Writing Reads

I write. I am a writer.

I am also a reader that loves to read about writing.

Every writer has favorite books on writing and I’m no exception. They are my go-to reads for inspiration, ideas, and because these writers are so amazing, I read them for entertainment, too.

Here’s my short list:

On Writing by Stephen King

I’ve never read any of his horror stories (I’m a scaredy-cat).. but King’s book on the craft of writing is right at the top of my list. He’s funny, revealing and the man can write a simile that will make you cry tears of joy just because you got to read it: “She was so feverish she glowed against my chest like a banked coal,” and “On some days…I’m up and out and doing errands..in the morning, perky as a rat in liverwurst.” In fact, I’ve read the book several times and underlined all of these gems I can find.

His creative and entertaining use of language makes me wonder how he writes all he does with only the same alphabet I use. It reads like so much more.
King’s a genius on the subject of writing and based on this memoir, I’m pretty sure his novels are knock-outs. But I will never read them because, well, you know.

My favorite quote from his book: “..if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”

Making A Literary Life by Carolyn See

I discovered this salty, energetic writer only a few months ago, although she’s been around awhile. I was browsing the ‘writing’ section at Barnes & Noble and stumbled on this book, then bought and devoured it within days.

It’s a how-to manual for anyone wanting a writing life. She addresses the inevitable fears and foibles of this pursuit and generously disperses her own hard-won experiences, including tales of her somewhat charmed relationship with writer John Espey.

See delivers it all with humor and passion. I want to write and write and write each time I read her words. But mostly, I want to keep reading–I wish this book went on forever.

A favorite quote: “Maybe the world wasn’t waiting in radiance for me to write those sentences, but maybe I was. Maybe it wasn’t other people’s loneliness I was striving to alleviate but my own. And maybe I did. If you love this stuff, this writing, it’s worth your best effort, worth as much as the dizziest romance or the stormiest divorce or the most enduring marriage.”

If You Want To Write by Brenda Ueland

Way back a thousand years ago when I felt the stirrings all would-be writers do, I bought this book. It changed how I looked at myself and what I had to offer.

Ueland’s practical advice is balanced by spiritual insights and peppered with accounts of her own extensive reading and writing relationships. I love her feverish, almost evangelical style– it draws you in and makes you believe what she says.

The chapters have engaging titles. Some are direct quotes from her favorite authors, others are her own, like: “Why Women Who Do Too Much Housework Should Neglect It For Their Writing,” and “You Do Not Know What Is In You–An Inexhaustible Fountain Of Ideas.”

With in-your-face chapters like these, the seedling writer in me gobbled–and believed–every word.

Ueland died in 1985, but as a young woman experienced life in Greenwich Village with the likes of Eugene O’Neill, John Reed and Louise Bryant.

From her book: “I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten,–happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.”

There are other writing-oriented authors I love. My shelves groan under the weight of books by Anne Lamott, Julia Cameron, Natalie Goldberg, Deena Metzger and Annie Dillard. My friend, Writer Mama also has an honored place among those who inspire me to write.

But my short list slaps me in the face, kicks my butt, and reminds me why I wanted to write in the first place.

Check ’em out!

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4 thoughts on “Writing Reads

  1. I’m a recent convert to Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD. Annie Dillard is another great source of inspiration to me–WRITING LIFE, etc. Her short volume HOLY THE FIRM is one of the most spiritual books I’ve ever read. One of those writers who’s just never composed a bad sentence.

    Good post…

  2. I actually got to study with Natalie Goldberg. I agree with the book by Carolyn See. I found it the same way you did, browsing the shelfs at Barnes and Noble.

  3. Thanks for your comment, Jackie. Yikes! How wonderful to learn at the feet of a pro like Natalie! And.. it’s so much fun to find pockets of gold tucked away in bookstores, don’t you think?

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