Comfort Books for Writers

Sometimes all you need is comfort: a warm blanket, a loving hug, a dog cuddle first thing in the morning.

Or a book.

I tried to cull my bookshelves last week. Tried being the operative word. I swear I have more books than I have shoes, sweaters, and probably underwear too (I also have an embarrassing number of spices, herbs and condiments in my kitchen – Ras el hanout anyone? – but that’s another blog and not relevant to writing unless you care to know how I eat; the short answer is very, very well).

But back to books. The problem started in early January when we took down the Christmas tree and put away the holiday decorations. You know that delicious feeling of spaciousness you suddenly have in the New Year?

I know it too. It’s one of the comforts of Bloatuary January. Except I didn’t feel it this year. Sometime between October and December, my book pile had babies. I’m pretty sure each title had triplets (Don’t even ask about my Kindle).

I needed to find space. So after a few months of procrastinating, I went through a couple of bookshelves and pulled some titles to donate to the Goodwill. In the process, I stumbled over books I hadn’t looked at in a while. And one of those books brought me so much comfort at the time I read it I decided to put together a list of books specifically written to comfort writers.

These aren’t books geared to craft or business, though many writing books on those subjects also include terrific advice and comforting thoughts. I wanted books where comfort, insight or advice, was the primary goal. Think of these books as a New Year’s tonic. A writer’s jump start. The equivalent of a warm blanket, a loving hug or a cuddly puppy.

Rejection, Romance & Royalties: The Wacky World of a Working Writer by Laura Resnick. Sharp, funny, honest and insightful, these essays on the writing life cut right to the heart of the joys, sorrows and rewards of being a writer.  On my keeper pile and never leaving.

 The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life by Dinty W. Moore. Though it’s small enough to fit in a back pocket or a bag, don’t let size fool you. This small book packs a big punch. The Mindful Writer starts by outlining the four noble truths of the writing life and then goes into four key areas:  the writer’s mind, the writer’s desk, the writer’s vision, and the writer’s life. A wonderful source of inspiration and insight.

The Writer’s Book of Hope by Ralph Keyes. According to Keyes, inspiration isn’t nearly as important to the successful writer as tenacity. And encouragement and hope are cornerstones to keeping that tenacity alive. Drawing on his experience as both a writer and teacher of writing, Keyes details some of the tactics well-known writers have used to maintain hope, particularly during difficult times. Enriching and full of encouragement.

For Writers Only by Sophy Burnham. One of the first ‘comfort’ books I ever bought on writing, and still a favorite. A collection of thoughts from many great writers interspersed with Burnham’s own observations on everything from nerves and letting go to audience, productivity, and aloneness.

 Writing from the Inside Out by Dennis Palumbo. Since Palumbo is both an author and a psychotherapist, he brings a unique empathy and insight into the writing life. A positive and fresh take on topics like envy, rejection, loneliness and the joy of commitment.  Wise, compassionate and funny.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. In spite of the fact that Lamott is one of my all-time favorite writers, I wrestled with whether to include this title because Bird by Bird does have a number of chapters directly relating to craft. However, in most cases they go well beyond craft, and reading them is more like having coffee with your favorite writer friend. That aside, this book is a must have for these three comfort chapters alone: Broccoli, Perfectionism and Radio Station KFKD.




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