Henry Holt, ISBN 0-8050-3189-8
A couple of months ago, I wrote an essay on everyday courage and the writer. Not long ago, I found an entire book on the subject, and it is a wondrous book. It has something of relevence to say to anyone who writes, anyone who dreams of writing, anyone who has always promised himself 'someday I'm going to write a book,' - in other words, anyone who might possibly read this review.
Keyes doesn't hide behind writerly terms and the distance of objectivity. He admits that he is afraid to write, and tells the reader what scares him, and I like that about him. I understand it, because writing scares me, too. He'll help you dissect your own fears - from fear of saying what you mean to fear of exposing yourself to strangers to fear of failure to fear of success - and then he'll show you what other writers have done to keep writing, in spite of the fact that they faced the same fears. He'll show you how to stop lying to yourself ("I don't have the time to write," "I'm blocked," "I only write for myself," "Writing doesn't really matter to me anymore, so I've quit,") and he'll pull out the fears that hide behind these lies and let you see them in broad daylight. seen in the light, they're still pretty scary, but they become managable.
Best of all, though, he'll show you how to use your fears to write more and better. Not work around them, not conquer them - use them. Make them pay for themselves. Talk about sweet revenge - it's almost as good as writing your nightmares into a novel and getting paid for the things that left you screaming at two o'clock in the morning. (And yes, I've done that. Whole bunches of people have traipsed through some of my worst nightmares and paid for the privilege, and I have gotten revenge on my dreams.)
I only consider a few books essential to every writer, no matter what stage of writing he might be going through: a good dictionary, Writing Down the Bones, Word Menu by stephen Glazier, a good visual dictionary, and now this book.
Give yourself The Courage to Write. Give yourself and your writing wings.
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