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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 March 30, 2020

    20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

    20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

    Are you usually punctual or late? Do you finish things within the time you stipulate? Do you hand in your reports/work on time? Are you able to accomplish what you want to do before deadlines? Are you a good time manager?

    If your answer is “no” to any of the questions above, that means you’re not managing your time as well as you want. Here are 20 time management tips to help you manage time better:

    1. Create a Daily Plan

    Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.

    2. Peg a Time Limit to Each Task

    Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.

    3. Use a Calendar

    Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software.

    I use it. It’s even better if you can sync your calendar to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are. Here’re the 10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track .

    Find out more tips about how to use calendar for better time management here: How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

    4. Use an Organizer

    An organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.

    These Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools can help you organize better, pick one that fits your needs.

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    5. Know Your Deadlines

    When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.

    But make sure you don’t make these 10 Common Mistakes When Setting Deadlines.

    6. Learn to Say “No”

    Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.

    Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits has some great insights on how to say no: The Gentle Art of Saying No

    7. Target to Be Early

    When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time.

    For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.

    Learn from these tips about how to prepare yourself to be early, instead of just in time.

    8. Time Box Your Activities

    This means restricting your work to X amount of time. Why time boxing is good for you? Here’re 10 reasons why you should start time-boxing.

    You can also read more about how to do time boxing here: Get What Matters Done by Scheduling Time Blocks

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    9. Have a Clock Visibly Placed Before You

    Sometimes we are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time. Having a huge clock in front of you will keep you aware of the time at the moment.

    10. Set Reminders 15 Minutes Before

    Most calendars have a reminder function. If you have an important meeting to attend, set that alarm 15 minutes before.

    You can learn more about how reminders help you remember everything in this article: The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    11. Focus

    Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Multitasking is bad for you.

    Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.

    Lifehack’s CEO has written a definitive guide on how to focus, learn the tips: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    12. Block out Distractions

    What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in?

    I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting.

    When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.

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    Find more tips on how to minimize distractions to achieve more in How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

    13. Track Your Time Spent

    When you start to track your time, you’re more aware of how you spend your time. For example, you can set a simple countdown timer to make sure that you finish a task within a period of time, say 30 minutes or 1 hour. The time pressure can push you to stay focused and work more efficiently.

    You can find more time tracking apps here and pick one that works for you.

    14. Don’t Fuss About Unimportant Details

    You’re never get everything done in exactly the way you want. Trying to do so is being ineffective.

    Trying to be perfect does you more harm than good, learn here about how perfectionism kills your productivity and how to ditch the perfectionism mindset.

    15. Prioritize

    Since you can’t do everything, learn to prioritize the important and let go of the rest.

    Apply the 80/20 principle which is a key principle in prioritization. You can also take up this technique to prioritize everything on your plate: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    16. Delegate

    If there are things that can be better done by others or things that are not so important, consider delegating. This takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.

    When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more. Learn about how to effectively delegate works in this guide: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

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    17. Batch Similar Tasks Together

    For related work, batch them together.

    For example, my work can be categorized into these core groups:

    1. writing (articles, my upcoming book)
    2. coaching
    3. workshop development
    4. business development
    5. administrative

    I batch all the related tasks together so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.

    18. Eliminate Your Time Wasters

    What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Stop checking them so often.

    One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links / bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites.

    While you’ll still checking FB/Twitter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.

    19. Cut off When You Need To

    The number one reason why things overrun is because you don’t cut off when you have to.

    Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.

    20. Leave Buffer Time In-Between

    Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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