People who have known me since I was little critter, will tell you they can’t recall many times they didn’t see a book in my hands. Many watched me totter home from my small town library toting the 7 book maximum. One of my early bosses recalls me nearly wandering into a lane of traffic as I walked to work, my nose glued to the pages of whatever I was reading at the moment.
In that sense, all books have played a part in my evolution as a fiction writer. But two works directly relating to the craft stand out. The first is Ray Bradbury’s Zen In The Art Of Writing.
Bradbury stresses the importance of tapping your inner child, of trusting your memories and of reveling in the pure joy of creativity. A stanza of his poem Doing Is Being sums it up best:
Doing is being.
To have done’s not enough;
To stuff yourself with doing—that’s the game.
To name each hour by what’s done,
To tabulate your time at sunset’s gun
And find yourself in acts
You could not know before the facts
You wooed from secret self, which needs much wooing,
So doing brings it out.
Bird by Bird, Annie Lamott’s speculation on writing, the creative process and life it’s own self, helped me deal with the issue of being overwhelmed by a writing project. She made me realize that a 300 page novel is an addition process. A page here—three pages there—half a page the next day. After a while, they add up to a book. She also helped me quell the hyper-critical little imp that backed me into creative corner after creative corner. Here’s the primary message I took away from Bird By Bird:
Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.
I’m currently rereading Zen and taking away insights I’d missed before. I know my fingers will curl around a copy of Bird on one of my future visits to the library. I’d recommend either or both to anyone aspiring to write or who just wants to marvel at two masters at the height of their craft.
Mike Nettleton's newest book "Shotgun Start" is a hard-boiled detective novel set in and around Albuquerque, New Mexico. The protagonist, Neal Egan is a former cop eking out a living as a golf hustler. When his ex-wife is accused of the grisly shotgun murder of the man she left Neal for, he finds himself once again drawn into her deadly orbit.
Mike and co-author Carolyn Rose have five jointly-written books including The Big Grabowski and its sequel,Sometimes A Big Commotion, both set in the fictional Oregon coastal town of Devil's Harbor. Also available are The Hard Karma Shuffle, and The Crushed Velvet Miasma with the tie-dye detective Paladin and the young adult fantasy The Hermit of Humbug Mountain. He's enjoying retirement after 43 years of broadcasting, the last 16 at 1190 KEX in Portland, Oregon. He performs in local theater, plays golf and tournament poker and is working on the sequel to Shotgun Start. Amazon Author's Page