Monday, January 14, 2013

Reads for Writers: The Writing Trade by John Jerome

From Kate's Writing Crate...

          I read books about writing for inspiration and motivation. I especially appreciate the ones that also include insights into the working lives of writers like The Writing Trade: A Year in the Life by John Jerome. It's also the perfect time to read it as the book begins in January. This is not a daily journal, but reflections by month on the author's work and life.

          At the start of a new year, Jerome's writing projects were at different stages. The Writing Trade was just beginning. He also needed to write 12 essays for a magazine column, correct book proofs, work on another book being reissued, and write two articles with midsummer deadlines, plus make pitches for articles and wait for more assignments to pay the bills.

          While Jerome wrote the book in 1989, he considered it a generic year in the life of a freelance writer. At that point, he had been in the writing trade for 30 years, 20 as a freelance writer. He survived that long by following these rules: "Don't do anything on spec, don't do anything you can't finish on up-front money, don't depend in any way on actual sales, or expect any outcome other than the receipt of the final check for the agreed upon price."

          Through the decades, he wrote eight books with varying success and a couple of hundred magazine articles. Jerome stated, "I am a competent, but essentially invisible writer, proof that one can earn a living from writing for years without ever breaking into the public consciousness...all I ever wanted was to write, quietly, for a living."

          His goal for this book was to "show how a writing life works: a book about the workaday process of making sentences for a living." Jerome shared how he got his ideas, his writing routine, his thoughts on book proposals, publication and reviews, and much more.

          I enjoyed learning about these things, but mostly I loved his thoughts on the writing process. Some of my favorite examples underlined in my reread copy include:

Page 3: ...ready to get back into the long, steady flow of real work, chasing ideas down the page.

Page 38: Writing is a process of going over and over the material endlessly, getting what you're trying to say driven into a corner.

Page 226: What's needed to produce a solid body of work is a solid body of time.

          Since this is a book about a writer's life, quotes from other writers appear at the beginning of each month's reflections as well as within the text.

          Jerome detailed his daily walks with his dogs, nature scenes, and talks with his wife as they all played a part in his writing. As he noted on page 62, "In the end, all writing is about turning experiences into words...there's a great deal more experience in our lives than we ever succeed in knowing."

          The exhilaration is in finding the right words while chasing those ideas down the page!

What writing books inspire you?

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