I randomly bumped into this list mentioning “16 best books about writing”. I had read a few of these books and immediately added another few on my current reading list and had an idea to make my own list, maybe five books about writing I find most important to myself.
I’ve read many books about writing. Not because of my own writing – I’m not ambitious enough (or maybe too ambitious) to really work with it – but because I never get enough of reading about the writer’s life. I want that kind of life with solitude and quiet thinking, I’ve always wanted.
Writing (in my native language) was one of those rare things I felt I can do in a decent way when I was younger and I’ve always regretted not developing it earlier when probably more capable of doing it. I never had any passion for creative writing and always thought that was a necessity. Writers are full of amazing stories, aren’t they?
And I was not. My head just was and still is full of thoughts and writing them down was the only way to put them in order. I’ve heard people loudly announce that they don’t need to write their thoughts to make them clear and good for them, I guess. Good for them.
The reason why I these days write in my very simple English instead of Finnish is because I’ve lost touch with Finnish speaking people even I live here. I have my family and a couple of friends, of course, but keeping them as my audience feels like burdening them and I need to at least imagine there’s an audience, otherwise I’m not only alone but also lonely. Most people I meet speak similar non native English as I do so sharing my thoughts in English makes sense and doesn’t feel as weird as it might first look.
I’ve read these books below several times and will with no doubt read them again.
The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life by Julia Cameron is the oldest and maybe for that reason the dearest of all my writing related books. I discovered Julia Cameron when I was living in Singapore year 2000. I started with The Artist Way and liked it but have always thought this one about writing is my favorite of all her books. It’s about how we all not only are allowed to write and have the right to do it but also should write because it’s our nature and good for the soul. What else we need to know.
Just Kids & M Train by Patti Smith are more memoirs than books about writing but describe someone I love as a writer and who I find as a model of creativity. I love these both but the first one telling about her very special relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe is one of my favorite ever books.
I adore Patti Smith and the way she puts her words on paper. The contrast between the fascinating life she has lived and how she still sees and values everything ordinary and everyday is simply amazing. The people she has met, the moments she has experienced (something the rest of us are lucky to read about) and still traveling with her suitcase full of Murakami books or spending weekends abroad in her hotel room watching television (both something I could imagine doing myself) is so comforting I can’t find words.
What I Talk about When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami is as much about being a writer as it is about running. I’ve been reading it lately because I suddenly wanted to start running (something I have never done before) and was surprised – once again – how much I love this writer.
Murakami talks about continuity and concentration and in the beginning of the book casually mentions how he has always been focused on and put first his most important relationship, the one between him and his readers, and I couldn’t stop thinking of this impressive thought throughout the whole book. Undoubtedly one the reasons why he became the world class writer he is.
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Someone Who’s Been There by Cheryl Strayed is a collection of stories originally written as “Dear Sugar” advice columns on Rumpus literary magazine. These are little stories about extremely big issues, something I read at one sitting, I couldn’t put this book down. It’s about life and not directly about writing but these two are difficult to tell apart and for me this book is one of my 5 books about writing.
On Writing by Stephen King was on the list I linked and is something I want to mention here as well. In this book King tells about how he became the writer he is today and talks for example about shame and how people will (at least try) to make you feel ashamed of what you do and believe you are wasting your talent and time. He talks about editing and how the first version is mainly for yourself and the last naturally belongs to anyone who wants to read – or criticize – it which has made me think of my own writing process.
I’ve always loved the editing part. I try to put my thoughts in order since the beginning but always first write a lot and then edit my text time after time and enjoy seeing the mess disappearing in front of my eyes. However, I have a bad (?) habit of publishing semi-edited versions to share them with a small group of people who read my texts immediately after I publish them and are probably more interested in details than the rest of the audience. I leave the versions for a couple of days for people to read and do the final editing after that and always wonder if I should regret being that revealing or not. When it’s out there it’s out there.
I have read also several other books about writing but these five (six to be exact) seem to serve the purpose best and are something I enjoy reading. If any recommendations please leave a comment or tweet me about it!