Monday, December 21, 2020

Two books about writing reviewed by Jennifer Reichow

Noble’s Book of Writing Blunders by William Noble (Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, 2006 – available here) and Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury  (Joshua Odell Editions, Santa Barbara, 1994 – Available from book stores)

Here’s the question I woke up to on Facebook: What motivates you when, as an aspiring author, you have the feeling that your work is irrelevant and it’s all a waste of time? 

Unthinkingly and with the honesty that occurs with no filters, I replied that all beginning writers write a lot of trivial nonsense that will never see the light of day.  The odds of winning the lottery are better than achieving JK Rowling’s status as a first-time author.  Then, I finished my coffee and sat to write. Sure.

A little worm burrowed its way into my brain and left in its slimy trails: Maybe my work is irrelevant. Maybe I am wasting my time. 

Note to self, don’t look at Facebook first thing in the morning.

I was too bummed out to write, so I picked up one of the books about writing I’d borrowed from the library, Noble’s Book of Writing Blunders.  If I wasn’t able to write at least I was doing something educational. 

The book highlights 29 common writing blunders and methods to avoid them, each in a short essay written in easy to understand and often amusing language.  His first blunder is Don’t Write for Your Eighth-Grade Teacher.  I’m sure all of us will remember those torturous years of diagraming sentences and memorizing the rules of grammar.  Noble gives us permission to break many of those rules but notes that it’s important to learn them first so the writer will know which rules to break and when.  Avoiding the rules and formulas allows for the development of individual style and attitude.

This book contains friendly advice for all writers, beginners especially, working to find their rhythm.

While a valuable book, Noble’s Writing Blunders, didn’t make me rush back to my laptop.  After getting another cup of coffee, I moved onto my next book, Zen in the Art of Writing. 

This is a collection of essays written over many years by prolific author Ray Bradbury. It is not a practical book of writing advice; it is not about grammar rules or even about style. It’s about the inspiration and motivation that energized him to write.  

Bradbury found his passion to write at a young age.  He was a seat-of-the- pants writer. He’d collect lists of nouns, which for him were a shortcut to the subconscious and to all his best stories.  

A voracious observer of everything going on around him, he’d note everyday events, his nightmares, and movies {as a child he watched an outrageous number}. He’d also read poetry even when he didn’t understand it. The poetry and his observations stimulated him to write 1,000 to 2,000 words every day.

His advice for entering the creative unconscious: write, relax, don’t think.

Bradbury’s book will not be for the writer looking for common sense how-to advice.  Read Noble’s Book of Writing Blunders for do’s and don’ts. But Zen in the Art of Writing helped me find what I lack when I face my keyboard. My work may never travel further than my laptop, but I’m not wasting my time if I write with zest and gusto.  These, according to Bradbury, are “the most important items in the writer’s make-up, the things that shape his material and rush him along the road to where he wants to go.”

I’m returning to that Facebook question, hoping I can be as eloquent as Bradbury.


Looking for books? There’s a great bookstore near you. For starters, see here.

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Jennifer Reichow knew as a child she was going to university and be a writer. As so often happens, life interrupted her plan. But now that she’s just retired from a fulfilling nursing career, she’s realizing her dream of becoming a writer. It feels like coming home.

See Brian Henry’s schedule hereincluding online and in-person writing workshops, weekly writing classes, and weekend retreats in Algonquin Park, Alliston, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Georgina, Guelph, Hamilton, Jackson’s Point, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Southampton, Sudbury, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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