I’ve been reading BIG MAGIC: CREATIVE LIVING BEYOND FEAR by Elizabeth Gilbert (also a fantastic podcast!). If you’ve ever wanted to write, or be creative – this is THE guide for you. I’ve found it great inspiration for reflecting on projects that I’m mid-stream with, and books that I have for the future. There is a book I’ve been planning to write for years, and somehow all my other books got in the way. Thanks to Liz (that’s what I call her in my mind), I’m back on the trail of pursuing the story. She’s also great about getting rid of ideas that are going nowhere. Reading her book (I’m not so much a fan of her book Eat, Pray, Love, but more of her fiction such as The Signature of All Things and Stern Men) has made me appreciate my writing time and getting back to the basic pleasure of writing – whether for yourself or a living.
Like anyone else who enjoy’s Oprah’s wisdom, Ellen’s humour, and who has a strange fascination with Tony Robbins, I’ve often turned to writing guides as pseudo-mentors over the years. Here’s my take on a few:
1. STORY by Robert McKee
Everyone, and I mean – everyone – swears by this book. Loads of friends have been to see him in the flesh. Yes, it’s a bible – it’s a real doorstopper but it’s a goodie. Forget about the obscure movie references…but enjoy his dissection of plot through the eyes of a filmmaker. You can also watch Brian Cox play the film version of Robert McKee in one of my favourite movies, Adaptation. To be honest, I actually enjoyed that more.
Brian Cox playing Robert McKee giving a seminar in Adaptation. A long story.
2. BIRD BY BIRD: SOME INSTRUCTIONS ON WRITING AND LIFE by Anne Lamott
I remember tracking this one down through Amazon and thrilling in its flimsy US cover. It’s a meditative gem – all about how you just need tackle your writing word by word, or ‘bird by bird’. It’s a gorgeous read.
3. THIS YEAR YOU WRITE YOUR NOVEL by Walter Moseley
I won’t lie to you. This title scared the daylights out of me and it totally motivated me to write my first novel (as yet unpublished, but definitely written). My sister gave it to me just before I packed up and embarked on my writing sabbatical to Honolulu. A slim volume but it gets to the heart of the matter – you just need to start somewhere.
Another given to me by my beautiful sister, I’d never been a big fan of Maeve’s work but reading this changed everything. It’s written as a letter to her writers’ ‘club’ with wonderful advice about how to start writing. Essentially, it’s a collection of her columns. Her talk of ‘bum glue’ – the fine art of gluing yourself to the chair until the thing is written is utterly memorable and something I recommend to all writers.
5. HOW I WRITE by Janet Evanovich
Ranger or Morelli? Need I say more? If you’re a fan of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum character, you’ll love her recommendations in this writing guide. My favourite part is when she describes how she eats Cheetos while walking on the treadmill, just to keep her life in balance. A really honest guide to the (un)glamorous writing life, with a focus on snappy dialogue and memorable characters. GOLD.
Do you have any other writing guides to recommend? Good luck and happy writing!