Writing and Other Attrocities

I’ve read dozens of books about writing. In fact, reading books about writing is one of my favorite ways to procrastinate from writing. But the best advice I’ve ever received about writing is this: Commit to writing for 15 minutes a day. That’s it. Just 15 minutes. There’s no way you can’t carve out 15 minutes from a hectic day to jot down a few thoughts. Even when I’m bone tired, I can throw back the covers, make myself get up out of bed, and go into my office to write for 15 minutes, And nine times out of ten once I start, I end up writing far longer than I intended. Like tonight, when writing for 15 minutes has stretched into two hours…

Here are my favorite books on writing:

Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro–I met Dani at a publishing party years ago. I recognized in her a fellow introvert and book lover. So when she mentioned to me that she had just written a book about writing, I was quick to mentally add it to the top of my reading list. Dani is a great writer, and this book turned out to be one of  the best I’ve read about the writing process and writing life, in a very long time. It’s a meditation and musing informed by her 20 years of teaching and writing, at once a moving memoir and a survival guide for the creative spirit.

Bird by Bird and Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott–Obviously, Bird by Bird is one of the bibles for the tribe of writers. By now most of us have heard the story of Anne’s father helping her brother with a school report on birds, reminding her overwhelmed brother to just take it “bird by bird.” The book is filled with great reminders, tricks, and support. But Operating Instructions has become a writing resourse for me too. Anne’s journal of the first year with her son reminds me of the kind of support one needs to live, how often we need to let go of things, and how much better we are than we think we are–all important reminders for writers, or at least for this one.