I find myself investing an increasing amount of time and energy on my writing work. As I've passed the 50 year old mark I've gained a more clear idea of what I want to do with the rest of my working life and the projects I want to take on and complete. It turns out that I want to accomplish a lot and that includes the publishing of a number of books representing a variety of subjects.
To do this work properly I find myself tearing a page out of the contractor's handbook (If such a thing exists) and filling toolboxes so that I have the necessary resources with which to work. Two of these new tools are books by Heather Robertson and Harry Bruce.
Robertson's book is entitled Writing From Life and is a handbook on how to research, write and market nonfiction work. Robertson is an experienced journalism who has published a lot of work throughout her extensive career. The first chapter, alone will improve our game. I didn't agree with everything she wrote but that's the point of reading and thinking about the content of any book. There's simply no way we can agree with everything someone writes and learning where these points are is an important way of developing our critical faculties.
Bruce's book is Page Fright and is a collection of miscellanea about writers throughout the ages and how they approached their task. He examines how writers have lived and worked and told stories about their quirks and "foibles". He tells us about the drunks who can only write while inebriated and others who have to stand at a desk naked in order to get their thoughts moving. He discusses the value of using pens and pencils, the evolution of technology such as computers, and even the value of routine and discipline when working on an idea or project.
Both books make some shared points. They both tell us, for example, that we need to find our own voices. This is easier said than done. For many writers it takes a lot of time and experimentation before we can express ourselves in a way that is unique and effective. Process is also an important part of our writing. How we write is as important as what we have to say. Some writers find it best to write in the morning and some at night. Other writers prefer a quiet office while many want to be out in more social and public spaces like coffee shops and libraries.
I'm learning first hand that when it comes to a writer's work there are no right or wrong approaches, styles, or answers as long as we do good work. That is one goal we can all share, however. Doing good work and enriching our readers' world is hopefully something we can all agree on.
Mike Jones, author of Vogelstein's Dead Reckoning: The Six Phases of a Funeral.