We’ve all come across ‘throw away’ blogs. The fluff pieces that add little meaning or value to your day; the type of perfectly non-invasive article to skim through over breakfast (once upon a time, we’d depended on the soft news stories of our local paper to gently warm our minds, preparing us for the day ahead). ‘Tips’ and ‘Lists’ articles are particularly popular.
Five tips for stain removal/chemical free-living/deodorising your car seats!
Ten tips to financial success!
The six superfoods you need to eat right now in order to avoid imminent death!
(I once wrote a blog for an online mag titled ‘Top five luxury suitcases’…the world really needed that article [written while wearing a $15 Kmart dress…hello irony].)
Then there’s the lists: the best novels/movies/TV shows/powders that will deodorise your car seats ever made.
Now that we’ve acknowledged the throw-away-ness of these types of blogs, I hope you find something useful in the below info.
Because, sometimes, writers question why they write.
Because, sometimes, you need a bit of encouragement before facing the blank page.
Because, sometimes, you need a bit of kindling when you’re feeling burnt out.
Below is a collection of inspiration touchstones. Here are the books, blogs and YouTube videos that can help warm you up before delving into your writing practice.
Stephen King Lecture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNvw0BcO_FM
This video runs a little long at 1.5 hours, but it’s one of Stephen’s best lectures. Here, he talks about the publication of ‘Carrie’, growing up in Maine and his general process as a writer. He is light and funny and his pure love of the craft is infectious.
A conversation with Zadie Smith and Jeffery Eugenides: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8epC9qzRDE
Here, Zadie and Jeffery discuss their creative process, past works, teaching experiences and the motivations behind their writing. They also branch into the topic of education and privilege (if you enjoy that segment of the talk, I HIGHLY recommended also checking out this video with Zadie and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkeCun9aljY)
A conversation with Diana Gabaldon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZXug9ILPZE
In this video, Diana giving a stellar ‘performance’ of what is happening in her mind as she is constructing a scene. The last five minutes are a real tear jerker too.
National Writers Series: Karin Slaughter https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50_s6l3snwA
Karin is so damn likeable. Though she is well read and highly articulate, there is nothing pretentious about her (she ran her own successful sign printing business before becoming a writer — it doesn’t get much more real than that). In this interview, she talks about the research involved in the writing of her novel ‘Cop Town’, a book that explores what it was like to be a female cop (both white and black women) in the seventies.
Helen Garner: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DREsUqM-INg
Helen’s openness and self-deprecation is un-arming. All of her interviews are inspiring, so there’s no need to limit yourself to just this one.
Chuck Wendig: Terrible minds: http://terribleminds.com/
Most writers know about Chuck and his crude, insightful, advice-gathered-from-the-trenches style blog. If you don’t, check it out. (Duh!) A lot of his writerly friends do guests blogs too, so it’s a nice way to discover new authors!
Dani Shapiro: http://danishapiro.com/category/blog/moments-of-being/
Dani was a fiction writer early in her career, but her last four books have been memoirs. Her blog is decidedly feminine as she reflects on the craft itself and the anxiety of being both a creative and an adult (with bills, responsibilities and dependents). Even while describing recent moments of stress, anxiety or emotional turmoil, Dani somehow creates a sense of spaciousness and calmness: Good Sunday reading.
Ann Patchett: https://parnassusmusing.net/category/anns-blog/
The blog is linked with Ann’s independent bookstore, Parnassus, in Nashville. Mostly, Ann discusses what books she’s read recently and she usually throws in some anecdote about the shop dog, Sparky.
(On Writing by Stephen King is brilliant, but it’s so well-known that it seems hardly worth mentioning here)
Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott
Warm, funny and very, very honest. Anne offered little in way of technical advice, but she makes up for it through her heartfelt philosophies. This is book is more about how to be a writer and less about how to write.
Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg
A classic for sure, but so damn good. Natalie is everyone’s champion. The first time I finished WDTB, it felt like I had spent the afternoon discussing various writing processes, devices and techniques with a new, but instantly close friend. Natalie makes it feel like she is talking directly to you. Not only is the advice good, but the quality of Natalie’s writing is itself inspiring. Also, the chapters are bite size which means you can read AND get some serious writing done.
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage – Ann Patchett
This book is a collection of essays, but the essay I want to mention in particular is called ‘The Getaway Car: a practical memoir about writing and life.’ In these fifty pages, Ann detail everything she knows about how to be a writer. She sugarcoats nothing and yet she discourages no-one. Ann knows why you want to be a writer; she gets it. She’s just trying to give you a-heads-up and offering some advice on how to write and make money from that writing.
Juicy Pens Thirsty Paper – SARK
SARK is an artist and an author; she literally draws her books. ‘Juicy Pens Thirsty Paper’ is pure inspiration; this is not a how to get published/how to quit your day job manual. This book is gentle. SARK tells us that writing is the reward and it’s not a waste of time. And it’s damn fun. Some of the advice borders on gimmicky, but if you’re suffering from writer’s block, SARK’s inventive techniques may help jolt you out of your funk.
Playing with Words – Shelly Davidow and Paul Williams
If you’re looking for some serious technical meat, this is it. Shelly and Paul sprinkle personal anecdotes between practical exercise that will get your writerly brain kicking into gear. If you don’t feel up to working on your manuscript, but you’re still aching for a sense of achievement, completing the exercises in this books are just the thing. Plus, it pushes you. It challenges you to write about different things and to write them differently. And isn’t that what we’re all striving for, to improve?
Well, that’s it. My contribution to the soft news pieces doing the rounds on the internet. I hope some of it is legitimately useful. And please, if you’ve come across any YouTube interviews, books or blogs that have helped re-inspire you, please comment! I would love to heard about your inspirational touchstones.
Image: Fire! by Ernie