|Batman, age 2.|
Before I drop in my tracks each night, I try to read a few pages of Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. It is a diverting book, both wryly funny and insightful. A good bedtime read for a writer. The problem is that, as with all writing craft books, they are written by people who have, by definition, got book contracts. The result for me—journeywoman writer of marketing materials, jacket copy, and educational books—can be a subtle textual layer of smug, occasional name-dropping self-satisfaction that taints the works’ instructive qualities. Maybe I am simply revealing my exquisitely petty nature, but I am HUGELY JEALOUS that Stephen King plays in an amateur rock band with the likes of Amy Tan and it’s hard to get past this to see what he says about WRITING. All you housewives-and-writers out there will likely point to notable exceptions to the above observation. In particular I must point out Anne Lamott’s beautiful Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. I keep this volume right next to Strunk & White’s Elements of Style and W. Somerset Maugham’s A Writer’s Notebook.
What do the how-to books on your shelves reveal about you, your dreams and the places you’ve been. Who are the heroes whose biographies you keep? What skill or talent do you want to develop? What cosmic notions are you struggling to understand? And how old do your kids have to be before you can tell them to clean their own bathroom? (That's an important question, too, you know!)