When I first set a goal, desire to learn something new, or want to cultivate something in my life, the first thing I do is read. I buy books on the topic, read online articles, and ask for research suggestions on social media. When I decided to write more, help writers, and even proclaimed I was a writer myself, I started a list of the best books for writers. I am slowly making my way through a very long list and pulling out sage advice for writers at large. I hope my notes and these books inspire you to start or even continue your writing practice.
Best Books for Writers to Read: Part One
Here are a few books for writers I recently read and the wisdom I garnered from them. If my notes pique your interest, read the whole damn thing.
1. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen KingThis classic book on the art and practice of writing is full of wisdom, humor, and sage advice. Stephen King covers practical writing skills, highlighted in the “Toolbox” section and guidance on lifestyle. He writes, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Of all the books I’ve read on writing, he is the only to address screen time, advocating that TV is “really about the last thing any aspiring writer needs.” Other memorable tips: set up your writing space in an area without distractions (think art, phone, window, etc.), set a daily writing goal, and a first draft should take no longer than three months.
Sage Advice: If you want to be a writer, read a lot and write a lot.
2. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne LamottAnne Lamott shares her wise words on writing in this enjoyable book. She even describes her own daily attempt to connect with creative muses: “You try to sit down at the same time every day. This is how you train your unconscious to kick in for you creatively.” She discusses the purpose of writing, which she believes is an effort to “expose the unexposed,” the negative impact of perfectionism, and and the true role of fear. She suggests that the right kind of fear can transmute into action for the writer: “Don’t be afraid of your material or your past… Be afraid of not getting your writing done.” So, what are you waiting for?
Sage Advice: Stop wasting time and start writing.
3. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie GoldbergWriting Down the Bones is a considered a writing how-to bible of sorts. She was one of the first authors to democratize and demystify the practice of writing and state that anyone can write. If you don’t know where to start, this is a great book, full of wisdom on the beginner’s biggest fears and the process of realizing that you are a writer: “When you accept writing as what you are supposed to do, after you’ve tried everything else… there’s finally no place left to go.” She touches on obsessing over lost or forgotten ideas and gives practical tools, like the creation of an obsession list. Most importantly, she expresses her faith in practice and writes, “don’t worry about your talent or capability: that will grow as you practice.” There’s hope for every writer who perseveres.
Sage Advice: Talent and capability grow with practice.
4. The Story of a Happy Marriage by Anne PatchettAne Patchett’s part personal memoir and part writing memoir is beautifully written and rife with advice on writing. She is realistic and sensible in her advice: “If you want to write, practice writing. Practice it for hours a day, not to come up with a story you can publish, but because you long to learn how to write well, because there is something that you alone can say.” She writes about the gritty dedication required to be a writer, the sometimes painful artistic process that requires forgiveness, mastering the craft to excavate the art, and how “the love between humans is what nails us to the earth.” Still interested in writing? Lamott writes, “Writing is a miserable, awful business. Stay with it. It is better than anything in the world.” Understand your reasons for writing to fuel your passion for the craft.
Sage Advice: To get to the art, you must master the craft.
Read More to Write More
Whether you are reading fiction, memoir, or books on writing, reading more may inspire you to write more. I’ll continue to share my favorite books on writing and other topics. If you have book suggestions, please send them to me on Instagram! If you want to join my author coaching program, reach out.