Uncategorized | February 08, 2004

I admit it. I’m a bibliophile with a particular weakness. That’s right – after perusing the poetry shelves, contemplating the hot/young/new talents, and delving into the one clearance rack designless enough to resemble an elephant graveyard, I make a beeline for the “on writing” section. There, whether in the throes of writer’s block or the depths of apathy, I search for a miracle cure to my particular ailment.

On Monday, convinced my grammar is suffering, I decide to buy any volume hailed as “Strunk and White for the 21st century.” On Tuesday, after discovering my characters have no depth, no spark to them, a matter of necessity urges me to purchase a book with some title similar to How to Build Your Characters, Brick by Brick. Wednesday, Thursday, and the rest of the week bring similar temptations, until my room shelves sag under the weight of not only manuals on writing, but also books promising a glimpse into the inner workings of the publishing world, books offering page after page of editing tips, books with prompts calculated to inspire genius from a mediocre talent.

After several years of gathering, I now own over twenty on-writing books (which I think is quite a lot, considering I still categorize myself as a starving student who practically pays her rent with quarter rolls.). Included in the heap is: Structuring Your Novel by Meredith and Fitzgerald, The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them) by Jack M. Bickham, The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner, Copyediting: A Practical Guide by Karen Judd, How to Be Your Own Literary Agent by Richard Curtis, and In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit.

Sometimes I wonder if reading these instructional books is good for me as a writer. I’m sure their step-by-step approach has, to some degree, stifled my creativity. Not to mention that the “practical advice” given by all of these authors differs from book to book. Then there’s the old saying about rules being made to be broken. The best writers in the world have become immortal, at least partially, by their willingness to take risks and defy conventions. Maybe I should forget the instruction manuals and take up stamp-collecting instead.

At least then I’d have room on my shelves for some new books.