May Sarton—poet, novelist, journal keeper extraordinaire—published numerous works over her long career. I’ve read many of her novels and enjoyed her volumes of poetry, but May’s lasting legacy to the writing world lies in the dozen journals she published.
In those journals, May Sarton addressed both the craft of writing and the challenges of a writer’s life. She wrote about a writer’s need for solitude. She wrote about her garden, her cat, her house by the sea. She confessed her worries about growing older, her heartbreak when her long-time partner began to suffer from dementia, her own recovery from a stroke. When a book review was disappointing, she wrote of its sharp bite. She shared stories of the students who visited her and the obligation she felt to answer when a letter came asking for advice. She expressed frustration when her writing life took up more of her time than her writing, but also joy in realizing that those demands came from people who appreciated her art.
Writers are often inspired by the memoirs or advice of other writers. I am grateful that May Sarton graciously shared so much of herself. Despite many reads, each time I open and read her observations, I always find some new insight.
Thank you, May Sarton. If you were indeed alive and blogging, I would follow you.
I have long wanted to express the above sentiments. A few weeks ago, after a comment on How Many Pages Did You Write Today? about the impact a particular writing book had on the writer, I decided to do my May Sarton blog. To honor her generosity, I’ve invited some writing friends to share their thoughts on books that inspired them.
I’ve read some great books on the craft of writing, but the book that has impacted me the most is one on the psychology of writing. Seven Steps on the Writer’s Path: The Journey from Frustration to Fulfillment by Nancy Pickard and Lynn Lott. It came to me at a time when I didn’t think I was on a writing path at all, when I thought life and self-sabotage had detoured me horribly off-course (again). The book revealed that I was actually on one of the seven steps and showed me how I could continue the journey.
(Julie blogs more about it here…http://julielongwrites.com/2011/02/a-funny-thing-happened-on-the-way-to-those-revisions/)
~ ~ from BARBARA ROSS, on Stephen King’s On Writing.
When Ramona asked me to write about why I love Stephen King’s On Writing, I found I had trouble articulating it. So I pulled the book off the shelf–and was immediately sucked back into it. I could have re-read the whole thing. That’s how compelling it is. The book is divided into three sections; the story of how King was formed as a writer, guidance on how to write, and a final portion, written as he recovered from his catastrophic injuries after being hit on a country road by a van, called “On Life.”
On Writing is highly entertaining, but King takes himself, his craft and the reader seriously. We all need to imagine a writing life, and he helped me immensely in imagining mine.
(Barb shares a Maine connection with Stephen King. She can be found hanging out at the Maine Crime Writers blog.)
~ ~ from GENIE PARRISH, on “Write Like Hemingway” by R. Andrew Wilson, PhD
Despite the title, this is not actually a book on how to write exactly like Hemingway, but rather on how to learn from him and write better. A quote from Papa might be: “Keep them people, people, people, and don’t let them get to be symbols.” To this, Wilson adds: “Should the writer find a character too perfectly fitting into some artistic ideal, he should remember all the contradictions of human personality.” He gives exercises, as most “how to write” books do, but then adds “What’s the Point?” in which he explains exactly why the exercise can help you develop your skills. As Wilson says in his introduction, “Let us see what Papa has to teach us.” He leaves it to the reader/writer to decide what she wishes to learn.
(Genie is participating in her own adventure this summer, traveling across the South to hear veterans’ stories: http://www.swrnn.com/2011/07/31/lake-elsinore-four-women-journey-across-america-to-hear-veterans-stories/)
~ ~ from HOLLY GAULT, on Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions:
Most writers choose Lamott’s Bird by Bird as her influential writing book and it is wonderful. I probably remember most her constantly running inner radio station, KFKD, and how she has to pull the plug on the radio. To me, Operating Instructions is where Lamott put all her self to work, heart and soul. She writes of recovery from drugs and alcohol, the birth and early years of her son, and the wrenching death of her best friend.
Anne Lamott writes honesty. She slices open her chest so we can see what makes her heart beat. She turns on those bright lights of the OR so we see every crevice and wrinkle, the weirdities and absurdities of her life. She then sews it all up and we can all breathe easier.
(Find out more about the multi-talented Holly at HOLLYGRAPHIC ARTS.com)
~ ~ from KATHY WALLER, on Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way
A dozen years ago, experiencing burnout on both personal and professional fronts, I consulted a therapist. He said, “Write.” But with two degrees in English, I had no idea how to begin, and several dozen books about writing didn’t show me. Then I happened upon Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, and stepped into a new world. Instead of learning how to write, I would open myself to my own creativity. I embarked on Cameron’s twelve-week program, did morning pages, artist dates, became reacquainted with myself, my dreams, my strength, my faith. In the process, I changed. I became a writer.
(Kathy blogs at the aptly named to write is to write is to write.)
Have you been inspired by a writing book, a memoir, a journal? Tell us about it.