I was recently speaking with a friend who's also a writer, and we got to talking about the things we do outside of working on our current WIPs (works in progress for those who collect acronyms) to support our growth as writers, our sanity, or our connections to other people and other writers.
My answer was that the most useful and enjoyable piece of "Homework" that I give myself every month is to read a book in preparation for leading a discussion with a writers bookclub at my local library. The bookclub focuses on books by writers about writing. We have a great time reading and discussing the books, learning about how other writing professionals approach the art and science and life of writing.
We get together at the Keene, NH Public Library, which is a nice central spot for the group of regular attendees (by which word I mean they attend every month, most of aren't regular in any other sense of the word), but when I lived in the Adirondacks, before moving to New Hampshire, I ran another similar bookclub and we met in a local coffee shop that was more than happy for the business.
The important thing isn't the location, it's the books and a group of people engaged in writing sharing their thoughts about those books... I come away from every meeting refreshed and invigorated and eager to bring the new items in my writing toolbox to bear on my work the next morning.
There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of books that you could read and discuss with your bookclub, but the list below contains books that we've read in the last few years that those of us participating in the bookclub enjoyed particularly (my favorites are bolded).
- Zen In the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury
- The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron
- Wired for Story, Lisa Cron
- The Writing Life, Annie Dillard
- On Moral Fiction, John Gardner
- Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert
- Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg
- On Writing, Stephen King
- Bird By Bird, Annie Lamott
- Writing Magic, Gail Carson Levine
- Steering the Craft, Ursula LeGuin
- The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp
- Writers on Writing, Collected Essays from the NYT
I'd love to hear from other writers, or bookclubs, that have read and discussed books in the same vein, to hear which books you really enjoyed.