With the upcoming new year, plans to finally start (or finish) that novel appear at the top of many people’s resolution lists. Finding the motivation, discipline, and confidence to take on this seemingly impossible task can be difficult. As a writer, reading can be one of the most important motivators—here are two important books on writing to inspire you.
Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Anchor, 1995), is my all-time favourite. Both instructional and inspirational, Lamott deals with the internal struggles and self-doubt that many of us, not just writers, face. The title comes from an incident where her brother, as a child, was overwhelmed about writing a project about many kinds of birds. Her father quietly said to her brother, just take it “bird by bird”, which is how we should deal with many things in our lives when they become a bit overwhelming. Focus on the smaller picture and the bigger picture will follow. She also stress the importance of tuning out “Radio K-F***” which broadcasts a steady stream of doubt and insecurity in a writer’s ear. Alternately heartbreaking and hilarious, this book helped me understand that I was not alone in my insecurities, inspired me to work on my passion, and to just deal with the first bird. Again, excellent advice for both writing and life.
Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (Scribner, 2000), is another must-read. Similar to Lamott’s book, it is both memoir—providing rare glimpses into his life and writing process—and a book of technical instruction. King’s book is filled with invaluable advice but one of the biggest take-aways for me was the importance of clean writing and that “the adverb is not your friend”. This completely changed the way I work as an editor. He also stresses the importance of a “shitty first draft”. King will work consistently on the first draft of a novel and then not look at it—or let anyone else look at it—for over six months. While not all of us can do this, I have found that getting that first draft of any writing—be it a pitch letter, a bio, or a blog—all benefit from walking away from that first draft for whatever time you can allow.
What both of these books stress is the importance of doing the work. Take a set amount of time, each day if possible, to devote to your personal goal and dream—whether it be twenty minutes or two hours. Put the words on the page and don’t worry about whether they are forming the most magnificent sentences or not—just get them out of your brain and onto the page.
We’d love to hear from you about your favourite books on writer’s craft. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!
Hope you make 2021 the year you take some time for yourself to achieve your writing goals!
Remember to invest in yourself this year—book a coaching session with us to help you cross finishing that book off your bucket list!