Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Favorite: The Best Book on Writing I've Ever Read

Because I am continuing to work on that television pilot, I have been thinking about the writing process as of late (and I am sure you have noticed that the contents of this blog as of late haven't been the choicest of cuts truth be told).

But even now, I still consult one book to understand the psychology of the process. This is a review of that title I wrote a few years ago.


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.


Arjan said...

hmm I'm not really planning to write a book or anything, but I wíll keep this one in mind.

MC said...

It has good stuff that are applicable across the arts really.

Micgar said...

Sounds like a great book! More into the act of writing than actual style? I would like to check it out. Like Arjan -just to check it out!