March 13, 2010 § 11 Comments
(Note that my pen in the above picture is NOT on fire, for safety, and also, symbolically)
I read books about writing. I love reading books about writing. I can’t help it. I am always looking for a truth, or a hint, or an eye opener of some un-designated sort, and support….and perhaps the Muse, sitting among the pages.
I have one huge over-stuffed shelf full of books all aimed at writing:
how to write novels, poems, stuff;
what makes good writing;
writers on writing;
readers on writing;
writing workshops; and,
the craft of writing, including grammar like Strunk & White, and Lynne Truss’s hilarious hit on grammer as well.
As of the beginning of February, I am on a mission to actually read and write my way through all these books. I am also on a mission to use and fill some of the more than half dozen journals I have been given (or, purchased in a weak moment). I have, ’til now, saved my journals, thinking each one should be dedicated to something particular. Pooh. They sit there looking pretty, artsy, fat (which is a good thing in paper world) and patient. I am now responding to their siren call. Same with all the writing books whose presence has, at least, been supportive if nothing else as they sit silently on the shelf near my writing table.
So, my mission began with a 6″x9″ journal (way too small, by the way) and with Pen on Fire by, um, well, you can see her name in the picture above, and while I enjoyed it, partly for the aesthetics because the book’s paper and font were both above average and the cover not so bad and the author’s tone nice and upbeat, still I found it a bit more for beginners.
She writes well-named chapters and plenty of them with titles including “Writing Like There’s No Tomorrow,” “Stolen Moments,” “Celebrate Your Otherness,” “Plot or Not,” “That Black Hole: TV,” and “Marketplace Madness.” That’s just a smattering.
Each chapter has a bit of her in there (sometimes too much for me yet not that compelling although assuredly her life IS full of writing and writing moments but it’s the way she tells it that leaves me a bit uninspired). Each chapter has some lessons of sorts which are good and supportive, which is a HUGE reason that writers read about reading.
And then each chapter is followed by writing exercises. These I found far too general, not accenting the craft but more abstract -general-silly-organizational bits like “go out and gather pieces of nature and write about them.” Well, not those words exactly, but those kinds of things.
So having finished this first book on my mission, I can say that I prefer the challenging exercises that John Gardner and even Natalie Goldberg will present. (I read them voraciously several years ago and then wrote following their exercises.) More focused, more pointed, more expecting something out of you. More about craft. More about charging ahead and writing and then looking back to find something in one’s writing wake.
So, I recommend Pen On Fire for those who need a little support , a bit of a push, a very wee bit of an idea, and who are maybe just starting out with writing, whether in journaling or blogging. I didn’t find anything new here. No, I’m not jaded or negative. I’m just saying. Oh, and she did point me to yet another book about writing that I hadn’t heard of before – definitely a great thing.
Still, following some of her suggestions (cuz I skipped more than half of them), I am filling up that little 6×9 inch journal .
Next: I will choose another journal and have already chosen the book which will be Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away (her most recent – maybe three years old?) iand will see how things roll or change or move following its exercises.