25 January 2010

Reading about Writing

I've been getting into reading again and it has felt really good.  I always forget how good it is lose yourself in a book--it really doesn't compare to a tv show or a movie or any other form of entertainment.  A book transports you and when you find yourself reaching for those pages, unable to put the book down, it fills you with a deep sense of satisfaction, a sigh of relief, like all is well in the world.

I was browsing the writing section of a local bookstore and found this book:

and this one:

two very different authors about the craft of writing.

I'm about 3/4s of the way through each of them, and I like both of them.  The Forest for the Trees is written by a literary agent and former senior editor for Doubleday and to be honest, when you first read it (and you're a writer), it makes you feel like you're mentally ill.  It's like a self-help book for writers from a publishing point of view, the view of an editor who has worked years with talented but self-destructive writers.  You can tell that Betsy cares deeply about books and wants writers to write them and she wants to bring them out of whatever barriers (mental, substance related, emotion) keeps them from producing work.  I really didn't relate to the descriptions of manic depressive writers (ok maybe just a wee bit) but when she went into skin disorders as a common trait of writers, I thought, HOLD UP!  Are you kidding me? I have had psoriasis since I was in elementary school and according to Betsy, psoriasis and eczema are right up there with substance abuse and bipolar disorder as major identifiers of writing personalities.

I felt a bit exposed and wide-eyed.  The book was so well written though that I wasn't thwarted and kept plunging ahead.  It's paid off.  I feel as if I've gotten a very practical lived sense of what the demands of a writing career are and Betsy gives nice insider tips on how publishers and editors see writers and what you can do to navigate the competitive publishing world.

Stephen King on the other hand is an easier read with fascinating stories from his life.  The things I liked the most about his book were his stories on struggling to become a writer.  He used to work in a laundromat after college and wash table linens from seafood restaurants that were crawling with maggots.  Ick.  I admire his resolve to write and his devotion to the craft.


  1. What!? Skin disorders common to writers? What's the rationale?

    side note: I saw you and Jacob's photograph on my friend's wedding blog!

    My Big Fat Chinese Korean Wedding

  2. i know huh? re: side note--that picture is really going around! max is using our pictures for stock photos so i guess it'll keep going round :)