What book, blog, or person (or other resource) has done the most to improve and inspire your writing? Tell us and you might win a copy of Andy Nulman’s book Pow! Right Between the Eyes: Profiting from the Power of Surprise.
Sometimes I think we restrict our vision when we look for resources to help improve our writing. If we paid any attention in college composition classes, we may have a copy of Stunk and White’s The Elements of Style somewhere on our bookshelf, or perhaps some edition of Joseph M. Williams’ Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace.
Maybe you’ve gone a bit further, and you have William Zinsser’s On Writing Well, or Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, or Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird : Some Instructions on Writing and Life.
Let’s cast our nets even wider. What can we learn about writing from resources that aren’t really about writing?
For example, from choreographer Twila Tharp, in The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, I learned about her cardboard project boxes, where she puts every bit of material related to a dance project—clippings, notes, videos, sketches, and anything that gives her ideas for the project. Then, when she needs inspiration or to refresh her memory about something, she doesn’t have to hunt all over, because it’s all in the box. So now I pull everything related to a writing project into one place: A physical or virtual file folder, or for larger projects, a box.
Tharp also taught me that it’s vital to get away from the keyboard sometimes. “Movement stimulates our brains in ways we don’t appreciate.” And she reminded me of things that I already knew, but maybe drifted away from. For example, I tend to be too literal sometimes, when I could rely on other rhetorical tools like metaphor. “Metaphor is the lifeblood of all art, it it is not art itself. Metaphor is our vocabulary for connecting what we’re experiencing now with what we have experienced before.”
And in Pow! Right Between the Eyes, Andy Nulman taught me that I need to look for ways to jump out of the bushes and surprise people—metaphorically speaking, that is. Surprise is one of the best ways to make something memorable, and what writer doesn’t want their writing to be memorable?
I could list dozens or hundreds of other things that aren’t strictly about writing, but which nevertheless teach me something about writing. You can too, if you give it a bit of thought.
Your turn, and your chance to win Andy’s book
What book, blog, or person (or other resource) has done the most to improve and inspire your writing? (It’s OK if it is about writing.) Reply in the comments, on your own blog, or via Twitter. I’ll choose a random participant to win Pow! Right Between the Eyes, plus my own little surprise prize.
If you leave your comment here, be sure to include your email address. (My promise: Your address will not be published, and I will never ever sell it, give it away, or use it to spam you. Cross my heart and hope to die.)
If you blog about this, let me know about it in the comments or by email, and I’ll link back to your post here.
If you put your response on Twitter, be sure to reply to me, @rjacobse.
The deadline is 12 noon (Central time, GMT -06:00), Friday, 17 April, 2009.