The Only Book About Writing You’ll Ever Need
Six years ago, I sort of forgot how to write. I’d been publishing on the internet for a little over a year — that first, embarrassing, thrilling, bringing-a-laptop-to-parties year (I’m fun at parties) — and I’d run out of things to say. What used to be casual, fast, easy breezy bloggy beautiful, had become… slightly boring. Slow. I’d have an idea, stare at my laptop for an hour, Command-Tab over to Gmail, and then walk four blocks to buy an overpriced panini.
So, I did what I always do: I walked into a bookstore feeling vaguely depressed, and left with something to read.
I know you just want the name of the book, so here you go: Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg. It’s sort of a weird book, to be honest. It contains no paragraphs, just sentences stacked on top of each other in austere columns. (The whole thing sort of reads like a poem.) And yes, it’s about the mechanics of putting words together, but it’s also about other things: thinking, noticing, mapping the mess inside your head. Also, trusting yourself — something I have a difficult time doing.
There’s a lot of writing advice out there: books, articles, quotes from dead people. Most of it isn’t actually about writing. It’s about scheduling (wake up at six!), preparing to write (take good notes!), having ambition (write every day… at six…), or envisioning what it will feel like to finally be done writing. Most people don’t talk about the messy, often boring, sometimes excruciating and other times exhilarating process of staring at a computer and eating stale mixed nuts as you form thoughts into words.
In this book, you’ll find no tips for outlining, brainstorming, scheduling, or pitching. Nothing on a thesis statement, a topic sentence, an introduction, or conclusion (spoiler: good ideas need no introduction, or conclusion!) Nothing on rituals or waiting for fictional characters to whisper in your ear. No fantasies about having a cabin in the woods with a big dog and a chunky sweater and a blank Moleskine. In fact, there’s nothing in here about ~inspiration~ at all, nothing about waiting for the ideas to “just flow.” (They never just flow. Sorry.)
My whole life is just going to be me…