Five Books to Boost your Writing

WritingIf you write, chances are you’ve noticed there are days when you’re consumed by creativity, a conduit between the ideas taking shape in your head and their transference to the page. You can’t get it all down fast enough. Then there are the days when every word has to be dragged, protesting from a sullen, selfish brain that has no wish to share its secrets – not even with its owner. Oh, and did I mention those words are covered in forward-facing barbs that rip and lacerate as you pull them out.

Sometimes, when the very act of writing has become painful drudgery and you think “I can’t be any good – surely it’s not meant to be like this…”, all you need to get going again is a little inspiration and a reminder of why you love doing what you do. I guarantee you will find something to restore your faith in your own creative process in at least one of these books:

  • Bird By Bird: Some instructions on writing and life – Anne Lamott
    “Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'” A wise and witty take on the reality of a writers life.
  • Zen in the Art of Writing – Ray Bradbury
    Reflections on the experience of writing. Bradbury couches everything in examples from his own life and work. Vibrant and whimsical, it can’t fail to inspire the fiction writer in you.
  • Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the writer within – Natalie Goldberg
    A spiritual guide to the writing process that brings together Zen meditation and writing in a practice that plumbs the depths of a writers soul. The short chapters are perfect pep talks for a flagging psyche.
  • On Writing: A memoir of the craft – Stephen King
    Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing empowers and entertains.
  • The Artists Way – Julia Cameron
    First published a decade ago this book was an international bestseller on the subject of creativity. Famous for it’s free-writing practice of Morning Pages, provocative and inspiring, it sets out clear guidelines for unlocking your inner artist.

Whether you’re just getting started or looking for a reboot, there’s something here to inspire. Have you got any favourites to recommend? What’s your prescription for getting you back on the road to writerly wellness?



Whitby Shores, Whitby, Ontario

By Aisha Ashraf

An autistic Irish immigrant in a cross-cultural marriage, Aisha Ashraf is the archetypal outlander, writing to root herself through place and perspective. Published in The Rumpus, The Maine Review, River Teeth, HuffPost and elsewhere, her work explores the legacy of trauma, the nature of being an outsider and the narrow confines of belonging. She currently lives in Canada.


    1. Always great to greet someone new! Ray Bradbury IS an inspiration, isn’t he? I hope you enjoy the rest of the blog – I’ve already had a look at yours & know I’ll be back again. You have a very strong voice.

  1. Good list, Aisha, particularly The Artist’s Way. I stumbled upon this a few years back and it’s been a decent addition to my writing toolbox.

    I enjoy the mixed process of words that tumble from you versus those days when they struggle to come forth. Not so sure that mine are covered in barbs and lacerate me on the way out(!) but they can sometimes be a bit on the reluctant side and the books on your list are good for coaxing them out into the big wide world.

    I’d also recommend Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris – good for turning words into a first draft. I’d also suggest participating in a few writing workshops. Nothing beats being taught by a real, live person who’s both skilled and experienced at his or her craft and can guide you on your way plus give you feedback which books cannot. I wrote about this recently here –

    Thanks again.

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