October 19, 2015
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As a Mom of a large family it is sometimes difficult to think about pursuing personal goals. I have always been a writer, privately, but a few books have helped shift inside of me the idea that I might want to do more with my writing than just fill up personal note books. That is the power of an inspiring book. They reach places that lie untapped and stir up ideas that are bigger than ourselves.
If we are open to challenges, if we are willing to expose ourselves, if we are not afraid of the work, we can take our creative work to new heights.
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These 5 books shifted the way I thought about writing just enough to make me want to dig deeper as a writer myself
1 Anderson’s Fairy Tales, by Hans Christian Anderson, Illustrated by Arthur Szyk
This has been my book for as long as I can remember. If you have never read the original Hans Christian Anderson tales you are missing some of the greatest stories ever told. Reading the modern versions or the Disney remodelsI would be like reading a paper track and thinking you have a pretty good scope of the Bible. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Anderson, he is the original author who penned “The Little Mermaid” and “The Snow Queen” (base Disney’s for Frozen), but the story that was the greatest inspiration for me was “The Princess and the Pea”. Think about how many story books are based on that tale, how may variations of short films and cartoons hold “The Princess and the Pea” at their root. You would be unimpressed to see that the original story fill just over half of a page. Anderson was the first to teach me that a powerful story needs no filler. Every child should be read the whole volume at least once in their life. This book is available free for your Kindle here.
2 Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
I heard about this book for the first time while listening to NPR. There was a lively interview with Anne that had me instantly in love with her. She is intriguing in her honesty as a struggling human as she shares her beautiful insights on the life of a writer. It was after hearing Anne, that I first considered living as a writer instead of only writing when I was sitting in front of a screen. I borrowed “Bird by Bird” from the library the very next day and have been on the long path of a writer ever since. I don’t think I would have made the mental switch to thinking about everything I hear around me as a contribution to my writing without Anne pointing it out. That small shift has given me an warning to be intentional about what I do and observe. I appreciate her fiction and nonfiction books and follow her on Facebook. Anne reminds us that we will never come to a place where we have “arrived”, but we can do the very best with the broken lives and the good people around us as we put our face to God and our minds to the work in front of us.
3 On Writing, by Stephen King
I was never a Stephen King fan. I do not like horror as a genre and had never read a book by the king of horror when I picked up this gem. I became an instant fan of King and fell in love with his practical book about the work of writing. From reality about rejection to the permission to not be drunk or crazy to be famous, King speaks to the fears in the heart of every writer. Is the work worth it? King answers that question with a resounding yes.
At one point in reading I was laughing so hard I was crying. My husband asked me what was so funny, so I told him Stephen King telling about how he was run over and nearly killed. You will understand it when you read it, but it was typical King. The way he spins irony and humor into horrible experiences. I actually went on to read the last book in the Gunslinger series. My library does not have the first two books so I was saved a whole lot of time, but I am sure at some point in time I will get sucked into a King book again. Don’t miss King’s On Writing just because you aren’t a fan, like me, you will be pleasantly surprised.
4 The Opposite of Fate, by Amy Tan
Tan was another author I personally enjoyed, so when I saw this book I purchased it on name alone. It lives in my influential books section because the content went beyond fan readership. I loved Tan’s discussion on bookclub extra content in her books and class room discussions of her novels. The conflict of having a very Chinese Mother while growing up American gave insight into using you life experience in your writing. She and King both share the ability to give perspectives from prolific long term writing careers with an insight deep in the work of writing. There is much practical advice and realistic expectation in The Opposite of Fate, mixed with enough success to make you want to get out there and get rejected. The narrative nature of Tan’s book makes it easy to digest and enjoy, but it also motivated me to think more seriously about what writing meant to me and how far I wanted to take it.
5 Write That Book Already, By Sam Barry and Kathi Goldmark
Once I was convinced that writing was a line of work I wanted to pursue in some capacity Write That Book Already was a great ready reference tool. Full of the insights from more authors than I could list, it was a rubber meets the road book, full of practical tips. If you are writing regularly and wondering what to do to take your writing to the next level, this book is written for you. It is a practical read, full of tips, steps and tools for someone that has done the work and is ready for publishing or is seriously thinking about heading that direction. Again, King, Tan and Dave Barry contribute practical knowledge along with nearly 20 writers including Maya Angelou. This is no headliner fluff book but it is geared toward someone planning to enter the real world of publishing.
Sometimes you know exactly where you want to go, but if you are like me, there are times it takes someone else to lay ideas out before you, to make you think before stepping out in a whole new direction. These books represent 10 years of growth as a writer. It has been a slow steady crawl in that direction for me, but my hope is that you are nudged full speed in the direction that your heart is leading.
Happy reading and please share books that inspired you to write. I would love to share them with my readers.
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