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A friend of mine contacted me the other day because she’s interested in getting into writing more seriously and wanted to talk about how to get started. It was wonderful because it’s always an ego boost when people think you’re good enough at something to ask for your thoughts, and because having lunch with a friend and talking about books and writing sounds like an ideal way to spend a few hours of a Saturday afternoon.

I was putting together some recommendations, books and blogs and magazines that have helped shape my understanding of what being a writer means, so it only seems fair that I would share them here:

The Books

  1. On Writing Well, by William Zinsser. One of those perfect books on structure and craft. His focus on clarity, strength, and confidence in writing is as applicable to poetry as nonfiction, copywriting, blogging, or novels.
  2. Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande. An oldie, originally published in 1934. This book addresses “personality problems” like writer’s block, how to balance reading well and writing well, developing a writing schedule, and so forth.
  3. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. A Zen follower and poet, Goldberg is a legendary writing guru. Her writing philosophy combines deep introspection and moment-by-moment awareness in a writing style that feels to me like creative meditation. Anne Lamott’s book is named after a memory of her brother panicking at the thought of tackling an overwhelming ornithological project. Her father’s advice, “Just take it bird by bird, buddy,” is perfect for novelists working to break past the “Chapter 1–now what?” hurdle.
  4. The Well-Fed Writer, by Peter Bowerman. Because being a starving writer in a garret isn’t half as romantic as it seems (and it doesn’t even seem that romantic). Bowerman delivers practical tips for starting and running a lucrative freelance writing biz. His lively, engaging voice is like having a session with a career coach, no-nonsense and encouraging at the same time.

The Magazines

  1. Poets & Writers (more literary)
  2. Writer’s Digest (more commercial/consumer magazine)
  3. The Writer (excellent for beginners, has the most articles on developing writing skill)

The Blogs

  1. Carol Tice’s http://www.makealivingwriting.com (freelance how-tos)
  2. Ali Luke’s http://www.aliventures.com (fiction and creating a strong blog platform)
  3. Copyblogger’s http://www.copyblogger.com/blog (copywriting and blogging)

Which writing books, blogs, and magazines do you find most helpful?