Thursday, August 6, 2009

Skunk, Peanut Butter Cookie, or Books on Writing?

You never know what you're going to get when you drop in here, do you? Well, except for Mondays. That's almost always a Colorado author feature. There are so many authors in Colorado that I expect I'll keep on doing that for a long time.

The other days, though, anything can happen. I might tell you about night before last when a skunk took offense at a barking dog in the neighborhood, which meant I had to jump up right in the middle of Big Brother and shut the window.

Or I might pick something more pleasant to talk about. Like the fact that I had pepperoni pizza and a peanut butter cookie for dinner last night. No veggies. No fruit. Just plain old delicious unhealthy carbohydrates and a pinch of protein.

Okay, enough of that. I do have something better to offer you. Here are three of the writing books I've kept on my shelf for years and reread from time to time.

Natalie Goldberg is so well known for Writing Down the Bones that another of her books, Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life, is often overlooked. Published by Bantam in 1990, Wild Mind is about writing practice and is filled with stories, prompts, and the expected connections to Buddhism and Zen practice.

I like the chapter on Procrastination and Waiting. It speaks to me. The chapter begins:

"There is a difference between procrastination and waiting. Procrastination is pushing aside or putting off writing. It is thinking the moment is tomorrow. It is a way not to let in vital energy. Don't procrastinate. Write now.

Waiting is something full-bodied. Perhaps waiting isn't even a good word for it. Pregnant is better. You've worked on something for a while. You are excited by it, even happy, but you are wise and step back. You take a walk...You are letting writing work on you."

For Writers Only by Sophy Burnham (Random House 1996) is another older book I've kept around. A collection of quotations from great writers, mixed with Burnham's observations and personal stories, this book's chapters range from On Knowing You Are a Writer to Writer's Block. "What to do about writer's block? Write anyway," Burnham says, but then lists other things you can do while rejoicing in your "respite from your work."

And finally, published by Henry Holt in 1993, The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear by Ralph Keyes is useful for helping us diagnose and move past anxiety. I was never particularly afraid of writing, I guess, but was terrified of submitting for a long, long time. Those who are apprehensive about reading their reviews might get some insights from this book as well.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I think I'll have to check out "The Courage to Write." Haven't heard of that one. Thanks, Patricia!

Mystery Writing is Murder

Karen Walker said...

I've read all of Natalie Goldberg's books and love them. I'll have to check out these other two. My latest favorite is "Voice of the Muse," by Mark David Gerson.

Galen Kindley--Author said...

What a great vignette, Jack. Very nicely done. Even has an O. Henryesque twist. You are a talented guy. High standards…and you never disappoint.

Best Regards, Galen
Imagineering Fiction Blog

Patricia Stoltey said...

Good morning, Elizabeth and Karen,

Ah, I love hearing a recommendation I can add to my own list, Karen, so thanks for the tip on Voice of the Muse.

Elspeth Antonelli said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elspeth Antonelli said...

Hurray for pizza and peanut butter cookies! I say there is nothing in the world than every once in a while throwing the book away and just eating what we want - or what happens to be be available because we don't want to cook. Excellent fun!

As for writing books I have always returned to "Write Away" by Elizabeth George. We seem to have a similar approach and I find it reassuring in those dark moments that can occur.

I shall keep the idea of 'pregnant not procrastinating' close to my heart.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Yesterday Galen posted an article on his blog on memory and being absent-minded. If you read his post, you'll understand why this comment might be posted above (which also appears at Jack W. Regan's blog at

On the other hand, maybe it's just web gremlins at work.

Helen Ginger said...

I haven't heard of these books. Not all that surprising, mind you, but I thought I'd mention it. But now that I've read your reviews, I will look for them.

Straight From Hel

Marvin D Wilson said...

Thanks for those recommendations, I'll have to check them out. My favorite book on writing so far is "On Writing" by Stephen King.

The Old Silly

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Oh, boy. Well, Jack's post was very good. Sigh.

What I wanted to tell you was I've purchased several of the books you've featured in the past and enjoyed them all. I'll wager these are just as good because you have credibility with me.

If you’ll excuse me, I'll just slink off in red-faced embarrassment. Geeeze.

Best Regards, Galen
Imagineering Fiction Blog

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of these books, but I do like to read reviews just the same. Hope this gives a lot of exposure. The downside of this post, now I'm craving pizza and a cookie. Nothing else will do. There goes my diet.

Stephen Tremp

The Practical Preserver said...

Those books are my favorites as well. You can keep the skunk.

Kerrie said...

Your dinner last night sounds heavenly. My new favorite writing book, is Stephen King's memoir, "On Writing." It is truly an inspirational read.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I just read Elizabeth Spann Craig's blog about red beans and rice and now the mention of pepperoni pizza...I hear my kitchen calling! Oh, and thanks for the books. I'll check them out next time I'm at the library or book store.

Terry Heath said...

I love the Goldberg quote and guess I'm going to have to add at least one more to my long list of "must reads." It would be better (or at least quicker) if I could just get a big brain dump from all these wonderful writers with so much helpful advice to offer!

K. A. Laity said...

I really have enjoyed Goldberg's books; another I highly recommend particularly for people who haven't quite decided if they really can be writers (although it's also a great one for keeping you going when the inevitable bad days come) is Brenda Ueland's classic If You Want to Write. Her terrific motto is, "Everyone is talented, original, and has something important to say."