My Favorite Books on Writing

I’ve got two favorite books on writing and I turn to them every few years, find myself flipping through their pages. My sister gave me both of them as gifts. Maybe there’s some sentimentality there since I adore her. One of them is Anne Lamott’s “Bird By Bird.” The other is “Advice to Writers, a Compendium of Quotes, Anecdotes, and Writerly Wisdom from a Dazzling Array of Literary Lights” by John Winokur.

“Bird By Bird” is funny but Lamott also writes quite a bit about the psychology of writing, how you have to take it one bird at a time if you are writing a book report on birds, for example. She has an entire chapter on perfectionism, a terrible trait I can relate to and another on an imaginary radio station that plays in your head while you write singing both your praises and blistering self doubt. Strangely enough, the radio station doesn’t play so much these days, but I remember when I first started out, that feeling, and Anne Lamott’s words were comforting. They still are.

“Advice to Writers” isn’t as handy when it comes to craft but it is helpful for inspiration. Winokur has selected some really cool quotes, including my favorite one “murder your darlings.” Which basically means don’t be afraid to hit the delete key, even if the passage does sound pretty because maybe it isn’t helping the story. In fact, I sometimes murder too many darlings in my writing. I’m working on that. But I still love the quote.

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