Creative Writing – Books on Craft

Hi, Copy Bitch! I stumbled on your blog and noticed that you’re a creative writer in addition to being a copywriter. Cool! I love writing, and I’ve been thinking about going back to school for it. In the meantime, I’m asking the writers I know about the books they like to read (books on writing that is). What do you recommend?

—Happy Scrivener, Detroit

Answer: So many books, so little time. Okay, here are three that I recommend (two books and one essay):

  • Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott. The love of my life gave me this book back in the mid 90s, and I’d go through all the heartache again just so I’d encounter the book when I did.
  • Envy” by Kathryn Chetkovich. This is a personal essay — an important one, as far as I’m concerned. Whether we like to admit it or not, envy runs rampant in writing circles (hell, probably in all circles), and the best way to deal with it is to recognize it, make peace with it, and learn how to manage it. You’ll find people will be happy to make you feel better when you get rejected. Many of those same people will have a tough time being genuinely happy when you publish. We’re human. It happens to ALL of us (myself included) — I don’t care who you are. Best we all learn to deal with it.

Happy reading and writing!

What I Learned about Writing & Revision from David Sedaris

I saw David Sedaris last night at Symphony Hall in Boston. (If you’re not familiar with his writing, check him out. He’s brilliant and hysterical.) He read from his forthcoming book Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary. The manuscript is due to his publisher in June, and he’s using his 36-city tour to help polish some of the work that will be appearing in this book. He says after a reading, he’ll go back to his hotel and revise.

How brilliant is that?

He goes to his fans (his customers) and sees what they like and how they respond. Seems to me that we marketers, business owners, copywriters, etc. can all learn from that. Now, I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who don’t like Sedaris. But he doesn’t appear concerned with pleasing them. He seems to care about pleasing his already-loyal tribe and then letting everything else happen organically (he’s also a guy who didn’t know how to send email or browse the Internet until a year ago).

I realize he’s not the first writer (or innovative thinker) to work this way, but it was a great reminder to me to stop worrying about pleasing everyone, which is impossible. And it was a reminder to test, test, test material–whether that material is a website landing page or a fable about two dogs in love.