Friday, May 19, 2006

The Best Book on Writing I've Ever Read

In my life, I've read a lot of books on writing: books on form, books on plotting, books on grammar, books on genre etc. But there has always been one book that I go back to time and time again.

In the summer of 1997, I was at my favorite little independent bookstore(which was torn down a few years ago to put up a larger structure... a parking garage.), and I noticed this little brown and white paperback with a matte cover, and while I didn't know it at the time, it was going to become my faithful companion in the coming years.

The book was called The Courage To Write by Ralph Keyes, and what surprised me the most was the fact that it wasn't really concerned with the technical aspects of the writing process, rather it focused on the psychology of writing if you will.

I saw a lot of my own tendencies in the anecdotal evidence from the lives of other writers that Mr. Keyes provided. I was especially taken by the stories about E.B. White and Pat Conroy, because of their problems facing their fears and in Conroy's case, the reaction of those closest to him because of his writing. It was also the book that first introduced me to the term of "privishing", or writing that fearful authors create which they may be spectacularly good, but they are afraid to submit for publication, so they just distribute it amongst their friends and colleagues. I've known writers like that, and it breaks my heart to think that they may still be doing that, and as you read it, you will probably see yourself or others as well.

I know it is one thing for a writer to learn a new technique or exercise, but for a book to teach a writer, young or old, why they are the way they are, well, that's really something. The Courage to Write is one of those works that fundamentally changes one's worldview, and I was quite pleased to find out that it now has a companion volume called The Writer's Book of Hope, which I hope to pick up in the near future.

In short, I think it is a must-read for anyone who wants to be a professional writer. It is just that good.


Tricia said...

Great post!

I just wanted to pop in quick and let you know that you have been awarded 15 BE credits for entering the caption contest at Odd Planet. :) Sorry you didn't win though!

MC said...

Well, I gave it a good try. Thanks for stopping by. :)

Karl said...

Cool...I'm going to add that to my next Amazon purchase. Thanks for the suggestion.

MC said...

I noticed when I was looking at the sample pages at Amazon, it now has an index which makes finding particular stories that much easier, so now I have to, I don't know, super-recommend it now.