Sunday, October 21, 2007

One Worth Reading

When my friend Liz found out that I was starting to take myself seriously as a writer, and this was quite a few years ago, she recommended that I pick up Writers on Writing: Collected Essays from The New York Times. It took me almost half a year to finally take her up on that suggestion, but I was grateful once I actually picked up the book.

The essays in Writers on Writing aren't necessarily about any one thing. Each writer took it upon him or herself to interpret the subject matter and address what I'm sure they found most important. The result is a delicately woven journey into the psyche of a writer, the obstacles that one faces, the precarious lifestyle. There are tips and tricks (one writer goes into great detail about how he blindfolds himself when he writes - sometimes having to disregard a whole afternoon's work if his fingers started on the wrong keys!), and while they're refreshing, interesting, and worth trying, the true value of the book comes in the essays that ramble and wander, the ones where the writers were honest and open enough to approach what it is to live as a writer in this world. At times they read like sad realizations of a life doomed to be constantly unfulfilled, but there's a sense of obligation, compromised reward, and ultimately, love.

Since reading it, I've mentioned the book in various writing classes that I've taken, usually joking that it can serve as therapy - to hear the voices of established authors discuss their struggles and musings, to know that you're not the first person to ever feel stuck or elated, to know someone's going through the same thing you are. The more I think about it though, the more I realize that it's not actually a joke at all; the book serves that purpose exactly, and if you're a writer at all, in any medium - be it prose, screen, stage - you owe it to yourself to purchase it, keep on your book shelf, and when you're feeling lost, allow it to guide you back to the page.

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