Happy Summer, friends!
Summer is my absolute favorite time of year (I’m a summer baby), so even though the world is strange, I’m finding lots of joy in not wearing shoes, or sweaters, eating lots of Popsicles, drinking iced coffee, journaling on my balcony in the soft summer mornings and reading long into the evening. I hope you’re finding this season more gentle and inspiring than the last!
This summer I’m thinking about craft books (in anticipation of my own, Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction, coming out this fall). And thinking about craft books has me thinking about the ones that have had big influences on my writing and creative practices, particularly those favorites on my shelves that I have read many, many times over the years.
So while this list isn’t meant to be comprehensive (I’ve read many other craft books that aren’t on this list!), here are my favorites:
On Creativity in General
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
I LOVE this book. It’s not writing specific but instead addresses the “battle” of the creator (you) against the “enemy”: resistance. I also love his micro chapters and was very inspired by his format when writing my own book.
The Artists Way by Julia Cameron
If one book put me on the path to taking myself seriously as a writer, it was this one. I first read it in 1995 (I’ve revisited it many, many times) and never looked back. Structured like a 12-week DIY creative recovery program, Cameron addresses common blocks and fears, and her two main tools of recovery–morning pages and artist’s dates—I’ve now been doing for 25 years.
On Writing Specifically
Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale
I was first assigned this book as an undergrad, then again as a grad student, and I’ve been recommending it to my own students for years. Again, this is not going to teach you how to write, but it invites you on a stylish, esoteric meditation into the glory of words and sentences themselves.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
A classic. I love her snarky humor and the way she doesn’t take herself too seriously or make her writing too precious. Her opening chapter, Shitty First Drafts, is required reading for all my college students. She addresses both technique and other writing life stumbling blocks like jealousy and fear, and she ultimately reminds us that the writing always happens one step at a time, bird by bird.
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
This book is a collection of Bradbury’s essays about the writing (and overall creative) process as well as a glimpse into his world. Written at different times in his career, I especially like watching how certain themes show up over and over (and some interesting asides like the process of making a movie from one of his books).
Ernest Hemingway on Writing edited by Larry Phillips
This is another compilation of writing wisdoms, most of them culled from Hemingway’s personal letters and other correspondences. What I like about this book is the wisdoms are truly bite-sized and could serve almost as a daily inspiration book. And ya’ll know how much I love Papa.
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
This book is over 40 years old and I believe it’s truly timeless. In very short, often funny, and easily digestible chapters, Goldberg addresses both the micro: writing advice and specific exercises—as well as the macro: the big picture of “being a writer” and the trials of a writing life.
Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande
This book was initially published in 1934…and considering that 100 years ago women weren’t commonly regarded as authorities on writing, I find this book particularly unique. Brande doesn’t focus on technique but instead on creative mindset, self-commitment and personal “guts”–she demystifies the fantasy but makes you want to begin writing now.
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
This slim book is a long love letter to creativity. Reading it, you feel let into Dillard’s personal process and conspiratorial details as well as feeling validated about the love, hate, and love of writing.
On Writing by Stephen King
Another classic, King’s book is half writing advice and half personal memoir of his life as a writer, but he somehow blends these two seamlessly. What I love is that in true King fashion, this book is still a page turner—his signature storytelling skills at play even in nonfiction.
On Writing Flash Fiction Specifically
A Pocket Guide to Flash Fiction by Randall Brown
A veteran of flash and long time teacher, Brown’s little book is a back pocket gem and a DIY for flash writers and the flash-curious. A inspiration to me, this book is a great primer for those wanting to cross over to flash fiction as well as great writing advice for all writers.
Brevity: A Flash Fiction Handbook by David Galef
Another flash specific book, Galef’s book brings lots of examples and exercises to the discussion, so this is the perfect DIY and/or teaching text for those who want more guidance through the many exciting ways flash fiction stories can manifest.
What are your favorite craft books not on this list?
And I’m so glad my book will be joining the ranks of these and other great craft books this fall! Pre-orders will be available later this summer/early fall—make sure you’re on my mailing list (or forward to others) to get the first announcements!
P.S. Can’t wait that long? I ran a “preview” generative online workshop using chapters of the book in June, and it was a full house and so much fun! So I’m running it again at the end of July: come write with us!
Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction
July 27-31, 2020
Questions? Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
**In solidarity with Corona-craziness, I will continue to offer (limited) discounts on all my classes this summer.