I have many books on my shelves about writing, but these are a few of my favorites. Click on the book to order from Amazon.
*The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron The Artist’s Way is the seminal book on the subject of creativity. An international bestseller, millions of readers have found it to be an invaluable guide to living the artist’s life. Still as vital today-or perhaps even more so-than it was when it was first published one decade ago, it is a powerfully provocative and inspiring work.
In a new introduction to the book, Julia Cameron reflects upon the impact of The Artist’s Way and describes the work she has done during the last decade and the new insights into the creative process that she has gained. Updated and expanded, this anniversary edition reframes The Artist’sWay for a new century.
*Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self by Sarah Ban Breathnach From the author of Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy comes a guided excavation for women who suspect that there’s something more to life than the top layer pursuits of money, sex, and love. In service to these restless souls who want to scratch beneath the surface, Ban Breathnach offers tidbit-sized essays that help women unearth pay dirt–their reason for being.
Using archaeology as her frame of reference, Ban Breathnach suggests imaginative exercises at the end of each chapter, which she refers to as “Field Work.” Although it occasionally feels overdone, the archaeology metaphor works well–helping readers unearth their past choices and circumstances to better understand the soul’s current mission.
Early in the book, Ban Breathnach offers this enticing invitation to go on a spiritual dig: “Besides the fact that your soul is one of the last unlooted sources of the miraculous, with discoveries as spectacular as any found in the Delta of Venus or Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, you can embark on a soul trip and be back before anyone even notices you’re missing. They might be curious about that gleam in your eye and that flush on your cheek, but I’ll never tell if you won’t. Are you game? We’re heading to the sacred site of your soul.” —Gail Hudson
*Life’s Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Practice by Christina Baldwin In this classic book you will discover the intimate journey of personal and spiritual development that is possible through the practice of journal writing. In Life’s Companion, acclaimed author Christina Baldwin offers readers guidance and inspiration to this powerful way of expanding our inner horizons and opening our minds and spirits to a deeper relationship with the world and the people around us.
Complete with enlightening quotations, exercises, sample journal entries, and techniques to nurture and encourage the writer and seeker within you, Life’s Companion will help you transform journaling into a powerful tool for self-growth, heightened awareness, and personal fulfillment.
Journalution by Sandy Grason Studies confirm what avid journalers have always known: writing helps you move forward in your life, heal, and realize your dreams. This inspiring book balances basic instructions in the art of journaling with intimate entries from the author and workshop participants. Exercises and prompts will gently encourage you to open your journal, and with pen or pencil in hand, begin to transform your life today!
Room to Write by Bonni Goldberg What makes someone a writer? A writer writes, expressing the world through synthesis of mind and magic, sensuality and spirit. With both humor and reverence, Room to Write playfully prevails on us to experience the world through a writer’s eyes, and respond to the creative sparks that charge good writing.
In two hundred daily essays, the author invites the reader–whether an experienced writer or someone just starting out–into the crucibles from which creative writing erupts: emotion, imagination, intellect, and soul. Once there, she urges the reader to grab a pen, grasp a keyboard, and seize the moment when perception fires revelation and language becomes art.
Each page features an essay exploring an aspect of the writing process, an exercise to get the reader writing, and a quotation to tickle the mind and keep the writing going. Ultimately, readers learn about how they write, and how to trust their intuition.
Room to Write is a collection of beguiling provocations, an irresistible invitation to all those who believe that writing, like any creative endeavor, is a way of life.
*The Playful Way to Serious Writing by Roberta Allen For anyone who has ever dreaded the blank page or struggled to find something to write and then agonized over how best to write it, or has simply found writing to be hard work, The Playful Way to Serious Writing breaks down common writing barriers and frees the writer within. Drawing on extensive experience in teaching creative writing and a lifetime of free artistic expression, Roberta Allen, novelist, short story writer, and author of Fast Fiction, has created a unique book of writing exercises packed with hundreds of verbal directives and visual cues.
The key, Allen says, is ENERGY, “the force behind the words, the desire to bring forth something that has never before existed.” Allen’s ENERGY METHOD, which focuses creativity without interruption or that nagging inner critic, can be used for any type of creative effort at any level — stories, novels, plays, memoirs, sketches, journals, and more. Attractive, engaging, funny, and free ranging, The Playful Way to Serious Writing is more than just a writing guide — it is an endless sourcebook of ideas and a trusted creative companion.
*The Right to Write by Julia Cameron What if everything we have been taught about learning to write was wrong? In The Right to Write, Julia Cameron‘s most revolutionary book, the author of the bestselling self-help guide The Artist’s Way, asserts that conventional writing wisdom would have you believe in a false doctrine that stifles creativity. With the techniques and anecdotes in The Right to Write, readers learn to make writing a natural, intensely personal part of life.
Cameron’s instruction and examples include the details of the writing processes she uses to create her own bestselling books. She makes writing a playful and realistic as well as a reflective event. Anyone jumping into the writing life for the first time and those already living it will discover the art of writing is never the same after reading The Right to Write.
*Write from the Heart by Leslea Newman If you’ve always wanted to be a writer but feel like you don’t have anything to say, this book is for you. If you know you have a scintillating story to tell or a profound revelation to share but don’t know how to get started, this book is for you, too. In WRITE FROM THE HEART, author Lesléa Newman helps you break down mental obstacles and move past the proverbial blank page with a multitude of exercises designed to get you writing.
By encouraging women to use their own life experiences as a platform from which to write, Newman removes the fear and enables fledgling storytellers to feel confident about their abilities. With practical advice on structure and technique as well as gentle encouragement and support, WRITE FROM THE HEART helps women turn their writer’s block into page-turning prose.
Writing Down Your Soul by Janet Conner You could pray, or meditate, or dream, or visit a shaman, or a minister, or a hypnotherapist. With so many routes into inner consciousness, why write? Of all the ways to get in touch with God, as you understand God… to hear the small, still voice pointing you in the right direction… why take the time to write? One reason: it works. It works amazingly well. If you want to engage in a vibrant conversation with the wisdom that dwells just a hair below your conscious awareness, write. Write every day, at approximately the same time, with passion, honesty, and the intention of speaking with and listening to the voice within.
Janet Conner was escaping a terrible situation of domestic abuse. While trying to figure out how she and her son could live and how they could eat, she realized she had hit rock bottom. With no other advisors, she listened to her own inner voice, which told her to start writing. As she did, Janet’s inner voice gained clarity and strength, and she felt an incredible connection to the divine, and almost immediately miracles began to happen. Today, research scientists in psychology, physics, biochemistry, and neurology are providing peeks into what consciousness is and how it works. Their findings give us intriguing clues as to what is actually happening in and through our bodies, minds, and spirits as we roll pen across paper. Writing Down Your Soul explores some of this research and instructs readers how to access the power and beauty of their own deepest selves.
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg For more than twenty years Natalie Goldberg has been challenging and cheering on writers with her books and workshops. In her groundbreaking first book, she brings together Zen meditation and writing in a new way. Writing practice, as she calls it, is no different from other forms of Zen practice —”it is backed by two thousand years of studying the mind.”
This new edition, which marks almost twenty years since the original book’s publication, includes a new preface in which Goldberg expresses her trademark enthusiasm for writing practice, as well as a depth of appreciation for the process that has come with time and experience. Also included is an interview with the author in which she reflects on the relationship between Zen sitting practice and writing, the importance of place, and the power of memory.
Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg Twenty years ago Natalie Goldberg’s classic, Writing Down the Bones, broke new ground in its approach to writing as a practice. Now, Old Friend from Far Away — her first book since Writing Down the Bones to focus solely on writing — reaffirms Goldberg’s status as a foremost teacher of writing, and completely transforms the practice of writing memoir.
To write memoir, we must first know how to remember. Through timed, associative, and meditative exercises, Old Friend from Far Away guides you to the attentive state of thought in which you discover and open forgotten doors of memory. At once a beautifully written celebration of the memoir form, an innovative course full of practical teachings, and a deeply affecting meditation on consciousness, love, life, and death, Old Friend welcomes aspiring writers of all levels and encourages them to find their unique voice to tell their stories.
Goldberg’s enormously popular workshops have given countless students the ability to heed the call to write. Old Friend from Far Away recreates her trademark workshop style with its terse, demanding writing “sprints” that train the hand and mind to quicken their pace and give up conscious control. These exercises divert the eye from the obvious and redirect it to the tactile details we miss, the embarrassments we pass over, and the complications we overlook in the blur of everyday living. Goldberg writes, “No one says it, but writing induces the state of love.” Old Friend from Far Away guides us into that state of love, where heightened attention and a rhythm of focus allow the patterns and details of the past to emerge on the page.
Millions of Americans want to write about their lives. With Old Friend as the road map for getting started and following through, writers and readers will gain a deeper understanding of their own minds, learn to connect with their senses in order to find the detail and truth that give their written words power and authenticity, and unfold the natural structure of the stories they carry within. An absolute joy to read, it is a profound affirmation of the capacity of the written word to remember the past, free us from it, and forever transform the way we think about ourselves and our lives. Like Writing Down the Bones, it will become an old friend to which readers return again and again.
The Writing Book by Kate Grenville This is a practical workbook that guides writers, step-by-step, toward completing a work of fiction. Free of generalizing platitudes, it instead focuses on the specifics of craft: from getting started, discovering characters, writing dialogue and description, to evaluating the design of a draft, and of course revision. Exercises found in this book are actual techniques working writers rely on.
They include speed writing, sorting and grouping, rewriting an incident in various styles, experimenting with tone, voice, syntax, and more. Designed to cover every stage of the process—from brainstorming an idea to the final draft—these practical suggestions help writers to liberate their creativity and to refine existing work. Excerpts from published authors are also included and help to illustrate the techniques taught.
*Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland “Not into outlining? Then someone did not demonstrate it for you the way Weiland has in her book. If you can make a quick trip grocery list, you can outline your next manuscript to benefit your process, using Weiland’s guide.”—Leslie Hultgren
“…this is one of the few writing craft books I have read start to finish, was easy to apply to my writing immediately, and helped me follow through on my first draft.”—F. Colley
“Ms. Weiland presents a wonderful roadmap for writing while still encouraging you to take those sidetrips that will make your story better. I feel like I can walk the ‘high wire’ of my imagination because I have the safety net of my outline below it all.”—D. Hargan
*Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland Why do some stories work and others don’t? The answer is structure. In this IPPY and NIEA Award-winning guide from the author of the bestselling Outlining Your Novel, you will learn the universal underpinnings that guarantee powerful plot and character arcs. An understanding of proper story and scene structure will show you how to perfectly time your story’s major events and will provide you with an unerring standard against which to evaluate your novel’s pacing and progression.
Seeds From a Birch Tree: Writing Haiku and the Spiritual Journey by Clark Strand The subtle simplicity of haiku depends on the complex balance of structure, object, image, and impression. The 17-syllable poem combines two phrases, arranged in three lines; balanced by a pause that presents the picture of a seasonal object as it exists for the poet, the poem demands freshness and a total lack of pretension. To achieve such a response is an ongoing process, suggests Strand, a Zen Buddhist monk, senior editor of Tricycle, and founder of New York Haikukai. Writing haiku is a meditation for this process, a spiritual journey toward an understanding of the world and the poet’s place in it. Strand maintains that progressing toward spirituality and writing haiku are interdependent and mutually beneficial. Libraries that need a basic introduction to haiku should turn to The Essential Haiku (LJ 6/1/94). Strand’s slim volume focuses more on the struggle to maintain spiritual discipline.
Just revisiting post & will visit bookshop during my week’s stay in a local seaside resort & investigate. May even be another post about another coastal visit. 🙂
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LuAnne Holder said:
Glad you linked to this page today. I already love many of these books. I used Writing Down the Bones when I taught freshman composition, wow, about 28 years ago. And my tattered copy of Baldwin’s Daily Companion I’ve read more times than I can count. Thank you for the new book ideas I had not known about before. And I have Goldberg’s memoir book sitting on my shelf as I write – unopened. I’m pulling that one down today. Thank you, Lady C for your inspiration. 🙂
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I’m glad you found some you weren’t familiar with. Julia Cameron remains my favorite writing coach. 😀
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LuAnne Holder said:
I have never read The Artist’s Way but my writers group went through its sequel about a year ago called Vein of Gold. It was great to go through it with other writers.
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I felt like Vein of Gold covered a lot more artistic stuff than just writing. I’m not artistic, so I didn’t really warm up to that one as much. In fact, I’m not sure I got all the way through it. But I think I’ve read/journaled through pert near everything she’s written up to about the last ten or so years. A lot of her stuff tends to be repeats now. I’m sure she needs that stead source of income. I just bought It’s Never Too Late To Begin Again. Haven’t had time to get into it yet. One of her books was just strange. There were no chapters or an index or anything. Made me crazy! But for the life of me I can’t remember which one it was and I’m too lazy to get up and look! I did, however, enjoy her creative memoir, Floor Sample.
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The Garden Sanctuary Reflexology said:
ahhhh….music to my ears. I am just about to post about my journal books and I encouraged my (6!) followers to let me know if they have any other ‘How To’s’ out there. I can see from your list that I have missed a few off which is very exciting for me. More books to try:)) It did make me think that there aren’t many journaling books on the market even with your list and mine, it doesn’t amount to many. Such a shame but maybe we ought to write a Kindle book inlay some point. One can never have enough x
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I sure agree about there not being a great selection. A book about different types of journals would have been very interesting. I have several going on. And you had a great list on your blog, too!
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Based on this page, I got the Weiland book on Outlining, and I have to say that I’m really enjoying it! So creative, with ideas I’ve not thought of before. Thanks for recommending it!
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This is a fabulous list! Have the Kate Grenville book and worked through it! Wonderful. So many resources here. Thanks so much Calen!
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You’re the one that sent it to me. I loved it.
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