To be perfectly honest, this March has not been my month.
Remember back when I asked "Do I dare?" Apparently, I dare not because I still have 50,000 words to get tapped out by Thursday to make my goal of writing 50,000 words in the month of March. That's right my friends, I've written a grand total of 0 fiction words this month and unless I got paid to write it, I didn't and even those deadlines were dealt with capriciously. I guess a month that kicked off with a nasty bout of stomach flu about 20 minutes into March 1 and involved lengthy dealings with the auto insurance people (oh black ice, you are not my friend) wasn't destined to be my most inspired 31 days.
But enough about me. While I've gotten a lot of knitting done this month (more on that later this week!) that's not really moving me along towards becoming a self-employed freelance writer. What I need is a kick in the butt. While I try to assure beginning writers that they really don't need to immerse themselves in "how to write" books before actually pursuing a writing career (just get writing!), I do find inspiration and sometimes, answers to puzzling aspects of the lifestyle, in the pages of writing books. When I'm really having a "black dog" sort of writing day, thumbing through one of these tomes is usually enough to get me back on track.
Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird is, for me, the definitive writing book. I read this in high school when I was first contemplating
throwing away all of my worthy career plans becoming a writer. Since then, I've been assigned the book in college and have come back to the pages multiple times on my own. Heartfelt advice with a healthy dose of humorous real life experience, Lamott tells it like it is and in the process makes us realize we're not alone in our struggle with the blank page. Definitely a book that I think deserves to be on every writer's bookshelf. Actually, it should be within arm's reach on every writer's desk.
I've only read Jane Yolen's Take Joy in its entirety once, but I often leaf through it and never fail to stumble upon a meaningful passage. Yolen was one of my favorite children's writers and as a result, it feels like advice in this book is coming from a beloved elder. Yolen's most powerful advice? This writing gig is supposed to be a really good time. If it doesn't bring you joy, what's the point, eh? This advice is so obvious, yet never fails to hit me hard with an "oh yeah . . . "
The Productive Writer by Sage Cohen just came out in the last half-year or so and is a book for those serious about turning their writing in their career and their lifestyle. While book does repeat itself a fair bit (perhaps since Cohen is obviously trying to comply with a 200-page contract), I found much of the advice in this book fresh, helpful, and totally in tune with the reality of writing in 2011. Most importantly, The Productive Writer reminds you that there are enough hours in the day to do meet your writing goals. Turns out it's all about choosing writing over knitting. Who knew?
I've long be on the prowl for a freelance writing book that deals with the stuff I don't quite grasp about a freelance career yet doesn't dwell on the stuff that I've already heard many times before. Michael Perry's Handbook for Freelance Writing is the best "how to" book I've found on the craft. Maybe I find the book's writing and advice so appealing because Perry's from the Midwest. He makes freelance writing sound like something even us A- personality types might succeed at. You should note that the book was written in the 1990s and as a result some of the advice (especially regarding technology) is glaringly out of date. The bare bones of the book are good enough to warrant overlooking this "issue" and I would totally buy a revised 2011 version of the book if it was available. Hear that Mr. Perry?
Do you have a favorite writing book? Or a favorite "how to" book?