Writer Reading List: Inspiration (Motivation and Self-Care)

Art and FearAROUND THE WRITER’S BLOCK: USING BRAIN SCIENCE TO SOLVE WRITER’S RESISTANCE by Rosanne Bane (TarcherPerigee, 2012). PEEK: “Discover the tricks that your brain uses to keep you from writing—and how to beat them.” SEE ALSO Around the Writer’s Block Forms from Bane of Your Resistance.

ART AND FEAR: OBSERVATIONS ON THE PERILS (AND REWARDS) OF ARTMAKING by David Bayles and Ted Orland (Image Continuum, 1993). As relevant for writers as musicians as painters as photographers as dancers, this economical slim paperback is a gift to anyone who’s a human being and trying to create art.

CHILDREN’S BOOKS AND THEIR CREATORS: AN INVITATION TO THE FEAST OF TWENTIETH CENTURY CHILDREN’S LITERATURE by Anita Silvey (Houghton Mifflin, 1995). PEEK: “…single-volume reference covering the books our children are – or could be – reading now, from board books to young adult novels. Entries by nearly 200 experts inform and guide readers about every aspect of children’s literature.”

THE COURAGE TO WRITE: HOW WRITERS TRANSCEND FEAR by Ralph Keyes (Holt, 1996). PEEK: “…anxiety is felt by writers at every level, especially when they dare to do their best. He describes the sequence of ‘courage points’ through which all writers must pass, from the challenge of identifying a worthwhile project to the mixture of pride and panic they feel when examining a newly published book or article. Keyes also offers specifics on how to root out dread of public ‘performance’ and of the judgment of family and friends, make the best use of writers’ workshops and conferences, and handle criticism of works in progress.”

Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula NordstromDEAR GENIUS: THE LETTERS OF URSULA NORDSTROM collected and edited by Leonard S. Marcus (HarperCollins, 1998). Eavesdrop on this legendary editor’s role in the creation of such classics as: GOODNIGHT MOON by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd; CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E.B. White and illustrated by Garth Williams; WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak and HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON by Crockett Johnson.

FEARLESS WRITING: HOW TO CREATE BOLDLY AND WRITE WITH CONFIDENCE by William Kenower (Writer’s Digest, 2017). PEEK: “From the blank page to the first draft, and from querying to marketing, the writing life is filled with challenges, roadblocks, and new experiences. With FEARLESS WRITING, you’ll find the inner strength to embark on a bold journey–and build a lifelong career in the process.”

THE FOREST FOR THE TREES: AN EDITOR’S ADVICE TO WRITERS by Betsy Lerner (Riverhead, 2000). Your best source for savvy and the soul. PEEK: “…sharp, funny, and insightful guide has been meticulously updated and revised to address the dramatic changes that have reshaped the publishing industry in the decade since. From blank page to first glowing (or gutting) review, Betsy Lerner is a knowing and sympathetic coach who helps writers discover how they can be more productive in the creative process and how they can better their odds of not only getting published, but getting published well.” CYN NOTE: look for the latest edition.

LETTERS TO JUDY: WHAT KIDS WISH THEY COULD TELL YOU by Judy Blume (Putnam, 1988). PEEK: “The author of young people’s novels collects some of the many letters she has received from her fans, and does her best to provide some special answers.”

OUR STORY BEGINS edited by Elissa Brent Weissman (Atheneum, 2017). PEEK: “Everyone’s story begins somewhere. For Linda Sue Park, it was a trip to the ocean, a brand-new typewriter, and a little creative license. For Jarrett J. Krosoczka, it was a third-grade writing assignment that ignited a creative fire in a kid who liked to draw. For Kwame Alexander, it was a loving poem composed for Mother’s Day–and perfected through draft after discarded draft. For others, it was a teacher, a parent, a beloved book, or a word of encouragement. It was trying, and failing, and trying again. It was a love of word and pictures and stories. OUR STORY BEGINS presents some of today’s foremost children’s authors and illustrators as their quirky, smart, vulnerable, youthful selves, revealing young talent, the storytellers they would someday become, and the creativity they inspire today in kids everywhere. Your story is beginning too. Where will it go?” Ages 8-up. More on this title from Cynsations.

TAKE JOY: A WRITERS GUIDE TO LOVING THE CRAFT by Jane Yolen (Writer’s Digest, 2006). A celebration of writing, a reminder that it is such a wonderous experience and to enjoy it. Plus, a lot of helpful how-to thoughts. Good for beginners and the well published.

TALENT IS OVERRATED: WHAT REALLY SEPARATES WORLD-CLASS PERFORMERS FROM EVERYBODY ELSE by Geoff Colvin (Portfolio, 2010). PEEK: “A growing body of scientific research shows…that specific natural abilities don’t explain great performance. Instead, the key is what researchers call deliberate practice – but beware, because it isn’t what most of us do when we think we’re practicing. It’s a well-defined set of activities that world-class performers pursue diligently. More of it equals better performance. Tons of it equals great performance.”

Walking on AlligatorsWALKING ON ALLIGATORS: A BOOK OF MEDITATIONS FOR WRITERS by Susan Shaughnessy (HarperCollins, 1993). A quote, a consideration, a call to action. This gem of a paperback is a must-have for the writer’s peace of mind and piece of soul.

WRITING PAST DARK: ENVY, FEAR, DISTRACTION, AND OTHER DILEMMAS IN THE WRITER’S LIFE by Bonnie Friedman (HarperCollins, 1993). Worth twice the cost for the chapter on envy and the “anorexia of language” alone.

Inspiration and Self-Care/Self-Understanding Links

An Address and a Map: Discovering Your Genius as a Writer by Tim Wynne-Jones from The Writers’ League of Texas. PEEK: “…I’m talking about the genius that each of us possesses to some degree: a natural ability or capacity or quality of mind; the special endowments which fit each of us for our work.”

Attend to Your Work by Deborah Heiligman from I.N.K.: Interesting Nonfiction for Kids. Deborah talks about the words her grandfather left her. PEEK: “I hope you will indulge me and let me tell you about him. I think it relates to what we are all trying to do here.”

Challenges and Rewards by Cynthia Lord. PEEK: “Most authors who write about serious subjects will make some people angry or hurt, and I am no exception.”

To Cheer or To Covet by Liz Garton Scanlon from Liz In Ink. PEEK: “I’m here to admit right now that I’ve been on both sides of this thorny fence.”

Choosing Your Own Path by R.L. LaFevers at Shrinking Violet Promotions. PEEK: “So here’s the thing. There are at least a hundred different paths to success. No, I’m not kidding.”

Feedback Can Hurt: Here’s How to Ask for It by L. Roger Owens from Brevity Magazine. PEEK: “‘Here are three possibilities—what do you see are the relative merits of each?’ This kind of targeted request for feedback gives you what you need sans the emotional baggage.”

Financial Fear and Women Writers and Artists from Nancy Werlin. PEEK: “…all the desire, planning, logic, flexibility, practicality, talent, persistence, and yes, even luck, can’t get rid of the uninvited permanent guest in your life: Fear. Women artists are afraid. We are afraid, we are afraid all the time, and our terror exists on (at least!) two levels.”

By Robin LaFevers

For Those We Lose Along the Way by R.L. LaFevers from Shrinking Violet Promotions. PEEK: “I know of three authors who simply gave up after their first book, completely disillusioned and demoralized by the publishing process and the lack of support they got from their publisher, the lukewarm sales and reviews their book received.”

How Deliberate Practice Can Make You an Excellent Writer by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware from Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. PEEK: “…when those who become experts in their field engage in practice, they spend most of their time doing things they don’t already know how to do. They are constantly challenging themselves to improve, to do things better, to gain additional skills.”

How Writers Can Beat Imposter Syndrome from Nathan Brandsford. PEEK: “As everyone from Eminem to Alexander Hamilton (okay, the fictional one) has said: You only have one shot. Don’t blow it. Make sure you fear throwing away your chance because you failed to go after your dreams more than you fear some random person denting your feelings.”

If You Write a Book That Nobody Reads, Are You Really a Writer? by Susan Wolfe from Writer Unboxed. PEEK: “When our readership falls far short of our dreams, what if anything keeps us writing? Should we try to dial our hopes back?…If a tree falls in the forest, how many people need to hear it for the tree to have really fallen?”

Is Your ‘But’ Too Big? by John Gibbs from An Englishman in New Jersey. PEEK: “Be wary of such people. Many of them carry a virus, Excusitis, a mental affliction which can kill writing dreams by causing the person suffering from it to doubt themselves and their ability. Symptoms include excessive use of the phrases like ‘I wanted to be a writer, but…’, ‘I’ve always thought I had a book in me, but…’, ‘I love writing, but…'”

Make Your Writing Anxiety Disappear By Thinking Small by Jane Anne Straw from Jane Friedman. PEEK: “n the beginning, I was still anxious about the quality of my writing. So I made a deal with myself. I had to complete one whole paragraph, before I could return to it and revise. And when I revised, I could go through that paragraph only once.”

Positivity by Adrienne Kress from The Temp, The Actress, and The Writer. PEEK: “Twitter wisely. By which I mean, if you find you are following someone that you constantly feel jealous of, or if you find you are following someone who only wants to post links to articles about how crappy the writing world is these days, stop following them. Follow people who inspire you, follow people you care about; you have the choice.”

Productivity Pitfalls for Writers to Avoid by Sage Cohen from Writer’s Digest. PEEK: “It’s easy to focus on the negative in writing and in life. But when we turn our attention to what’s working and what we appreciate from moment to moment, our sails turn into the wind.”

Children’s author Monica Brown

self-doubt – see, doubt of self by Sara Zarr at Teen Fiction Cafe. PEEK: “Try to show yourself at least the decency and compassion and wisdom that you’d show a friend. This may involve a lot of talking to yourself, but that’s okay.”

Survivors: Thriving as a Long-Time, Actively Publishing, Children’s-YA Author by Cynthia Leitich Smith from Cynsations. CYN NOTE: Deeply reflective interview series, featuring insights from established voices like Monica Brown, Shutta Crum, Alex Flinn, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Uma Krishnaswami, Barry Lyga, G. Neri, Joy Preble, Nancy Werlin, and more.

Ten Reasons to Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Paper (Or, Go Team Writers!) from Gwenda Bond. PEEK: “No one ever really feels comfortable or assured of their place and always always confident in their work and whether it will succeed in the market. The more failure, the more pressure. The more success, the more pressure.”

Time to Write from Martine Leavitt. PEEK: “I confess I do not have natural discipline. Everything I do in life has one overarching objective: to be able to do absolutely nothing. But I believe there are a few keys to
developing discipline….”

We’re All In This Together by Shutta Crum from The Mitten. PEEK: “…sometimes I still feel there is more we can do to help each other. Below is a short list of easy things to lend a hand to our fellow writer or illustrator. What you do just might be the break a colleague needs.”

When You’re Not Okay: A Mental Checkup for Writers from Kim Bullock from Writer Unboxed. PEEK: “The study concluded that writers in particular were common among sufferers of schizophrenia, depression, anxiety and substance abuse, and were almost fifty percent more likely to commit suicide than the general population.”