Every writing book is good
If it gets you to write!
The one topic writers find it easy to write about is how hard it is to write.
One of my favorite paragraphs on the subject comes from David Rakoff’s Half Empty:
Creativity demands an ability to be with oneself at one’s least attractive, that sometimes it’s just easier not to do anything. Writing — I can really only speak to writing here — always, always only starts out as shit: an infant on monstrous aspect; bawling, ugly, terrible, and it stays terrible for a long, long time (sometimes forever). Unlike cooking, for example, where largely edible, if raw, ingredients are assembled, cut, heated, and otherwise manipulated into something both digestible and palatable, writing is closer to having to reverse-engineer a meal out of rotten food.”
This is where the “Shitty First Drafts” chapter of Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird comes in handy:
Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something — anything — down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft — you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft — you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.
The awful truth is that writing doesn’t really get any easier. No matter how many books you’ve written, your last book won’t write your next one for you. I would even go a step further: The better you think you did on your last book, the harder it is to write another one.
In my recent interview with Jane Ratcliffe, I admitted that the reason I have taken so long in between books is that “I find writing books to be mostly painful.” Several commenters seemed to find this comforting, the idea that someone like me still finds the process terrifying and impossible. I feel like I’m pretty open with y’all about this, but in case I haven’t been recently, let me be so now.