Favorite Writing Books

Lisa J. Jackson and I were talking about our favorite writing books recently. There are some books that I have read over and over again because I learn something new every time, and there are books that I have only recently found, but have gotten me excited to go to the page. Those are the books I buy rather than download to my Kindle because they sit on the bookshelves in my office like old friends ready to start a new conversation any time I wish. Lisa feels the same way about her faves, so we thought we’d share them with you.


Diane’s List

  1. Bird By Bird, by Anne LamottBird By Bird, by Anne Lamotte. This is the first writing book I reach for when I’m having doubts about myself as a writer or just need inspiration. It’s so funny and fun, and full of practical tips. It’s worth it for the poem by Philip Lopate on page 11 alone, but the concept of “Sh**ty First Drafts” was also extremely helpful for me when I started writing again as an adult.
  2. Life's Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest, by Christina BaldwinLife’s Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest, by Christina Baldwin. This book gave me permission to journal–something I was compelled to do anyway, since the age of 11, but I always felt like I was wasting time until I read this book. It made me realize how valuable my journaling practice has been in my life. My thoughts go in circles when I am just thinking them, but there is something about the implied dialogue of journaling that allows my thoughts to move forward and resolve when I write them down.
  3. No Plot, No Problem, by Chris BatyNo Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty. I think this little book is a very practical approach to a first draft. It’s humorous and quirky, and I turn to it when I need inspiration to just get the words on the page. It helps me let go of my perfectionism. I’ve only completed NaNo once (in 2008), but with this book I can take that challenge any month of the year!

Lisa’s ListOutwitting Writer's Block

  1. Outwitting Writer’s Block and Other Problems of the Pen by Jenna Glatzer. I have this book so marked up with post-it flags that I can barely flip the pages. What initially caught my attention with this book is the word “Outwitting”. For some reason, that really appeals to me and then since it was a book for writers, I had to pick it up. I enjoy the conversational tone, the exercises, and just the fun I have each time I open this book. If the author’s name sounds familiar, you may be familiar with http://www.absolutewrite.com – Jenna is the founder and editor of the site.
  2. File…Don’t Pile! For People Who Write by Pat Dorff, Edith Fine, and Judith File Don't Pile coverJosephson. I don’t even know if you can find it any more, but it’s one I’ve kept for several years. The title says it all. I still have piles, but I feel they are more organized than before I read this book (and I’ve read it a few times to glean new ideas after I get a couple ideas incorporated into my life.)
  3. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (book and associated journal book). I find this an awesome resource for consist journaling. When I first used the book, I also bought the companion book of journal pages – it was large and heavy and I loved writing on the pages. I filled 2 of The Artist's Way coverthe large books before switching to smaller notebooks. It wasn’t the same, but lighter and smaller notebooks are more portable! I admit I haven’t written morning pages in a while, but this is definitely a strong recommendation for spilling out the thoughts in your mind, especially first thing in the morning. Wake up, write to clean out the cobwebs and then have a productive day!
  4. I also recommend Bird by Bird that Diane mentions above.

What are your go-to writing books?


Diane MacKinnon, MD, is currently a full-time mother, part-time life coach. She is a Master Certified Life Coach, trained by Martha Beck, among others. She is passionate about her son, her writing and using her mind to create a wonderful present moment.  Find her life coaching blog at http://www.dianemackinnon.com/blog.