My Writing Life


I want to share some books that have enriched my writing over the years.  I would recommend these books to all writers.  And for teachers of writing—no matter how young your students—these books may also be helpful.


Writing the Natural Way, by Gabriele Lusser Rico

This book was ground breaking for me in the early 80s.  Rico’s techniques helped me get past the right brain/inner critic to the deeper left brain/inner poet.  That first week I couldn’t write fast enough.  I was scribbling poems on paper napkins in the cafeteria while I supervised my students at lunch!  Later I learned to pace myself.

Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg

Another amazing eye-opener from the 80s on giving yourself permission to pick up a pen and keep your hand moving, to write free and uncensored from any inner critics.  Natalie Goldberg is a legend now.  Read her!

Writing as a Way of Healing, by Louise DeSalvo

This book is less celebrated, but was equally influential in the development of my writing and my psyche.  I was reading it years ago when I had an argument with my then-companion (a not infrequent occurrence).  The next day I told friends about this argument, but I made it sound cute and funny.  Everybody laughed.  I thought, “I should write this up:  it’s cute and funny.”

But because I was reading this book I did something I’d never done before:  I wrote what really happened.  I allowed myself to write about how dark and shameful it was.  It wasn’t cute and funny anymore:  it was incredibly powerful.  I didn’t show it to anyone:  I do have boundaries, which is why I write mainly fiction now.  But after this book, my writing was never the same.


Writer’s Guide to Character Traits, by Linda N. Edelstein

The name says it all.  This is a fun book filled with little quirks and habits that will help lift your characters out of one- dimensional-land into the realm of living breathing human beings.

Story Structure Architect, by Victoria Lynn Schmidt

Character development is one of my strengths, but coming up with a plot used to intimidate me.  This book has alleviated my apprehensions.  It briefly outlines dozens of plots–you fill in the blanks to make the story uniquely yours.  It has been invaluable to me in the plotting of my novels.

The work of Pat Schneider and the Amherst Writers and Artists Institute has also been a great influence on me.  I will be writing about them in a future post.

My writing has always been inseparable from my spirituality.  I have garnered strength from the writing of Pema Chodron, Clarrissa Pinkola Estes, Anne Lamott, and Carolyn Myss.  More on these and other inspiring writers in subsequent posts.

Please tell me about your favorite writers and artists.  Who has influenced you?

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