There are a great many books out there purporting to be wonderful tools or aids to writing. A frightening number aren’t particularly helpful for anything other than lightening one’s purse a bit. This one, however, I’ve found helpful for writers at many levels, from exercises and writing advice to tidbits for emotional and physical support. Allow me to introduce you to Judy Reeves’ A Writer’s Book of Days (ISBN 0-965-004136).
I found this book some years ago (you may have noticed that my copy provided the original 10-digit ISBN rather than the updated 13-digit one). I was randomly perusing the shelves of what Sherman Alexie, in his story “Indian Country”, calls “the big green boat” — Barnes & Noble — when I tripped across this volume. What impressed me first were the writing prompts, one for each day of the year. Some are written like instructions (“Write about a red-headed woman”), others as part or all of an opening sentence (“It’s what I do at 2:30 in the morning when I can’t sleep”), still others are quotes from other sources (from poet Wallace Stevens, “Throw away the lights, the definitions/and say of what you see in the dark”). These were enough to make the sale.
At home, I began to see how the book had more to offer than warm-up exercises. Broken into months of the year, each section opens with and contains yet more quotes from writers and others (for my birth month of August, the irascible Harlan Ellison tells us, “Anyone can become a writer. The trick is staying a writer”). Guidelines, tips, meditations, and inspiration fill each section, from a list of now-famous writers and their day jobs (Charles Dickens pasted labels on jars of shoe polish) to ways of taking new looks at your characters. There are even great ideas for overcoming that “being stuck” feeling, from taking a walk (or a shower) to my personal favorite: “Light a candle, say a prayer, request a dream.” Oh, the magic that stems from such dreams.
Reeves is a believer in writing groups, and many exercises and suggestions are designed to be developed through groups of writers who get together to share what they’ve created in the previous week. This form of creative support group has a great many advocates, and I’ve seen good results for their participants. I must admit that my own few attempts, from college forward, did not meet with success on my part, but that’s likely because I’ve always been something of a lone wolf in the world. If you have friends, or make new friends, who can get together to enjoy sharing work, ideas, and support, then this book will provide some terrific suggestions for in-group challenges and friendly competition to go along with that mutual support.
I recommend this book to writers because of its prompts and exercises, its quotes and meditations, its views on expanding your writing… it’s a treasure trove that can be nibbled in joyous daily doses. Terrific for any attention span or lack thereof. I suggest it be part of every writer’s bookshelf. To see A Writer’s Book of Days in my Amazon store, please click the link.