I picked up a book called The Pocket Muse by Monica Wood (a fellow Writer’s Digest author) and took it to Starbucks for a date. Over an afternoon Americano, I fell in love. The combination of truth and encouragement was exactly what I’d needed at the moment. I’d found a new friend.
Books have always been friends to me, and inspirational writing books have always held a special place in my heart. I’m sure many other writers feel the same way. In real life, I haven’t always had a pal saying to me, “You can be a writer, if that’s what you really want to do.” I did not personally have the chance to know E.B. White, who said, “Writing is an act of faith and nothing else.” (Though I would challenge him on that, since it strikes me as a somewhat romanticized oversimplification.)
What I’m getting at is that any person who feels called to write deserves to hear the same encouraging voices I heard, at least and until real, live encouraging voices of writer-friends can be acquainted. Maybe you can’t pick up the phone and get a writing friend on the other end of the line. Maybe you can’t Skype your old writing buddy overseas and talk screen-to-screen about the current exciting developments in your careers. Maybe you don’t have writing students who have become friends.
Therefore if the first encouraging voice you hear comes from inanimate objects (books), what of it? Books may not be alive; yet they sometimes seem to be. They live on the shelf always within arm’s reach and are there when you need them. People may or may not always be this consistent. Certainly if the people in your life are not, I hope you will avail yourself of the lovely encouraging voices that encouraged me.
So take a look at my home office bookshelf, and meet the books that have withstood the test of time and many house cleanings. Quite possibly, they are among your favorites, as well:
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
Before life coaches were popular, Natalie Goldberg had a spiritual teacher and the world was ripe for that perspective. Writing Down the Bones is not just a book about Goldberg’s philosophy and teaching tools on the writing life, it’s the story of a woman struggling to transform her life. Because of this, she’s always besides you, and she never talks down to you.
What is Natalie Goldberg up to now? I had to find out. See for yourself.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
It’s no surprise that another one of my favorites is about the struggle to become a writer despite the challenges we are dealt in life. How can a writer succeed? It’s all in the title – bird by bird and word by word. There really isn’t any other way. Readers, myself included, love Lamott for her transparency, her humor and her willingness to tackle tough subjects and then turn them into poetry. My only regret is that she doesn’t, and has never to my knowledge had, a website.
Want to learn more about Anne Lamott? Check out her Wikipedia entry.
The Artist’s Way and The Right to Write by Julia Cameron
Julia Cameron was my matchmaker. Because of The Artist’s Way, I met my husband. I also learned sustainable creative habits I still rely on today. But The Right to Write will also always have a special place in my heart. My copy is signed. It’s punctuated with condensed truth and wisdom, just like everything that Julia writes. I consider her a pioneer and champion of the creative spirit. Cynics can find their own heroes.
What’s Julia up to now? Here’s her official website.
It is no coincidence that the first books I’ve written have ended up on the writing reference shelves in bookstores — that’s where I discovered some of my earliest writing friends. If you care to share yours, I’d be happy to hear about them.
Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer’s Digest Books). She started her platform “for fun” seven years ago and ended up on Good Morning America. She teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country.