Writing Resources: Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

Zen in the Art of Writing.

Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing, a collection of essays on writing and creativity, is infused with unparalleled joy and passion for the craft of writing. It’s an easy, relaxing read that imparts unique insight to boost your writing habits and keep ideas flowing freely and naturally.

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” — Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury is one of the masters of science fiction, most famous for his novels Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. He came up during a time when science fiction and fantasy were taken even less seriously by literary elites than they are today — yet his work not only went mainstream, it was academically acclaimed. I was first introduced to Bradbury as a reading assignment in high school. Later I delved into his life as an author, reading and watching every interview I could find online. The man was a fountain of wisdom, and his jovial demeanor makes him a pleasure to read and watch. Read More

Writing Resources: Wonderbook

Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer

Jeff VanderMeer’s Wonderbook.

Jeff VanderMeer’s Wonderbook is not your average tome on the craft of writing. It’s more like a portal, and once you enter, writing becomes a strange and awesome adventure. Subtitled The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction, the book addresses fiction in general but occasionally emphasizes speculative fiction; any writer will benefit from it, but there are extra morsels for science-fiction and fantasy authors.

Unlike most books on craft, this one’s packed with illustrations, photographs, and diagrams, which will inspire you and provide fresh perspectives on the concepts discussed in the book. The artwork is delightfully weird and certain to give your imagination a good workout. The primary artist is Jeremy Zerfoss, but the book includes a range of diverse artists and styles. One of my favorite pieces was a useful and creative diagram showing the life cycle of a story.

Here’s more about what you’ll find inside: Read More

Writing Resources: The Pocket Muse

the pocket muse

A handy little source of inspiration for writing

We writers can’t be inspired every day.

Sometimes we get burned out. Other times, we have ideas, but they just don’t seem appealing at the moment when we sit down to write. Sometimes we need to take a break from a writing project and spend a little time on shorter projects, which can recharge our creativity. Other times, we’re just stuck in a writing slump.

That’s when keeping a little stockpile of writing ideas and inspiration is a good idea. Read More

12 Gifts and Goodies for Writers

gifts for writers

Check out these gifts and goodies for writers.

All around the world, we have officially entered the holiday season. It’s a time for giving thanks, enjoying the company of loved ones, and gorging on scrumptious feasts. It’s also a time of giving.

While I have mixed feelings about the unbridled consumption that pervades America at this time of year, I also have a deep affinity for the act of giving. It’s not unusual for me to spend hours choosing the perfect gifts for loved ones. In fact, I started my holiday shopping several weeks ago, so I would have plenty of time to make my selections.

I’m also a firm believer that during this time of year, when we look outward and offer gifts to the most important people in our lives, we should also be generous with ourselves. Read More

Writing Resources: Stephen King On Writing

on writing

Stephen King: On Writing

Elvis was the king of rock and roll. Michael Jackson was the king of pop. And Stephen King is the king of horror.

He’s one of the most successful authors in the world, the recipient of numerous honorable awards, and certainly one of the wealthiest and most recognizable writers alive.

While I’m not crazy about horror stories, I do appreciate the creativity and artistic merit that goes into writing good horror fiction. Maybe the fact that I’m bonkers over sci-fi and fantasy will redeem me. Maybe Stephen King will forgive me. Read More

The Reviews Are In: 101 Creative Writing Exercises

101 Creative Writing ExercisesWhen I set out to write 101 Creative Writing Exercises, the goal was simple: give writers the tools they need to succeed.

Many of the writing exercises I had done over the years were fun or interesting, but few of them imparted practical writing skills. I wanted to develop exercises that would convey constructive writing techniques that writers could apply to real-world writing projects.

I also wanted these exercises to provide hours and hours of creative writing practice, because practice is the only way to develop mastery of any craft.

Check Out What People Are Saying About 101 Creative Writing Exercises

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Writing Resources: The Practice of Poetry

writing resources practice of poetryWhen it comes to poetry writing resources, there are some special books out there that will help make you both a better reader and a more well-rounded writer.

Some academics argue that poetry is an intellectual pursuit, but that’s only partially true. Poetry is also artistic and emotional. Anyone can enjoy poetry, but studying it closely will help you better appreciate its nuances.

Learning various poetry writing techniques and literary devices (which are often taught in the context of poetry) can bring your writing to a more sophisticated level.

Whether you write fiction, memoirs, or blog posts, reading and writing poetry will equip you with language skills that make your writing stronger, more vivid, and more compelling. Read More

Writing Resources: Perrine’s Sound and Sense

Writing resources for more compelling language.

This is one of my favorite writing resources of all time. It is subtitled “An Introduction to Poetry,” but it’s full of concepts that can benefit any form of writing.

Whether you write fiction, articles, essays, or blog posts, Perrine’s Sound and Sense will enhance the way you perceive and use language to communicate an idea, a scene, or information.

After all, language is a writer’s medium. How do we choose words and string them together? What makes one sentence so vivid while another is practically impossible to visualize? How can we play with the meaning of words in a way that is meaningful? How do we craft prose that is musical?

These, of course, are questions that poetry actively asks and explores. Storytellers spend a lot of time on plot and character. Article writers spend a lot of time on research. Bloggers spend a lot of time under the hood. Poets live and breathe in language.

And language — or rather, a writer’s use of it — is what elevates a piece of ordinary prose to something regal. Through a light study of poetry, you will expand your vocabulary, learn simple techniques to make images out of words, and understand the deeper secrets of language — secrets that make your writing extraordinary.

Perrine’s Sound and Sense

This book is a delightful and comprehensive romp through the intricacies of poetry and language. It’s a perfect introduction to poetry because it’s liberally populated with fantastic poems that will satisfy a range of personal tastes and preferences, making it a veritable anthology that teaches concepts alongside each poem (or that uses poems to beautifully illustrate and illuminate various concepts).




Sound and Sense starts with the basics. The first two chapters are respectively titled “What is Poetry?” and “Reading a Poem.” If you’ve ever wondered what all the fuss was about poetry and why so many successful writers advocate poetry, these chapters will show you the light, both through their discussion of poetry and presentation of poems.

Later chapters deal with increasingly complex concepts. These concepts are taught in the context of how they are applied to poetry but they are applicable to any kind of writing. The chapter on “Denotation and Connotation” explains how we choose words based on their meaning, particularly when we can choose between two (or more) words with the same meaning:

The words childlike and childish both mean “characteristic of a child,” but childlike suggests meekness, innocence, and wide-eyed wonder, while childish suggests pettiness, willfulness, and temper tantrums. (p. 41)

We’ve all heard that imagery is critical to our writing, but many writers don’t quite understand what show, don’t tell actually means. Master writers refer to similes, metaphors, symbols, and allegories, all effective literary devices in any form. Sound and Sense helps you understand the importance of these devices, shows you how to identify them in a piece of writing, and therefore gives you the knowledge you need to apply those devices in your own work.

The insight doesn’t stop with meaning and literary devices. The book goes on to explore tone and dedicates a significant portion of its final chapters to musicality with chapters such as “Musical Devices,” “Rhythm and Meter,” and “Sound and Meaning.”

Everything that we do naturally and gracefully we do rhythmically. There is rhythm in the way we walk, the way we swim, the way we ride a horse, the way we swing a golf club or a baseball bat. So native is rhythm to us that we read it, when we can, into the mechanical world around us. Our clocks go tick-tick-tick but we hear tick-tock, tick-tock. (p. 187)

So if you’ve ever wondered how to make your writing sing and dance, if you’ve ever gotten a phrase stuck in your head and wondered what made it so catchy and then wondered how you could craft writing that is just as memorable, this book is for you.

Sound and Sense features tons of wonderful poems by some of the best known and loved poets of all time, including Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Andrew Marvell, Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allen Poe, Anne Sexton, Shakespeare, and far too many others to list here.

And it’s all capped off with a handy glossary and comprehensive index, which makes revisiting its contents quick and easy. I’m telling you, this is a resourceful little book!

Writing Resources

writing resources sound and sense
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This gem of a book doubles as an anthology of poetry and is useful for both readers and writers of poetry. But writers of all forms will reap great benefits by investing in this book.

Mostly used as a college textbook, it’s loaded with treasures packed in a dense landscape of writing concepts, some of which are practical and others that are whimsical, plus a bunch of writing concepts that are just plain magical.

Sound and Sense will transform the way you think about writing and will improve your writing at the levels of words and sentences, sounds and phrases. Want to make readers hungry? Want to make them think and feel and swoon and dance? Then get this book, because it shows you how to do just that.

Got any writing resources that you’d like to recommend? Do you find that studying one form helps you improve another? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment. And keep on writing!

Adventures in Writing The Complete Collection

A Messy, Liberating Guide to Journal Writing

wreck this journalYou should see my journal. It’s a cacophony of words and images, scribbles, doodles, and scraps of ideas tucked between the pages. It’s sort of a mess, and I like it that way.

I know some writers are diligent about keeping their journals pristine. The pages are crisp, the lines straight and legible, and every word is thoughtfully selected. The theme is consistent — a dream journal, an idea journal, a diary. It’s an orderly affair done up in a tidy fashion. And that works for some people.

But it doesn’t work for me.

If I’m going to be creative — if I’m going to let my creativity flow — then I need to let things get messy. I need to dig my toes in the mud, bury my fingers in the clay, and splash paint across the walls. I can’t be confined by order or logic. I need to write sideways and upside down. I need to doodle. Jot down song lyrics. Make smudges. I need to be free.

And I’m not the only one.

Keri Smith created Wreck This Journal with the same understanding that when we allow ourselves freedom to make a mess, we also free ourselves to be as creative as possible, unchaining hidden ideas that refuse to come out for fear that they’ll be destroyed by our linear and conventional thinking:

By forcing ourselves to wreck it on purpose, the “journal as an object” loses its preciousness, and allows us the feeling of completion.

Wreck This Journal is a great way to get your creativity out of the box. As you work your way through the journal, you actually wreck it. You’ll cut, tear, and generally thrash this book (you’ll even be asked to tie it to a string and drag it around on the ground). You start letting go of constraints, allowing yourself to make mistakes, create poorly crafted prose, or senseless art (because you’re going to wreck it), and this gives your creativity the courage it needs to take risks.

25 Ways to Journal

I’m not going to ask you to wreck your journal, but if you think it might open your creative floodgates, I say go for it. When we want to be more creative, we have to be willing to try anything. What I am going to do is give you a list of ways that you can use your journal. You’ll find that if you open your journal to more possibilities for material, media, and subject matter, you’ll start to build interesting connections. And that is one sure path to better writing!

Since Writing Forward’s inception, many readers have left comments sharing brilliant ways that they use their journals. Here are some of the ideas they’ve shared mixed in with some of my own:

  1. Forget about lines. Turn your journal sideways or upside down. Write in the margins or on the spine. Write in a spiral. Draw a shape and fill it with words. This was one of the first creativity techniques I ever used and it really got the ball rolling.
  2. Ever come across mind-blowing imagery in a magazine or online? Print it out, cut it out, and paste in in your journal for inspiration.
  3. Write with colored pens, crayons, or Sharpies.
  4. Paulo Campos commented about how he uses his journal: “A habit I learned while reading about Virginia Woolf: she regularly copied passages she liked from books she was reading into notebooks.” Brad Vertrees also keeps a reading journal where he write his thoughts about the current book he’s reading. And Deb keeps a log of books she’s read in her journal.
  5. Write down words. Not sentences — just words — words you like, words that evoke intense emotions or strong imagery or words that simply resonate. Randomly fill the blank spaces in your journal with these words. Write them big, write them small, and write them in all different colors!
  6. Make lists of names and places (make up some place names!). List foods, song titles, and sensations. List nouns or list adjectives. Or simply list random, short thoughts that pop into your head.
  7. Doodle, doodle, doodle, and draw. Or try writing and sketching in your journal with chalk or charcoal. See what happens when you smudge and smear your words. Maybe you’ll make some pictures or abstract art!
  8. Use stream of consciousness, also known as freewriting. Rebecca Reid shared her experience: “I kept a journal for about 10 years: it was combination train of thought and ‘diary’ of my day. I think a train of thought journal would be nice now too.”
  9. Dreams are a popular source of inspiration, and ideal for journal writing. You can get story ideas, imagery, and bizarre notions from your night visions. Write down your most interesting dreams in your journals. When I mentioned dream journals in another post, Trisha from Marketing Journeys responded, “Journaling my dreams has been on my list for quite a while – you’ve given me a jumpstart and the inspiration to get going!”
  10. Use journal writing to engage in dialogue with people who are inaccessible. Write letters or short notes to people you’ve lost touch with, people you’ve broken up with, and people who have passed away. Chat with your characters. Converse with your heroes (dead or alive).
  11. Deep Friar told us that his mom (who is very wise) suggested a “Happy Compartment” journal: “When something nice happens, you put it in your ‘Happy Compartment.’ Then, whenever you feel bad, you just open up your Happy Compartment, and relive the happy time and make yourself feel better.”
  12. Monika Mundell mentioned in a comment that she keeps gratitude and travel journals. She added, “Come to think about it though, I do have a lovely creative journal from years ago. I used to draw, stick pictures in there and sketch. Loved that thing.”

All-Purpose Journal Writers

As I searched through the comments across this site to find out what readers had shared about their journal writing habits, I discovered that lots of writers already use all-purpose journal writing creatively and freely:

  • Karen Swim has journals “for life, writing, dreams, ideas, notes, and prayers.” She mentioned all these journals more than once while visiting Writing Forward!
  • T. Sterling Watson kept a journal that “contained funny quotes I overheard, random ideas for future poems or scripts, doodles, and general thoughts.”
  • Michele Tune, who writes the cyber highway, commented, “I draw, write poetry, document the day’s events, or whatever I feel like putting on paper. I’ve written in pretty journals, on scratches of paper that I’ve tucked into journals…”
  • Milena uses her journal to “paste images, cartoons, photos, write stuff, even jot down grocery lists (these can be interesting to come back to sometimes), impressions of any sort or anything that comes to mind and which I fear forgetting.”

That’s what I’m talking about!

Of journal writing, Amy Derby once commented, “Those paper journals of mine are priceless.”

Treasure your journals! Let them them get wrecked up and messed up.

And keep writing.

Do you have any fun, unusual, messy, or liberating journal writing tips to share? Interested in trying any of the ones listed here? Share your thoughts and ideas by leaving a comment.

Journal Writing Resources:

Wreck This Journal
What Should I Write in My Journal?
Seven Different Types of Journal Writing

Get Poemcrazy!

poemcrazy susan goldsmith wooldridge

Poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge.

Part memoir, filled with poetry exercises and activities, and sprinkled with poems, Poemcrazy is sure to inspire anyone who wants to delve deeper into the art of writing poetry and the lifestyle of a poet.

Poemcrazy is a delicious read with bite-sized chapters that give you a creative boost and a flash of inspiration before any poetry writing session.

The combination of Wooldridge’s stories about her life as a poet, her suggestions for poetry practice, and the poems she shares (written by herself and others) combine brilliantly for a fun and engaging yet practical read.

Live, Practice, Poetry

It’s not often that we get a glimpse inside the life of a poet. Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge is a poet and teacher who provides writing and creativity workshops around the U.S. In Poemcrazy, she shows us how her life and her poetry are intertwined, each feeding the other. From quiet moments walking alongside a creek to monumental events, such as the impending loss of a parent, we see how a poet finds inspiration, words, and a voice.




Each chapter shares a quick scene or story from Susan’s life followed by some suggestions for poetry practice. One of my favorite practices from the book was collecting interesting words and writing them on “word tickets.” You can stash your word tickets in a container or leave them around the house for random inspiration. Your collection of words form a wordpool, a body of words that you can dip into whenever you want. This is a practice that can truly expand your vocabulary, which is essential for poets. She also offers tons of prompts and other ideas that will both inspire your poetry and refine it.

There are poems and excerpts throughout the book. Some of these are Susan’s own poems, but she also shares the work of well-known poets and examples from pieces her students wrote during workshops. All of these serve as examples that show how Susan’s experiences, ideas, and exercises can be put into practice.

Get Poemcrazy!

Writers who are diligent about studying the craft often immerse themselves in books that focus on writing tools and techniques. Sometimes we forget to look at authors who have gone before us by reading memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies. These works can provide valuable insight into what it means to be a writer. Poemcrazy shows us what it means to be a poet.

poemcrazy susan goldsmith wooldridge
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This is a book I recommend to anyone who’s interested in exploring poetry or refining their language skills. It’s fun, inspiring, informative, and will breath fresh life into your poetry and writing practices.