SSN Interview: Gayle Brandeis
JDH: Are there other guides to writing that you’ve found helpful? How do you think writing guides can be useful, and sometimes not useful, to the beginning writer?
GB: I love Natalie Goldberg's books, especially Wild Mind. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is a favorite, too. So is poemcrazy: freeing your life with words by Susan Wooldridge. As for new books about writing, my friend Laraine Herring's Writing Begins with the Breath comes out from Shambhala later this year. It will rock your world.
I think that writing guides can be very useful for beginning writers—they can help us gain confidence as writers, begin to take creative risks, begin to feel like part of a larger writing community. There is a risk inherent in these books, though—it can become easy to read about writing without actually writing, or to do continuous writing exercises rather than working on a project that is coming from deep inside yourself. I guess it's important to notice whether you're using the book as a tool to enrich your own writing, or as a crutch that's keeping you away from your truest work. If it's the latter, try to wean yourself away from the writing books, and work on trusting your own judgment, your own voice, your own autonomy as a writer. You can always return to the writing books for a quick fix of inspiration.
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