Smith Magazine sent out a challenge to writers–describe your life in six words or less. The results are collected here in an addictive 240-page book you can literally read in snippets for months on end. Not Quite What I Was Planning is a fascinating collection, and you’ll be trying to compose your own six-word memoirs after reading entries like Chuck Klosterman’s:
“Nobody cared, then they did. Why?”
Or how about the words of Scott Birch? “Most successful accomplishments based on spite.” Yes, the notion for this book sounds totally useless, but just like popcorn you can’t stop once you’ve had a handful. This is one of those ideas that turns you green with envy. Why didn’t we think of this first? The price on this literary indulgence makes it irresistable. Buy five of them and you’ve got a handy gift anytime you need one in a pinch.
Buy for $7.20
This book is not new, but is pretty valuable. I’ve always loved coming back to A Whack on the Side of the Head from time to time to revisit the ideas and see if they kickstart anything new in my skull–especially if I am suffering a particularly bad dry spell in the creativity department.
Roger von Oech’s most valuable contribution to the fight writer’s block game comes in identifying barriers to creativity you probably don’t even see or percieve as standing in your way. He lists out sets of bad assumptions, limited thinking, and “we never did it that way before” notions, giving suggestions on how to break these unwritten rules to your creative advantage.
A lot of this is reminiscent of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies, but in a more straightforward way. Where Eno would say “Honor thy error as thy hidden intention”, von Oech says “be foolish” and “mistakes are good”. Either way, the end result is getting out of that rut you’re in.
This is an excellent book to pull out when you’re feeling creatively stifled. Just one of von Oech’s great ideas can set your brain back in motion and leave you feeling like you’ve set yourself free from the quagmire. Great stuff, highly recommended.
Buy A Whack on the Side of the Head for $10.87
At first glance, stock market genius Jim Cramer’s painfully frank biography Confessions Of A Street Addict might not seem like a writer’s cup of tea. What freelancer has the money to sink into stocks or the time to properly manage a portfolio?
That’s what I though plowing into this, but I was quite surprised to read about Cramer’s horror stories as a writer–working as a broke, literally homeless crime writer for the LA Herald Examiner. It’s hard to complain about a little freelancer cabin-fever when reading about a writer who lived in the back seat of his car when he wasn’t out hanging out at murder scenes. Jim Cramer learned a great deal the hard way as a writer, including a much publicized scandal that nearly got him indicted for writing about stocks that he also happened to be invested in.
He nearly lost his entire career because of a simple editorial mistake. (He was cleared of any personal wrongdoing, and if the facts as presented in the book are true, he didn’t really deserve any of blame.) Cramer repeatedly tried to walk away from writing as his stock market career took him into millions of dollars in personal success, but his love of the craft brought him back for the creation of TheStreet.com, and the rest is history.
In short, this is an AMAZING book to read from a struggling writer’s standpoint. You can learn a lot from Jim Cramer’s mistakes and his successes in and out of the writing game. This is making the rounds at Freelance-Zone, and it’s kept at least one of us up at night, unable to put the damn thing down.
Buy for $10.20