Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Inspiration or The Writing Life

There are several books I would like to lump together: The Right to Write by Julia Cameron; Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott; Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg; and On Writing by Stephen King.

Summary: Each of these books includes stories about the authors own writing life. The books also includes suggestions or short assignments for readers to try. All of the books could be considered inspirational. Many authors write about their own writing, including Elbow and Macrorie, but these authors are more contemporary, and I find myself using them in the Writing Project or with writing classes.

These books show writers like myself that writing is agonizing, and a writer, published or not, goes through similar experiences. I can take a section or a chapter out of these books and share with Writing Project participants or high school students. I did this often with "Don't Tell, But Show" by Goldberg and with sections from Lamott's work. I share "Shitty First Drafts" with teachers. The writers who tell me how to write with strategies aren't nearly as interesting as the writers who share their writing processes.

Some weaknesses: Many readers might be put off by Goldberg's work she is a a Jewish woman who is a practicing Buddhist. She talks a lot about her spirituality, as does Lamott, in fact. And Lamott is a Christian. The more I think about it, Lamott and King both had alcohol and substance abuse problems. It makes me think that, in a way, these books could be included in a writing as healing section.

I used The Right to Write in the online class I taught. She had short chapters with short assignments at the end. The reaction I received was interesting. Some students liked her work, and others thought she was arrogant. I never really saw the arrogance, unless arrogance and directness can be confused. She may have issued challenges to readers. She's a bit more "in your face" than someone like Goldberg. Goldberg, Lamott, and King write with humor, and Cameron does not.

Strengths: short sections can be taken out and used in in-services; each of these is fun to read and can help already motivated writers to write more.

No comments: