Here’s my pick of the Top 5 books that will give you confidence and guidance, without overwhelming you.
1 – Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Anne Lamott is a wise woman and her book, Bird by Bird, is a wonderful resource, filled with humour and honesty – a must for anyone aspiring to a writing life.
Best piece of advice: “If you’re not enough before the gold medal, you won’t be enough with it.” This she borrowed from the film Cool Runnings but the sentiment definitely applies. Publishing a novel won’t suddenly make your life all rainbows so don’t seek out writing expecting it to save you or validate you. You have to love it for its own sake. Only then can it transform your life from the inside out.
2 – On Writing by Stephen King
I’m a massive Stephen King fan so I was always going to love this, but even writers who have never read his works swear by this writing guide, which is part memoir, part instruction manual and contains the same down-to-earth wisdom coupled with a connection to something ‘other’ that we fans so adore in his novels.
Best piece of advice: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” Yes, yes, yes, yes and YES. No courses, seminars, or special pens are gonna do that work for you.
3 – The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
The language is this book can be a little cheesy at times, but if you can get past that, The Artist’s Way might change your writing life. Cameron advises writing three pages of A4 a day first thing (Morning Pages) and taking yourself out on an artist’s date once a week, alone – both of which practises which can be transformative, if you give yourself permission to do them.
Best piece of advice: “Serious art is born from serious play.” Don’t forget to enjoy it. Nobody is forcing you to write, so try not to be a martyr about it. After all, if you’re not enjoying it what chance does the reader have?
4 – Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
Bringing Zen into writing, this book published in 1986 changed the way people thought about writing practise. Goldberg’s approach is so simple and yet so powerful, with its focus on free writing and timed writing exercises, carried out without judgement or perfectionism, allowing writers to tap into the wealth of creativity within.
Best piece of advice: “Keep your hand moving.” If you stop, you’ll question what you’ve written, you’ll scrub it out, change it, censor it. Instead, surge on, just allowing whatever is inside of you to emerge.
5 – Your favourite novel
Ultimately, the best way to work out what it is you’re trying to do with your own work is to figure out why you love the things you love. What is it about your favourite novel that charms you and grips you? Why does it engage you where others don’t? The clearer you get on why you love it, breaking down what that author is doing and how, the better idea you’ll have of what it is YOU are trying to achieve.