In January, I am offering Self-Help Book Recommendations, because sometimes the best advice comes from a book.
I feel like it was last winter, but it was probably further back, when I put on a pair of chunky, warm socks and reread Heather Sellers’ self-help book for writers, Page by Page. I grabbed all my washis, tabs, and bookmarks and marked everything that jumped out at me. This tiny little book is weighed down with all the scraps of paper, tape, and glue I used to mark all the quotes that hit me right in the feels.
Sellers is a creative writer, but also an educator. I was fortunate enough to hear her speak live at a women’s writers conference in Lexington, KY many years ago. She had a very interactive lecture, asking those of us in the auditorium to participate in different writing exercises, live demonstrations, and call and response Q&A’s.
It was fun.
I walked out of that lecture feeling all jacked up on writing, so I immediately purchased her book, Page by Page and asked her to sign it. It’s yet another interaction with a professional writer that I walked away from embarrassed because I would not stop gushing.
It’s definitely an inspirational book, addressing those writer dilemmas such as, where does inspiration come from, how does someone develop the endurance to write a whole novel, how can anyone justify making the time to write?
Sellers is also excellent at giving motivational advice, advice that my neurotic brain needs to hear.
“The qualities that make me an artist are the ability to obsess on minutiae and the ability to feel intensely… These qualities also make me prone to being swamped by a mood and get sidetracked by obsessive worrying.” – from Chapter 13, “Blank and Cranky” – Apparently I lifted my writing in my books ban to underline this quote twice.
For me, when I read things like this, it’s the same as when I read more information on my Myers Briggs personality type – this is why I am the way I am! It’s okay to be this way!
When I read it the first time, and reread it the second time, it was like I had been handed the permission slip to be myself – literate, obsessive, practicing dialogue in my head between imaginary people. I felt comforted reaffirming how I don’t need any more hobbies, I can tell people no, I can value my time, and make my time a priority.
As much her book has encouraged me to write, it has also provided a tremendous amount of insight as an educator. It’s my job to justify to STEM majors why writing is an essential skill. And the primary issue I have is not students who are “bad writers” but students who are – as Sellers calls – resistant. They know they should write, but they develop these resistance blocks to keep them from absorbing the information.
“I want to learn the new thing. Not in this way.” ( from Chapter 1, “The First Day”).
I spend most of my time as an instructor either living up or dragging down English teachers from the past and either students are skeptical or disappointed that I am not EXACTLY like their high school English instructor. I often explain to them the resistance and try to give them ways to overcome it.
Many of the flags in the book aren’t about me – I mean, yes, some of them are about writing habits I wish to emulate– but others are marked for student use: freewriting assignments, affirmations, metaphors, and writing prompts.
Sellers also has a companion book titled Chapter by Chapter which is more specific to those who are writing a novel.
Writers who need a little boost, a little push, to get out there and write the book already, Page by Page is an excellent book to check out.
Read Books. Wear Boots.