My Favorite Writing Books

Nat Goldberg quote

A lot of writing books have come and gone on my shelf, but there are a few that have stood the test of time, and that I still reach for again and again. Call them my writing gurus, if you will. One is on creativity, one is on the craft, and one is on dealing with the business of writing.

  • Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. This is the book that inspired me to get started all those years ago, when I was younger and searching for permission to be a writer. Her rules for longhand, timed writing practice include: keep your hand moving, don’t think, lose control. You might start with what you ate for breakfast this morning, and end up deep in a memory of your grandmother. Goldberg, a Zen Buddhist, is fascinated with how the mind works. I use her methods when I’m experiencing writer’s block and need to get the pen moving again.
  • On Writing, by Stephen King. I’m not an avid King fan, but I’ve enjoyed a few of his novels, and believe he truly shines in short works (check out Full Dark, No Stars; it’s a masterwork of short, chilling pieces). In this surprisingly spare book, he chronicles the events that influenced his becoming a writer in the autobiographical first half; the second half is a down-to-earth, nitty-gritty discussion on the craft, in which he describes the tools every writer should have in her “toolbox”. King’s conversational tone is always entertaining, often humorous, and gives some insight into a legendary writer.
  • The Shy Writer Reborn, by C. Hope Clark. Shy writers rejoice! There’s someone out there who feels your pain, and her name is Hope Clark, a mystery writer out of South Carolina. She understands your introverted ways, and the absolute terror you feel at having to come out from behind your writing in order to be successful in today’s publishing world. After all, most of us became writers because its solitary nature suited us. But Hope maintains you don’t have to change who you are–you just need a different set of tools to cope and succeed at online platforms and social media, interviews, publishing, and everything that goes into marketing your work. I found this book through her newsletter Funds for Writers (an excellent resource for paying markets, check it out); it’s the reason I found the courage to start this blog. So thank you, thank you, thank you, Hope, for reminding me I’m not the only one who feels this way, and for helping us shy types believe we can make this writing thing work.
Trying to come out from behind the book (and writing).

Craft books abound; the above are mostly guidebooks on living the writer’s life. We’re on odd bunch, and constantly need reassurance that we’re not completely insane and throwing our lives away in pursuit of our passion. Whenever I feel this way, I look to these books and know I’m not crazy. Well, not totally, anyway.


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