On Reading William Zinsser

Photo by Jamie Anderson published under Creative Commons License

I’m not doing any joywriting at all at the moment– and I’ll spare you the whine about that situation—so instead I’ll share with you what I’m reading.

On the weekend I began the 30th anniversary edition of William Zinsser’s On Writing Well. I generally fly through reading material, but this book requires a different speed. Like good chocolate, its contents are rich and meant to be savoured.

Twenty years ago I read an earlier edition of this book, when Zinsser still referred to typewriters and the personal pronoun of choice was always “he.”  I’m a considerably older and more experienced writer and teacher now, and I’m sorry I stayed away so long. I’m only 36 pages in and already I’m underlining sentences and marking pages with sticky notes. I’m also doing a lot of head nodding and muttering things like “soooo right!” and “sooooo true!” and “exactly!” and enjoying every reading moment.

On page 9, Zinsser writes, “Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard.”

I nodded my head at that one, too. He just nailed one reason (and yeah, there are others) why I haven’t done any joywriting lately. I’m quitting before I start. After writing three novels and another few halves, I know how hard the work really is, and there’s a part of me that I can actually hear groan at the thought of going down that road again. Yup. I’m a wuss. But at least I know I’m a wuss.

My sister-in-law’s favourite expression at these moments is: “Suck it up, buttercup!” Well, I’m no buttercup, but I like to call myself a writer, so I’m giving myself two weeks to get my act in gear, carve out some writing time and earn the name “writer.” In the meantime, I’ll keep you posted on my reading of On Writing Well–and hope that, in the meantime, you too are “writing well.”

Photo “Buttercups along the old CN tracks in Kitsilano” from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamieanderson/2568278918/ published under a Creative Commons license

4 thoughts on “On Reading William Zinsser

  1. Ah, great quote, and a good reminder. I sometimes find myself forgetting that writing is hard work. I look around and wonder why I can’t get it right the first time. I guess if it was that easy everyone would do it. Wouldn’t they?

    • Thanks for dropping by Laura. No it’s not easy, but once you begin to make it a part of who you are is becomes as essential as Mars bars. Can’t picture a life without either. : )

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