fan of Adair Lara since she was a columnist in the Chronicle. This is a great book for beginning writers who want to move from scribbling in a journal to publishing in periodical, or God help you, publishing a book.
The Writer’s Adventure Guide – Beth Barany
Beth brings the new novelist through the jungles and thorns of starting, finishing and re-writing their book. So if you need a friend to hold your hand, this is a great companion.
Writing the Life Poetic – Sage Cohen
This is a poetry book but also a collection of inspirations. If you want to view the world differently, skew your usual views, change your mind, this is a great resource.
No Plot? No Problem! – Chris Baty
This is the initial NaNoWriMo manifesto, since I’ve supported this novel writing project for the last two years (and won both years) I thought I’d better have the official book. Baty is fun, interesting and truly committed to helping writers get out of their own way.
The Glamour of Grammar – Roy Peter Clark
I loved this book, mostly because the author agrees with me. For another look at Grammar, rather than just those thick (or thin, Sunk and White is tiny but mighty, and some say; wrong) tomes on what to do, what to do now, what to do now again, try the alternative approach. Grammar is more about making sense, and carrying messages and meaning in your work. Really.
I’m working through this because I am fascinated by language, grammar and whether or not we should bother. Clark proposes we should bother.
The American Heritage Dictionary, Fifth Edition
There are essays, explanations and pictures in this new edition of the American Heritage Dictionary. Roy Peter Clark in The Glamour of Grammar commented that there are two necessary dictionaries: the OED to discover where a word comes from and the t AHD (which reminds me of ADD, not a good comparison for a dictionary) for where a word is headed.
Since I don’t paint or sculpt or make recognizable objects from clay, I never considered myself an artist. Most definitely not after spending a whole long year with a subscription to Craft of the Month, a well meaning, but ultimately disappointing venture promoted by my mother.
Anyway, I like these books because the authors are convinced that we are all creative and they address you, the reader, as a person with possibility and even a couple skills.
I love their attitude, although not even after a stead diet of affirmations am I able to paint a picture of a convincing tree.
Books to Inspire and focus on creativity, for both artists and writers and for writers who by now should realize they too are artists.
SARK’s New Creative Companion –
SARK is always lively and inspirational, you can take small bites from her work, and either launch onto something more creative, or just feel better about yourself. She is very affirming. SARK has written many books and has created a supportive on-line community, she will welcome you with open arms!
Creative is a Verb – if you’re alive, you’re creative
Patti is a great creative cheerleader. Her suggestions for sparking creativity are inspiration and sometimes silly. I tend to relate more to her techniques and style than SARK. Take a look at both books and choose the one that resonates best.
The Life Organizer – A woman’s guide to a mindful year
Comfort, permission and a whole different way to manage your days, this will take you past your every day to do lists. If you are tired of power anything, tired to making sure you maintain the seven habits of success, if you are exhausted thinking about quadrants, this is a nice reprieve.
Creative Time and Space – Making Room for Making Art
Living the Creative Life – Ideas and inspiration from working artists
Rice Freeman Zachery
Both these books are geared toward the visual artist, but I like how Freeman-Zachery invites the reader into the artists world, studio and thought process. If you thought you were “the only one” this book will give you some extra tribe members.
Fearless Creating – Eric Maisel – I love most of Maisel’s books, this one is very helpful for stuck or just beginning artists, including writers. I am not reading the whole thing cover to cover, but I found relevant entries that apply to my own specific situation and you can too.
See also: Brainstorm and Creativity for Life
Creating Time – Using Creativity to reinvent the Close and reclaim your life.
If you thought the ideas in The Life Organizer were radical, plunge into Makridakis’s book and re-think time and the idea that there just isn’t enough of it for creative work.
Word of the week
I was looking at this word in some book or other a while ago — my ageing memory fails to remind me which — and wondered how such a collection of letters could have come together to make an adjective that meant bad-tempered, argumentative or uncooperative.
On looking into its antecedents, I found that cantankerous isn’t especially old by historical timescales. It appeared here first in something that resembled its modern form:
That’s because you don’t know her as well as I. Ecod! I know every inch about her; and there’s not a more bitter cantanckerous toad in all Christendom.
She Stoops to Conquer, by Oliver Goldsmith, 1773.
A curiosity of this passage is that it appears in numerous places as “bitter cantankerous road”, an unfortunate error that led the late Ivor Brown to base a molehill of discursiveness on this pimple of misinformation by reasoning falsely that it could apply to things as well as people. The fault is traceable to a misprint in volume two of Farmer and Henley’s Slang and its Analogues of 1891, which quotes only the last part of the excerpt, so denuding it of the context that would expose the error. (We may forgive the absence of the second c from cantanckerous, which modern editions of the play also omit.) The error has been perpetuated by writers who borrow the quote without troubling themselves to check the original.
It must indeed have been new in Goldsmith’s day, for the good Doctor Johnson didn’t give it house room in his Dictionary of 1755. It may be that he felt it was too slangy for him — Farmer and Henley called it “colloquial” more than two centuries later. But for Goldsmith it already had the sense we know today, of a person with a quarrelsome, cross-grained, ill-natured personality.
One proposal is that it was a blend of two words, each of which by itself suggested its sense: contentious and rancorous. But it’s also argued that it can be traced to the Middle English conteke, contention or quarrelling, via its compound conteckour, a person who causes strife. The latter word may have later changed spelling under the influence of these other words.
Either way, its sound is appropriate to its sense, evoking jangling metal objects, and that may be why it has survived and prospered, even without that extra letter.
Bring out your dead:
Tis but time for remembrance
The world moves on, but memories seldom change.
How can one forget so much pain?
Of the package that was taken by mistake.
Tis when dates serve as reminders,
When the world forgets to dwell.
Life is so very strange that way,
But some get no chance to stay.
Write about your dream come true. Really what would that look like? Often we have dreams, vague dreams, but we never really sketch out what they would look like in their accomplished state.
What does your dream look like?
For a fictional work, what happens when the dream come true, isn’t working at all?
Beth Baranay, Natalie Goldberg and Eric Maisel who started me on this path, even though he doesn’t know it.