Ah, writing…what a tricky craft it is. Honestly I feel the best gifts a writer can receive is that of time and support. I believe we all have some version of a writer inside of us because we all have something to say. How one decides to get that out is entirely up to them. Whether one chooses to write words for the world to see or just to navigate through feelings in a journal, I feel the exercise of writing is therapeutic, transformative, and a lil’bit addicting. One just needs the time to explore and pursue it however they choose and support, which I feel can be offered in the pages books like these I’ve chosen.
Don’t get me wrong writing can be hard. For all kinds of reasons. Facing emotions can be difficult when journaling or writing about personal matters, there’s rules and regulations to follow when developing story for narrative writing or screenplays, and let’s not forget the dreaded writers block. No matter what kind of writing it is, it all comes with challenges, but there are amazing resources out there to help ease the pain a bit. I’ve come up with a list of what I, and a few other writers I know, consider must reads for anyone pursuing the craft. After all, most good writers are avid readers and in those moments when the inspiration just won’t come, it’s always reassuring to know you’re not alone and grab a nugget or two from those who’ve paved the way before us. So, if you’re looking to encourage a loved one who’s an aspiring writer, or want to treat yourself, I’m confident that one or more of the books listed below would be a great addition to any bookshelf and a source of inspiration to ring in 2017.
- Save The Cat (The last book on screenwriting you’ll ever need) / by, Blake Snyder: A great go-to book that breaks down writing a script into a tangible, usable formula. I honestly don’t know a screenwriter at this point who doesn’t refer to this book in some way. This offers it’s version of how your typical screenplay should be written. If one were breakdown a film using his formula or “beat sheet”, I believe that most “commercial films” fit. It’s, of course, up to the writer to come up with all the brilliance that will become the next epic film, but using the information found in this book, I think would give a good foundation of the basics of when and where things should fall when writing a screenplay.
- Elephant Bucks (An insider’s guide to writing for TV sitcoms) / by, Sheldon Bull: What “Save the Cat” is for screenwriting “Elephant Books” is for the television comedy writer. Recommended by a sitcom writer friend of mine when I was writing “WIP”, this book breaks down a formula as well. While there have been major changes in televsion with cable and the internet, if you pay attention, most things will surprisingly still fall within the standard formula. Bull, in his no nonsense way, breaks down the industry and gives tools that are not only useful but necessary to be better equipped for the pitfalls of “the business”. Like the above, this book is useful for both the aspiring as well as experienced entertainment industry writer.
- The WAR of ART (Break through the blocks and win your inner creative battles) / by, Steven Pressfield: This book gets the reader to dig a bit deeper into the fact that the things blocking the ability to create just may be spiritual in nature. Pressfield refers to such a thing as “Resistance” giving it a personality of sorts and says it could be keeping one from fulling their true calling. He then offers the reader insights on how to win the war, which it can certainly feel like at times, against “Resistance” and recapturing their art, whatever that may be.
- You Are a Writer (so start acting like one) / by, Jeff Goins: This is a super easy read and feels like a supportive pep talk from a good friend who understands the ebbs and flows of the writer life. Goins, an published author and blogger, gives solid insights in to what one faces in the journey as a writer and equips the reader with strategies they can apply right away. It’s very of the moment in both it’s approach and material and is not only inspiring but practical in getting the words out of your head, on to the page, or blog, and in front of those who need to be reading them.
- The Writer’s Devotional / by, Amy Peters: First of all this book would make a great gift because it’s super pretty and feels good to the touch. It’s lovely and really nicely constructed, but beyond that, the pages of this devotional are filled with quotes, excerpts, and point’s of view from classic writers as well as contemporary. It takes the reader through a different type of writing exercise each day of the week, 365 days of the year. Some exercises may be more fun than others, however if continued, those new experiences could spark inspiration that otherwise may not have come. Like any devotional it’s purpose is to keep one engaged, encouraged, and most of all writing. Help get 2017 off on the right foot with this daily devotional that assists in developing the daily habit of writing.
- The Right to Write (An invitation and initiation into the writing life) / by, Juila Cameron: Another great book by the writer of famed, “The Artists Way”. Cameron shares personal stories of her evolution as a best selling writer in many genres, and then takes you through exercises at the end of each chapter that cause you to dig deep and get honest with yourself in order to free you from barriers that may be blocking the creative flow. The exercises cause one to really honor the time writing, calling one to create the appropriate atmosphere and time to give it what it needs and deserves. Granted her “writing space” as she describes it all, secluded and glorious in the woods or something, is quite different than mine, I still dug the idea of considering my surroundings and really honoring myself and my craft when attempting to create.
- Bird by Bird (Some instructions on writing and life.) / by, Anne Lemott: Oh Auntie Anne, at least that how she makes you feel reading this humorous, honest, and candid look in to the craft of writing. The good, bad, and ugly of it all. Lemott has a way making you feel like she’s giving sage advice directly to you while certainly not pulling any punches, making Bird by Bird super refreshing and humanizing. She addresses everything from the agony/euphoria of writing to dealing with the things we don’t like to talk about like jealousy and selfish desires. Through her faith in God and the practice of writing, Lemott offers lovely lessons designed to bring freedom both in writing and life in general.
- Big Magic (Creative living beyond fear.) / by, Elizabeth Gilbert is book that inspires one to confront fear in order to find their “magic”, whatever that may be. Gilbert shares her own stories of having to do so as a creative person. Doubt, insecurity, comparison…they’re all rooted in fear and what Gilbert is attempting to do is to have one give themselves permission to take that leap of faith into the unknown and create. Again, this book is an easy read, often lighthearted, and relatable in that we are all creative in nature and need a little help being pushed out of the nest in order to begin any creative journey. This book could be that little extra push.
So there you have it. This is a list that I feel would be helpful to any writer or creative in general. I’m not claiming these books hold all the answers but they are full of insights from those who have been down the road and offer what they’ve learned in a way that feels safe, supportive, practical and doable. I’ve found that they helped to give me sparks of inspiration, shift perspective, and provided doses of courage when needed while on my own creative journey over the years. I’m hoping we can make 2017 our most productive year yet on every level…spiritually, mentally, relationally, and creatively. There’s victory in just taking the first step, and sometimes that’s as simple as cracking the spine of a good book designed to empower and support as a dreamer, creative, and yes, a writer. Enjoy, and feel free to share your thoughts and favorites with me in the comments, I’m always on the lookout for new additions to the library.