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11 Books to Inspire, Encourage, and Cleanup Your Writing

11 Books to Inspire, Encourage, and Cleanup Your Writing

    I’d like to call myself a writer. But I have found that it is hard to do. Mostly because of fear of the craft and how I sometimes don’t think that I can “stack up” to other, better writers.

    What I have found is that my notion of me being terrible at writing isn’t anything unique. Not in the slightest. The best writers in the world all struggle with this notion on a daily basis. It’s hard for me to believe that writers like Steven King and Natalie Goldberg don’t believe that they are awesome at writing all the time, but it’s true.

    So, instead of being hard on myself I decided to read what other writers had to say as well as learn some writing technique in the process. Below are 11 books that can help you inspire, encourage and clean up your writing.

    On Writing Well

    This book is a classic and one of the first that I read when I got into writing. Zinsser writes in a very approachable style and reminds you that writing isn’t always fun; that it is a real job and that you have to write through blood, sweat, procrastination, and tears to be considered a writer.

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    He is the one that helped me understand that writing less is more.

    On Writing

    It would be hard to not include a book about writing from one of the best selling authors of all time; Stephen King. This book dives into King as a person and also provides the reader with how he stays motivated and how he goes about the writing process. There is some excellent stuff in this book and definitely worth reading a few times to glean.

    Anyone that listens to Metallica while writing horror and mystery is my kind of human.

    Writing Down the Bones

    Ah, what can I say about Natalie Goldberg? That she is one of the greatest writing enthusiasts and teachers I have come across.

    In Writing Down the Bones, Goldberg reminds us that we can’t beat ourselves up as writers and no matter what we will. She shows us how to get out of our “monkey mind” and how to write without the inner critic stopping your from putting down your ideas.

    If you are a writer or even know a writer, Writing Down the Bones can “inspire” you and move you to keep your ideas and pen moving.

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    The Artist’s Way

    Several months ago I heard about the idea of writing 750 words a day to get out of myself and to keep the flame of writing alive. It helps you by making a guarantee with yourself; no matter what, no matter how tired or apathetic I am, I will write 750 words a day.

    That idea came from the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Cameron suggests writing “Morning Pages” every day. The idea is to write 3 pages of long hand writing and no matter what don’t stop while you are writing. It is supposed to liven the writer in you as well as work through some cruft so you can be more creative.

    And it works.

    Bird by Bird

    Bird by Bird is a book by the infamous Anne Lamot. I have yet to read it but from the endless awesome reviews at Amazon, it seems to be a truly great book about writing.

    Lamott is known for speaking her mind and isn’t afraid to tell you the truth about writing. She has written around a dozen books

    The Courage to Write

    The Courage to Write is what it says; a short book to help writers not be afraid of the keyboard or pen and help to get them writing more. Raplh Keyes is a well known writing teacher and in this book tries to help us get over the fear of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboards).

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    Keyes writes about the reasons why we become fearful of writing and it’s no surprise that the fear is something in ourselves rather than something external.

    The Pocket Muse and The Pocket Muse 2

    This is a fun book and isn’t truly a writing technique book like most of the others. What the Pocket Muse is intended to do is give writers a spark to write and be creative. There are many sayings and prompts throughout the book with different types of visuals to get a writer’s mind going.

    It’s a nice little book to have by your side, especially if you want to find something for a little boost to get started writing.

    The Daily Writer

    The Daily Writer is another book that isn’t completely about writing technique. What the Daily Writer provides is 366 prompts and writing exercises that you can use everyday. Every good writer that I have encountered over the years has kept a journal or has written every single day without fail. So, something like the daily writer coupled with the above mentioned Morning Pages can kickstart your writing habit and your creative process.

    I’ve used the Daily Writer for almost 7 months now and it is definitely worth the time and money to check out.

    Immediate Fiction

    I tend to not write fiction but have been thinking about trying some more and more. Especially when a friend recommended “Immediate Fiction” to me. Once again, I don’t have first hand knowledge of this book, but according to my friend and reviewers on Amazon, this is one of the best books for help with writing fiction.

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    The Elements of Style (4th Edition)

    Ah, the classic. I remember sitting in my first semester of college writing with this weirdly colored and amazingly short book as our text. I in no way recognized the importance of Mr. Strunk’s book then. It took several years and a revisit to college to understand its impact on my writing.

    The 11 rules of Usage and Composition are extremely valuable and something that every potential writer should take note of.

    The Essential Don Murray: Lessons from America’s Greatest Writing Teacher

    Don Murray is sort of the “black horse of writing”. Not too many people outside of the field know about him as he doesn’t have the grand allure of authors like Steven King. But Don Murray may have been one of the best writers and writing coaches in the West.

    The Essential Don Murray is a collection of all of Murray’s scattered works and provides the reader with many strategies and tips for writing. But, what this book truly shows us is how much Murray loved writing and tries to help the reader love it too.

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    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on January 2, 2020

    How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

    How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

    Over time, we all gather a set of constricting habits around us—ones that trap us in a zone of supposed comfort, well below what our potential would allow us to attain. Pretty soon, such habits slip below the level of our consciousness, but they still determine what we think that we can and cannot do—and what we cannot even bring ourselves to try. As long as you let these habits rule you, you’ll be stuck in a rut.

    Like the tiny, soft bodied creatures that build coral reefs, habits start off small and flexible, and end up by building massive barriers of rock all around your mind. Inside the reefs, the water feels quiet and friendly. Outside, you think it’s going to be rough and stormy. There may be sharks. But if you’re to develop in any direction from where you are today, you must go outside that reef of habits that marks the boundaries of your comfort zone. There’s no other way. There’s even nothing specially wrong with those habits as such. They probably worked for you in the past.

    But now, it’s time to step over them and go into the wider world of your unused potential. Your fears don’t know what’s going to be out there, so they invent monsters and scary beasts to keep you inside.

    Nobody’s born with an instruction manual for life. Despite all the helpful advice from parents, teachers and elders, each of us must make our own way in the world, doing the best we can and quite often getting things wrong.

    Messing up a few times isn’t that big a deal. But if you get scared and try to avoid all mistakes by sticking with just a few “tried and true” behaviors, you’ll miss out on most opportunities as well.

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    Lots of people who suffer from boredom at work are doing it to themselves. They’re bored and frustrated because that’s what their choices have caused them to be. They’re stuck in ruts they’ve dug for themselves while trying to avoid making mistakes and taking risks. People who never make mistakes never make anything else either.

    It’s time to pin down the habits that have become unconscious and are running your life for you, and get rid of them. Here’s how to do it:

    1. Understand the Truth about Your Habits

    They always represent past successes. You have formed habitual, automatic behaviors because you once dealt with something successfully, tried the same response next time, and found it worked again. That’s how habits grow and why they feel so useful.

    To get away from what’s causing your unhappiness and workplace blues, you must give up on many of your most fondly held (and formerly successful) habits. and try new ways of thinking and acting. There truly isn’t any alternative. Those habits are going to block you from finding new and creative ideas. No new ideas, no learning. No learning, no access to successful change.

    2. Do Something—Almost Anything—Differently and See What Happens

    Even the most successful habits eventually lose their usefulness as events change the world and fresh responses are called for. Yet we cling on to them long after their benefit has gone.

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    Past strategies are bound to fail sometime. Letting them become automatic habits that take the controls is a sure road to self-inflicted harm.

    3. Take Some Time out and Have a Detailed Look at Yourself—With No Holds Barred

    Discovering your unconscious habits can be tough. For a start, they’re unconscious, right? Then they fight back.

    Ask anyone who has ever given up smoking if habits are tough to break. You’ve got used to them—and they’re at least as addictive as nicotine or crack cocaine.

    4. Be Who You Are

    It’s easy to assume that you always have to fit in to get on in the world; that you must conform to be liked and respected by others or face exclusion. Because most people want to please, they try to become what they believe others expect, even if it means forcing themselves to be the kind of person they aren’t, deep down.

    You need to start by putting yourself first. You’re unique. We’re all unique, so saying this doesn’t suggest that you’re better than others or deserve more than they do.

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    You need to put yourself first because no one else has as much interest in your life as you do; and because if you don’t, no one else will. Putting others second means giving them their due respect, not ignoring them totally.

    Keeping up a self-image can be a burden. Hanging on to an inflated, unrealistic one is a curse. Give yourself a break.

    5. Slow Down and Let Go

    Most of us want to think of ourselves as good, kind, intelligent and caring people. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes it isn’t.

    Reality is complex. We can’t function at all without constant input and support from other people.

    Everything we have, everything we’ve learned, came to us through someone else’s hands. At our best, we pass on this borrowed existence to others, enhanced by our contribution. At our worst, we waste and squander it.

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    So recognize that you’re a rich mixture of thoughts and feelings that come and go, some useful, some not. There’s no need to keep up a façade; no need to pretend; no need to fear of what you know to be true.

    When you face your own truth, you’ll find it’s an enormous relief. If you’re maybe not as wonderful as you’d like to be, you aren’t nearly as bad as you fear either.

    The truth really does set you free; free to work on being better and to forgive yourself for being human; free to express your gratitude to others and recognize what you owe them; free to acknowledge your feelings without letting them dominate your life. Above all, you’ll be free to understand the truth of living: that much of what happens to you is no more than chance. It can’t be avoided and is not your fault. There’s no point in beating yourself up about it.

    Final Thoughts

    What is holding you in situations and actions that no longer work for you often isn’t inertia or procrastination. It’s the power of habitual ways of seeing the world and thinking about events. Until you can let go of those old, worn-out habits, they’ll continue to hold you prisoner.

    To stay in your comfort zone through mere habit, or—worse still—to stay there because of irrational fears of what may lie outside, will condemn you to a life of frustration and regret.

    If you can accept the truth about the world and yourself, change whatever is holding you back, and get on with a fresh view on life, you’ll find that single action lets you open the door of your self-imposed prison and walk free. There’s a marvelous world out there. You’ll see, if you try it!

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    Featured photo credit: teigan rodger via unsplash.com

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