I really enjoy books about writing but not “How To” books on writing. Rather, I really enjoy books about how actual writers write. The practices, the techniques, the habits, and all that are fascinating to me and can be inspiring for those who have trouble sitting down at the keyboard or finding time to put their story onto paper. However, there are a lot of variations of this type of book and some are much better than others.
There are letters from writers to others that talk about the craft, there are memoirs that tell a great deal about authors and writing, and there are some books that, sadly, border on “How To” write books from great authors.
While The Writing Life isn’t a terrible book that dives into the murky waters of instruction, telling how to write rather than showing, it is a bit of an odd book and I think there are a lot better books on writing. Don’t take me wrong, Annie does great at talking about where and how she writes and there is some great advice in this book but the process of writing described here is a bit overly romanticised.
Now getting a story out is difficult, but other writers have said, in essence, that you need to just sit down and do the work; get your ideas out on paper. However, The Writing Life overly describes, in dramatic detail, the difficulty of fighting for a story and makes writing sound like a magical process where the stars must align and all must be just right and you have to have a setting that’s just so, before you can write a novel.
Mind you, getting a “writing space” set up and being consistent with your routine are vital; writing is putting words on paper, editing, tweaking, and setting the story free on the world. There is no spell or procedure that will make your writing blessed and writing, unlike what this books seems to convey, isn’t some grand struggle that has to be taken up every day. I felt like this book says that writing is climbing a mountain in a snowstorm, when the reality is writing is just sitting down and getting your story out in the best form you can.