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wild mind, stephen king, natalie goldberg, bird by bird, anne lamott, writing resource books, writing resources, writing books, authors, inspiration, writing muse, writing exercises, writing promptsI am a writing resource junkie. I love any and all books about the craft of writing, publishing, editing, style—you name it, I buy it. I buy them almost as often as I buy notebooks and pens (I know I’m not the only one that does this, only to never write in them. Right? RIGHT?)

I consider myself to be a perpetual student when it comes to writing. I don’t think anyone, even the bestselling authors with hundreds of books under their belt, knows everything there is to know about writing.

Some books I like more than others. My three most favorite writing resource books of all time are (in no particular order):

Stephen King’s On Writing is one of my favorite writing resource books, and I know I’m not the only one. It is written mostly in memoir-style, but it is one of the most brilliant writing resource books there is. King, whose own simple writing style has continued to sell millions of books, touches on all the aspects of writing that tend to plague us writers from time to time (or constantly, if that’s the case).

One of my favorite passages is:

Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation. Affectation itself, beginning with the need to define some sorts of writing as “good” and other sorts as “bad,” is fearful behavior. Good writing is also about making good choices when it comes to picking the tools you plan to work with.”

Beautifully said!

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is one of the most well-known writing resource books out there. It’s not just a great writing resource book, however. It is also “instructions on life.” Told in a similar memoir-style as King’s On Writing, Lamott regales the reader with stories about growing up and relates them to writing in a way that is both inspirational and instructional.

One of my favorite passages is:

One of the things that happens when you give yourself permission to start writing is that you start thinking like a writer. You start seeing everything as material. Sometimes you’ll sit down or go walking and your thoughts will be on one aspect of your work, or one idea you have for a small scene, or a general portrait of one of the characters you are working with, or you’ll just be completely blocked and hopeless and wondering why you shouldn’t just go into the kitchen and have a nice warm gin straight out of the cat dish. And then, unbidden, seemingly out of nowhere, a thought or image arrives. Some will float into your head like goldfish, lovely, bright orange, and weightless, and you follow them like a child looking at an aquarium that was thought to be without fish. Others will step out of the shadows like Boo Radley and make you catch your breath or take a step backward. They’re often so rich, these unbidden thoughts, and so clear that they feel indelible. But I say write them all down anyway.

Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind is still my absolute favorite writing resource book. Given to me in my senior year by a beloved English teacher (the kind they make movies about), this book has become what I call my writing bible. I have come back to it over and over again throughout the years.

One of the wonderful things about this book is that it teaches us to keep our hands moving. It’s the number one rule of writing practice. Through “Try This” exercises and prompts in the book, Goldberg inspires writers to write—and live—by letting wild mind take over, instead of sitting safely in monkey mind.

Goldberg describes the concept of monkey mind and wild mind. Monkey mind is the conscious mind, the inner editor we always listen to, that stops us, that limits us in our expansive thinking. Wild mind is the unconscious. Wild mind is everything, everywhere. Wild mind is the fiery, passionate muse that lurks underneath monkey mind. And Goldberg believes if we can live in wild mind, we can find our true creativity.

One of my favorite passages is:

At the back of every word we write is  no word. Only because no word exists is there space enough to write some word. So when we write about our feelings and perceptions, it is writing practice when we also touch the place where there are no feelings, no perceptions, there is no you, no person doing any writing. In other words you disappear, you become one with your words, not separate, and when you put your pen down, the you who was writing is gone. This is why I do not call my notebooks journals. They are simply blank pages I fill.

These books are always on my desk. They have been dog-eared, highlighted, filled with sticky notes and napkins or envelopes as bookmarks—they have been used, lovingly, over and over to the point they are barely held together anymore. That is the mark of a good writing resource book—or a good book, in general.

What are some of your favorite writing resource books? (No really, please, tell me, I need more!)