The Good, the Bad and the Good for the Soul

One of the many things I love about my job at Portrait is getting to meet so many people who want to write. It’s not important  what they’re writing – the next big screenplay, the great American novel, a prize winning book of poetry.  It matters that they are writing.  Hunkering down over laptops with their cups of coffee or tea, oblivious to all the chatter and goings-on around them.  Or scribbling on a yellow legal pad, the pen sailing over the paper, stopping suddenly-  the writer pondering a moment lost in the world of imagination.  How could any of this effort and concentration be a waste of time?  Isn’t any effort at creativity worth something?  Even the simple benefit of the writer having to search within for the right word or phrase, the linking of these to make a coherent sentence.  It’s all a process, it’s all good- even the bad.

I also happen to believe that our bookstore rooms and gardens are almost charmed in a sense and have an aura of creativity hovering about the ceilings and the trees.  After all, it’s said that Raymond Chandler himself  wrote in the room that was once a bedroom of this house and is now the main room of the bookstore. 

Occasionally I’m asked about good writing books.  We have a section devoted to the best of these, from the how-to, to the examination of the inner workings of a writer’s psyche. We each have our favorites.  Mine tend to be practical and goal oriented.
The first: “No Plot? No Problem!” by Chris Baty.  This is a great book for those who have trouble just sitting down and writing.  His whole theory is don’t worry about plot and story, get your characters firmly in your head and then sit down to write.  He gives you a specific number of words to write each day. Do no editing, re-reading or re-writing, just churn out your words and at the end of 30 days you will have something resembling a short novel.  Then you can do all the re-working that you want.  This way you have something to show for your effort and it gets you in the habit of setting aside time each day to write. I’ve done this 30-day exercise myself twice and thoroughly enjoyed the process.  I highly recommend it.
My next favorite is “Writing Treatments that Sell” by Kenneth Atchity and Chi-Li Wong. I love writing books that are written in a simple easy-to-understand format.  I feel that writers are in a hurry to get back to their writing and just want the facts and suggestions in a quick delivery.  While this book is aimed at screen and television writing, much of the advice can be useful for plays and novels as well.

What are some of your favorite books which discuss the creative process? We’re always eager to know what stimulates, inspires and gets you creating.


Posted by Donna


Filed under Bits and Bobs, Book Recommendations

2 responses to “The Good, the Bad and the Good for the Soul

  1. Sabrina Johnson

    Donna, Donna, Donna —

    What other creative gifts do you have to reveal? I didn’t know until I read your blog posts what a wonderful writer you are! I know it makes logical sense that when someone speaks as articulately as you do, they would be a good writer, but sometimes that doesn’t translate so smoothly from one to the other… and in any event you are not just a good writer, but a great writer.
    Thank you,

  2. Lucia

    Donna, I love this post! A couple of my favorite writing books to recommend:

    Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg
    This is a fantastic, zen-based book to help get your pen moving across the page, shushing the critic in your mind. I recommend it for anyone who wants to start journaling. Not so much for polished pieces, but rather a beginning to fill up that daunting blank page.

    The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield
    A kick-in-the-pants-style manifesto/guide to the psychology of creation. I recommend this to any artist or entrepreneur struggling with starting, finishing, or polishing a project, taking a leap, making a commitment.

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