2.21.2007

Inspiration to Keep Words Going

Gathering around the table the conversation with writers and teachers of writing often moves to titles of favorite writing books. There are so many good ones. As we sip coffee we often find ourselves narrowing the focus to volumes better for personal writing or ones that give us tips for working with our students. The most sound advice I have gleaned from my collection of books is that we all just need to write. We need to put the pen to paper or words to the keyboard every day. The words don't always have to arranged as a published piece. Those of us that are teachers know that sharing those starts and stops, those first drafts with our students do so much to enrich their writing lives.I recently wrote this article for NIWP Write On, the newsletter of the Northwest Inland Writing Project. This was the short list!
The Winter Writing List: Inspiration to Put Words to Paper
Frosty windows and ice covered ponds signal that mid-winter season that emerges during winter break and extends into March. It is an ideal time for wrapping up in a quilt, grabbing a cup of hot chocolate, and settling in a soft chair with a favorite pen, journal, and some writing books for inspiration. As writers and teachers of writing we have that desire to write. Other stuff gets in the way. Personal writing moves down the list of priorities. For this winter collection I have compiled a short list of useful books on writing. This list may help you keep going when you have run out of inspiration, energy, or creativity. Hopefully this collection may also provide fresh ideas to use with your own student writers.
Steering the Craft, Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew by Ursula K. Le Guin. I am drawn in already by the great title! This Portland, Oregon writer has organized her book by topics surrounding the craft of writing, and then includes writing exercises, examples from known literature, and further reading. She begins the book with a chapter entitled “The Sound of Your Writing” using a little poem by Gertrude Stein called “Susie Asado” as a model for sound. Other chapters include “Repetition”, “Point of View and Voice”, and “Indirect Narration”. This book is helpful particularly if there is one specific area of writing you want to focus on without reading a whole volume.
Writing Toward Home, Tales and Lessons to Find Your Way by Georgia Heard. In each chapter of this book the author gives a narration on a topic, following up with a writing prompt to inspire the writer. She takes experiences and lessons from her life and guides the writer to put those life experiences into their own words. “Let Writing Lead the Way” is a favorite chapter because she admits failures in her own writing and ends with questions we can ask ourselves as writers. Home and autobiography are themes throughout the book helping the writer find an authentic voice and well-chosen words.
The Writer’s Notebook, Unlocking the Writer Within You by Ralph Fletcher is a compact book that carries a big punch. He introduces the Writer’s Notebook idea then provides thoughts on notebooks from authors including Paul Fleischman and Naomi Shihab Nye. His chapter called “Lists” is full of practical writing ideas for any situation. His last chapter “Writing About Writing” is a perfect ending to this book. He answers questions and shares others’ thoughts on writing. “Your notebook should fit you the way a favorite pair of jeans fits your body. Let it reflect who you are.” If you are short on time and want some practical, yet inspiring ideas, this is the book for you.
The Sound of Paper, Starting From Scratch by Julia Cameron. Cameron is well known for her book The Artist’s Way, but when it comes to setting up rituals for the writing life, this book is a keeper. She introduces three writing tools to use in “your backpack” throughout the book. They are morning pages, artist dates, and walks. She then introduces us to a series of essays about the creative life, each coming to a close with an idea to explore. One favorite of mine is called “Keeping Our Footing” and the exercise has the writer focus on activities that bring relief and grounding. Yes, the list includes laundry, making fudge, and mending!
I hope you have time during the winter to devote to personal writing. I also hope these books may be an inspiration. Please share your lists. I feel the need to visit a bookstore on Saturday!
The website for the Northwest Inland Writing Project is www.niwp.org.

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