Thursday, November 17, 2011
Like John Gardiner's book, The Art of Fiction, this one is very helpful because of its honest directness and simplicity. An easy read, it sounds like she's in the room, talking only to you. An important work because it dispels advice on technique and instead gives bare-bones advice about who writers are and what they must essentially do. In essence, she advises how to get the butt in the chair, and she tells you what to do in order to keep it there and to be productive. A large part self-help, it encourages the writer to have a positive, meditative and courageous mindset before you even sit down to type.
Published in 1934, it was unique in its day, and in this one, because of how it eschews technique in favor of mental and psychological stimulation. Her bottom-line: If you can't sit down consistently to write, you're not a writer and you're better off finding another avenue to express yourself. As John Gardner wrote a bit later: "Writers write." Stephen King's book says essentially the same thing, but is even better in a way because he also gives you several memoir-anecdotes and some practical advice on what to do once your butt is consistently in the chair and once you are consistently typing.
This book was written two years before what could be considered its companion book: Wake Up and Live!, which sold even better in its day, over 2,000,000 copies. Both are recommended, as is Stephen King's On Writing and John Gardner's book. King's is by far the longest (of course) and they're all indispensable. Buy those, and Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, and you won't need anything else to help you to sit your butt down and write. Re-reading any (or all) of them during blah times is highly recommended, too.