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Monday, 14 December 2015

The Right Book at the Right Time

There are definitely books for different times in your life. I discovered this some years ago when I tried to re-read The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I just couldn't do it. I tried and tried but in the end I gave up. I first read this book when I was in my teens but twenty years on I had outgrown it.

Recently two books have come into my life at just the time I need them. The first is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.

I saw it mentioned in a newspaper and in some way it spoke to me. I ordered it not knowing what to expect and not having read any of Elizabeth's previous work. I have not even seen the film Eat, Pray, Love although it is on my wish list. Anyway I loved this book. I really like her straightforward, no nonsense style. She mentions luck, something which you need your fair share of when you are a writer but the heart of this book is dedication and love. It is easy to become discouraged and I don't know of any writer who hasn't had their ups and downs, their frustrations, their moments of discouragement. When you are going through a difficult period with writing it is easy to forget how much you love it. Elizabeth puts the love and the dedication for writing at the forefront of this book. I wish I had read it when I first started out. It would have saved a good deal of heartache along the way.

The second book is actually in a similar vein and was lent to me only a couple of days ago by a writing friend. It is When a Writer isn't Writing by Jenny Alexander.

I often drop by Jenny's blog Writing In The House of Dreams so I knew that I would enjoy this book. Jenny always has something wise and profound to say. The sub-title of this book is 'How to Beat Your Blocks, Be Published and Find Your Flow'. Surely those are words to entice any writer and Jenny doesn't disappoint. She talks about fear of getting started, building your world, inhabiting your characters; all things which established writers know about but still need to be reminded of from time to time. I am still reading this book and I know it still has plenty of jewels waiting to be revealed.

The interesting thing about both of these books coming into my life at this time is that I'm not particularly struggling with my writing. I'm forty thousand words into my YA novel and it's going well. But reading these books has enhanced my writing experience. It has reminded me that even if no-one wants this book when I have written it, it will not be wasted. So whether you're struggling to get started, you're trudging through those middle chapters or even if you feel that you are already in the flow I think that both of these books still have something to offer, a philosophy which will make you feel even better about your writing life.

I will end with some words from Jenny which have given me pause for thought and may help you too.

'I choose to see every piece of work as part of my development as a writer, and therefore of great value whether it finds a publisher or not. If I get rejections, they feel less important because I'm looking at them in this wider context.'

Thank-you for dropping by and have a good week.


  1. These both sound extremely interesting books Alex.....they're now on my list to read! And I do know what you mean when you say there are books for different times in your life.....some I ove years ago I ant stand on re reading. But I have a large stash of books that I continually go back to and adore them still....

  2. Me too, Bridget, A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly, Crow Lake by Mary Lawson, Unless by Carol Shields, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens are all books I return to again and again. They are like lovely old friends and there are many, many more I could mention. Perhaps that's another post!

  3. Hi Alex - I just chanced upon this post, and I'm delighted that my book fell into your hands at the right time. You make the point that even the most experienced writers need to be reminded of what they know from time to time - I certainly do, which is why I love reading other people's books about writing, and why I wanted to write mine.