I go back every once in a while and reread the books that have always rewarded me with inspiration and encouragement. Especially now as I’m completing my book and can almost see a glimmer of light flickering at the end of the tunnel, I find I need that boost, the reassurance my work is not crap and I’m not totally delusional to think I can write.
Here are three books that jump-started my writing life and have a prominent place in my bookcase. Each time I revisit them I discover surprises I had missed before, remember old truisms now imbedded in my writing DNA and realize again the warm support as if each author is an old friend who knows me well, warts and all, and still believes I can succeed.
Natalie Goldberg. Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life was the first book I read about actually being a writer. I remember learning about the book in a short article in a woman’s magazine back in the ‘80’s. I went to Barbara’s Bookstore in Oak Park, Illinois, bought the book and immediately devoured it. Later I also bought Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg’s first book. But Wild Mind remains my first love. Goldberg tells the novice to lose control while writing, letting the wild mind take over, ignoring the “critic” or “editor” in one’s head. She details the life of a writer, gives permission to indulge in one’s passions for writing and gives exercises at the end of the chapters to prime the pump.
Anne Lamott. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life showcases Lamott’s irreverent and awesome writing style while bringing the craft of writing into a comfort zone that anyone can attain. It’s one of the few books on writing that chokes me when I read some parts. And then she coins the phase, “shitty first draft,” which I have written plenty.
Julia Cameron. The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity was my bible in the ‘90’s although I never could complete all the exercises she recommends doing to free oneself to be more creative. Although not a book centered on the writing process per se, it gave me permission to spend less time on housework and more time chasing after my muse. Cameron had a book signing in Borders Book store in White Flint Mall in Rockville, MD where a woman in the audience raised her hand. I was sure she was not a plant since she had a toddler by her side and a newborn in a carriage. She said Cameron’s book helped her get an article published. I went home and reread the book probably for the forth time but, alas, I still could not complete all those exercises.
Learning to write is an ongoing process. In future posts I will share other books that have taught and inspired me over the years.
On another note:
I was so happy to read on the AJN blog about two writing workshops for nurses.
Lastly, a plug to nurses who might live in or near New York City and who want to do more writing about their experiences, to develop a more sustainable writing practice. There’s a writing weekend for nurses cosponsored by the Center for Health Media and Policy at Hunter College and the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing coming up July 20–22, and it’s taught by some fantastic people. Also, we’d be remiss not to mention an upcoming weekend writing workshop (August 11–12) taught by AJN‘s clinical managing editor (and a marvelous scholar and poet) Karen Roush in Briarcliff, NY.
I hope more writing workshops open in the future for nurses in other locations around the country. But, in the meantime, check out the books I mentioned above and just start writing.
What are your favorite books on writing?
What amazing insight into the land of Nursing, then and now. Thanks so much for presenting this ongoing development so well for those of us outside the profession.
I wonder why these are also some of my favorite books. Could it be I was first introduced to them by staying over in your study gazing at the books on your bookshelves?!
Thank you very much for plugging Telling Stories, Finding Voice: A Writing Weekend for Nurses. Karen Roush, clinical managing editor of AJN, will be our keynote speaker. A brochure describing the weekend is here: http://bit.ly/M1LQFn
To all of the nurses who write, we still have room in the workshop–please join us!
I have a few other books to add to your list, Brenda Ueland’s “If You Want to Write” and Elizabeth Berg’s book “Escaping Into the Open” and finally, “Writing Alone and With Others by Pat Schneider founder of Amherst Writers and Artists Workshop Method. I loved what you wrote about the inspiration you received from these books and so glad you are fulfilling your goal now of finishing your book!
Thanks for adding your favorite books to the list.