There are countless articles, books, guides, manifestos, podcasts, videos, and other resources that all dig into the element of writing. Many dig deep into the writing life, others focus more on content and format and grammar, others look at structure and plot. For a long time I’ve devoured many writing books, thinking that at some point I’d come across the definitive guide, the Holy Grail of a book on writing.
But there is none. While there are countless incredible books and guides and insights on the act of writing (whether fiction or nonfiction), not to mention countless bad ones, there is no single go-to book that will cover all the bases of everything a writer needs or wants or should keep in mind.
Because every writer is different. Every writer has different needs, different desires for what they want to create, different inspirations and personal cracks in their souls. These all lead us in various directions, though many of them parallel to one another.
I’ve come to look at writing books as individual tools in a toolbox. Each has something to offer for different aspects of writing. Some on editing, some on the fear related to writing, some on actual structure, some are more general collections on essays on the writer’s craft (which are, in many cases I believe, a deeply personal matter to the author who wrote that particular book, which is what makes them inspiring).
Rest assured, such guides can be great and wondrous things to have in one’s arsenal of resources, but it can be easy to become distracted and overwhelmed by such a vast world of insight and advice. This can even be counterproductive for some writers, especially introverted ones who have something humming within them but they struggle to get to a point where they’re channeling it through writing (such has the case been with me).
The key is to remember that while writing can be the most difficult thing on the planet, it is, by its very act, one of the most simple. Writing a story, with pen and paper (or keys and screen), finish, publish (or submit), done. OH MY GOD THAT IS SO SIMPLE.
In all seriousness, there is, I feel, an invisible simplicity to writing and I’ve learned that it can be very easy to get caught up in all the “here’s how you do this,” or “here’s why you should do that” advice. These suggestions and advice are not inherently bad, but to look at them all as gospel rather than specific tools you can use at your own choosing can actually hinder the process. The simplicity comes in the act itself. Write, and you are a writer. It’s simultaneously a difficult task and a simple task. But the simplicity of it tends to get shadowed out, overlooked.
Say you know you have something in you that you need to write, or rather you know writing is actually the element in your life you need to make more of a reality, but good lord, where do you start?
I’ll tell you where to start…
Now, do it, go, quick, leave this blog and get your ass over to a blank document or a notebook or any kind of blank page at all. Just get there. Write a sentence. Do not think about it, don’t look at it, don’t read it, just write the thing. I’ll wait.
Okay . . . back? Good. Now, guess what? See what you did? See that little line there? Yes, well, congratulations, because you are now a writer. And you will continue to be a writer so long as you continue writing and don’t stop. (I am also literally yelling this at myself, by the way.)
And was it terrifying? Was it off-putting to be cast into the void like that and asked to create on a whim? Such a task usually daunts me if I think too much on it — and that’s the point. Thinking too long and hard on this can get in the way. Which, again, for an introvert like me, it gets even more complex because I overthink everything. And I’m not exaggerating — I literally overthink almost every waking thought that crosses my brain. Every small action has ripple effects far and wide in my mind and I make a massive deal out of nearly every situation. I used to hate myself for being this way, but in the past few years I’ve come to learn why I’m like this and more and more I’m embracing it. And that simple shift in mindset has made an incredible difference.
It’s hard to avoid the paradox on writing here. Simple, okay. Difficult, fine. But both?? These are hard waters to navigate, but once you get a feel for the current and start to understand how you can manipulate your own boat, it becomes not only easier to face the open water, but more enjoyable.
If you’ve found yourself getting caught in the noise like I have in the past, bring it back to what drives you to write in the first place. Think about the simple act of writing, think about the flow of it and then let it flow.
Okay, all that said, if you do need some guides on writing to get started, a few I could recommend include the following. Many of these books I’ve referred to in the past, some are new, some are widely known. None of these authors has asked that I endorse their work — I simply have found these to be incredibly inspiring and beneficial items in my toolbox:
- On Writing (Stephen King)
- The War of Art (Steven Pressfield)
- Zen in the Art of Writing (Ray Bradbury)
- Write Within Yourself (William Kenower)
- The INFJ Writer (Lauren Sapala)
- Blessed Are the Weird (Jacob Nordby)
- The Writer’s Guide to Persistence (Jordan Rosenfeld)
- The Kick-Ass Writer (Chuck Wendig)
- Writing Down Your Soul (Janet Conner)
- The Artist’s Way (Julia Cameron)
- Story Engineering and Story Physics (Larry Brooks)
Be at ease knowing it’s hard to find simplicity in writing, but it is there, however abstract it may be. The guidance out there is strictly that — guidance. Allow it to inspire you and take what you need as you move along the path. What’s really going to drive yourself to the page is already within you.
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