Tuesday, February 12, 2008

In Which I Finish a Book on Writing

Reading a book on writing, after a while, is like watching an episode of certain sitcoms. Jack overhears Chrissy talking to Janet and misunderstands what they are discussing. Lucy, frustrated by Ricky’s refusing to let her be in the show, enlists Ethel to help her circumvent her husband’s mandate. Ray is going to do something to make Deborah angry and he’ll run across the street to his mother’s better cooking.

Listen to Me: Writing Life into Meaning by Lynn Lauber could have so easily fallen into this category that I would have dismissed it off-hand and not recommended it. But this book is not easily discounted as a rehash of what has already been said. I cannot deny that I have seen most if not all of these writing exercises before in other books. What makes Lauber’s book worthy of praise is how she shares her own experiences as a writer, shows how her experience is revealed through her writing.

I have considered where I would place this book in my own bookshelves. Somewhere between journaling and writing for publication. Perhaps in with books on writing memoir, like Leaving a Trace by Alexandra Johnson, where people who keep journals are encouraged to think about publishing their stories.

The exercises are good. The suggestions are good. This is a good book. It’s not great. It’s not brilliant. It isn’t trying to be. It is familiar and friendly. And, for the most part, I like what it has to say. (I disagree with Lauber’s encouraging the reader to self-publish.) For the reader who has not read many (or better yet any) books on writing, for the journal writer who is beginning to think that maybe now is the time to move towards sharing what is being written, this book is a good one. If you have read several books on writing, you can probably easily skip this book and not miss out on anything. If you are a fan of Lauber’s other works (none of which I’ve read) you will probably enjoy reading more about her personal process.

(I would recommend Johnson’s book over Lauber’s but you may want to read the first few pages to determine for yourself which writer’s style you prefer.)


  1. Hey Satia!

    (Saw your comments on Janice's site.) Great, honest review. And I love your analogy to old-school sitcoms. Writing books really are all so similar.

    If you haven't, check out Brenda Ueland's "If You Want to Write." I've had my copy since...1991? I read it every year and a half or so. Unlike anything else. Not so much about the craft as the approach. Very inspiring.

    Jeff Mac

  2. Jeff, A classic of writing! I've heard of it. I've flipped through it. But I am on a buying freeze. No more books on writing until I read and/or work through each and every one I already own! I really need to stop borrowing them from the public library too because that slows down the process of cleaning out my personal shelves. :) And thank you for visiting my site. I hope Janice publishesmore books. I get a bigger readership whenever she does. LOL!