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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 August 6, 2019

    Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Root Causes And How To Tackle Them

    Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Root Causes And How To Tackle Them

    Procrastination is something many people can relate to and I, myself, have been there and done that. Yes, I write all about productivity now, but when I first started out on my career path, I would often put off work I didn’t want to do. And most of the time I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

    So what changed?

    I thought to myself, “why do I procrastinate?” And I started to read a lot of books on productivity, learning a great deal and shifting my mind to the reasons why people procrastinate.

    My understanding brought me a new perspective on how to put an end to the action of procrastination.

    Procrastination slows your goals and dreams way down. It can create stress and feelings of frustration. It rears its ugly head on a regular basis for a lot of people. This is particularly apparent at work with day-to-day projects and tasks.

    But, why do people self-sabotage in this way? Essentially, there are 5 reasons behind procrastination. See if you can identify with any of these in your own work life.

    1. The Perfectionist’s Fear

    Procrastination is sometimes a subconscious fear of failure.

    If you put off a task enough, then you can’t face up to the potential (and usually imagined) negative results. If you’re a stickler for minor details, the stress of getting things ‘just right’ may be too much and cause you to delay continuing the task.

    Either way, fear is at the root cause and can sabotage your desire to move forward.

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    How to Tackle It?

    Try visualizing the completion of your task in a positive way.

    For example, you have a presentation that your boss wants you to conduct for a potential client. Visualize yourself standing in the meeting room confident, meeting the eyes of the client and seeing them light up as you explain the concept simply and concisely.

    Imagine your boss telling you how great you did and you were the best person for the job. Think about how it would feel to you and focus on this as you move forward with the task.

    2. A Dreamer’s Lack of Action

    This is a person who is highly creative and has many brilliant ideas but can’t quite seem to bring them to fruition.

    The main reason for this is because there’s usually no structure or goal setting involved once the idea has been created. This aimless approach ends up manifesting as a lack of decision-making and significant delays on a project.

    How to Tackle It?

    Write down a timeline of what you want to achieve and by when. Ideally, do this daily to keep yourself on track and accountable for progression. Creative minds tend to jump from one idea to the next, so cultivating focus is essential.

    If you’re designing and creating a new product at work, set out a task list for the week ahead with the steps you want to focus on each day. Doing this ahead of time will stop your mind from wandering across to different ideas.

    Learn about how to plan your time and take actions from some of the successful people: 8 Ways Highly Successful People Plan Their Time

    3. An Overwhelmed Avoider

    This is one of the most common reasons for procrastination; the sheer overwhelm of a daunting task.

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    The complexity of a task can cause the brain to lose motivation and avoid doing it altogether choosing instead to stay in its comfort zone.

    The search then starts for a more enjoyable task and the harder tasks are put off. This can cause stress and dread when the task inevitably comes up to be completed.

    How to Tackle It?

    Break the challenge down into smaller tasks and tackle each one individually.

    For example, if you have a project that has technical elements to it that you know you’ll find challenging, list each step you need to take in order to complete these difficult elements. Think of ways you can resolve potential hurdles. Perhaps you have a coworker that may have time to help or even consider that the solution may be easier than you initially think. Put each task in order of most daunting to least daunting. Ideally, try to deal with the more challenging parts of each task in the morning so that momentum is created as the tasks get easier through the day.

    A reward system will also help you stay motivated so, once completed, you can enjoy your treat of choice.

    If you want to know how to better handle your feelings and stay motivated, take a look at my other article: Procrastination Is a Matter of Emotion, Here’s How to Stop It

    4. The Busy Bee Who Lacks Prioritization

    Either you have too many tasks or don’t truly acknowledge the differing importance of each task. The result? Getting nothing done.

    Time is spent switching constantly from one task to another or spending too much time deciding what to do.

    How to Tackle It?

    It’s all about priorities and choosing important tasks over urgent ones.

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    Make sure to question the value and purpose of each task and make a list in order of importance.

    For example, throughout your work day, you can waste a lot of time dealing with ‘urgent’ emails from colleagues but, you need to ask yourself if these are more important than working on a task that will affect, say, several office projects at once.

    Help yourself to prioritize and set a goal of working through your list over the next few hours reassessing the situation once the time is up.

    In my other article, I talk about an effective way to prioritze and achieve more in less time: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    5. The One with Shiny Object Syndrome (Distraction-Prone)

    This is another common cause for procrastination; just simple distraction.

    Our brains aren’t wired to focus for long periods of time and it looks for something else. So throw in a bunch of colleagues equally looking for distractions or checking your phone mindlessly, and you’ve got a recipe for ultimate procrastination.

    However, this type of procrastination may not always be an unconscious decision to sabotage and put off work. It’s simply a result of your work setup or types of coworkers you have. Only you know the answer to that.

    How to Tackle It?

    Be mindful of your workspace and potential distractions. Schedule a specific time to converse with your coworkers, put headphones on to minimize listening to what’s going on around you, and switch your phone off.

    Aim to do this for 20-30 minutes at a time and then take a break. This will be a much more efficient way of working and getting what you need done. This is also why scheduling down time is so important for productivity.

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    Whether this type of procrastination is self-sabotage or being a victim of a distracting environment, either way you can take control.

    If you need a little more guidance on how to stay focus, this guide can help you: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    Bottom Line

    I’m going to be bold and assume you identified with at least one of these procrastination pitfalls.

    You could be trapped in the endless cycle of procrastination like I was, that is, until I decided to find out my why behind putting off tasks and projects. It was only then that I could implement strategies and move forward in a positive and productive way.

    I killed the procrastination monster and so can you. I now complete my tasks more efficiently and completely killed that feeling of stress and falling behind with work that procrastination brings.

    I know it’s not easy to stop procrastinating right away, so I also have this complete guide to help you stop it once and for all: Procrastination – A Step-By-Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating

    Featured photo credit: Luke Chesser via unsplash.com

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