This is generally where the introductory paragraph to my post would go. How about we dismiss the formalities and jump right into what you came here for? Below are four books that have made all the difference in my writing life!
On Writing by Stephen King
I read this book every year and it never gets old. Stephen King uses wit, and straightforward talk, to breakdown the writing journey. This is not your typical reference book for writing; On Writing is more like an inspirational and enlightening auto-biography. Stephen King rips off the veil that hides the grueling work that it takes to find success as a writer. I had always respected Stephen King as a writer, but after having read this book I came to admire him as a role model.
Quotations from On Writing
My personal favorite—I even created a canvas with this statement to serve as visual inspiration in my office:
“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”
“Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
“Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.”
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert earned two spots on my list. I read this book this year and believe it is capable of being universally applied towards any goal that is being strived after, not just authorship. Gilbert makes several mentions that her intention for writing this book was not solely based on providing motivation for writers. She uses uplifting language to push us to accept our creativity, accept the fear that comes with the creativity, and get past that fear. Gilbert approaches the lessons that she provides in her book like an inspection of the creative process, and in doing so allows us to better understand the ideas that flow through our minds and the fears that—if allowed—inhibit us from taking those ideas by the reins.
Quotations from Big Magic
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and
then stands back to see if we can find them.”
“Be the weirdo who dares to enjoy.”
“So this, I believe, is the central question upon which all creative living hinges: Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?”
“It’s a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice, you will improve at.”
“Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them.”
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
I first read this book because of the joint appearance of Elizabeth Gilbert and Julia Roberts on Oprah as they promoted both the book and film Eat, Pray, Love. This is a memoir about the existential crisis that Elizabeth Gilbert faced in her early thirties. She was a successful writer, she was married, and she had a beautiful house—all seemed perfect to the outside eye—but nothing is ever as it seems. Elizabeth's story proved what I have always believed: you shouldn't assume that someone has it all, someone else might be assuming that about you.
Quotations from Eat, Pray, Love
“This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something.”
“You’re wishin’ too much, baby. You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be.”
“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That's the only thing you should be trying to control.”
“There’s a crack (or cracks) in everyone…that’s how the light of God gets in.”
“I'm choosing happiness over suffering, I know I am. I'm making space for the unknown future to fill up my life with yet-to-come surprises.”
Grammar Girl Presents - the Ultimate Writing Guide for Students by Mignon Fogarty
This is an excerpt from my review of this book—the full review can be found in the Reviews tab on my website, or by clicking here.
When I picked up this book at Barnes and Noble, my daughter said, "you're not a student!"
I corrected her; I told her that we are all students, of some kind, always. In fact, the first thing that made me commit to purchasing this book is that it is geared towards a learning student. I didn't want a pompous style guide; I wanted a reference book that helped me understand the complexities of the English language. I needed a guide that explained grammar in the simplest way, from the bare bones and on.
Read my full review for my “Five Reasons Why” this is an excellent instructional book for writers. Need another link to that review? Here you go! (Grammar Girl - review)
The reason that I am choosing not to include quotations from this book is my fear that the meaning behind Mignon Fogarty’s lessons will get lost. Unlike the other books in this list, this is an actual guide on grammar; it's important that you read through Mignon Fogarty's anecdotes, tips, and visual aids.
I hope these selections serve you as well as they have served—and continue to serve—me.