- Books, Literature, and Writing
Books by Design: Authors to Cure Your Writer's Block
Writer's block: this common affliction was first described by a Dr. Edmund Bergler, the psychoanalyst who famously said "Man's inhumanity to man is equaled only by man's inhumanity to himself." Okay, fair enough. And surprisingly appropriate when considering the psychological roots of the affliction we're here concerned with.
While writer's block has probably as many causes as there are writers, the "cure" offered here is for especially suited for those suffering from a dearth of inspiration, or a general sense of futility in writing. To get you past that "what's the point" existential angst. The authors and works features here deal variously with the processes of writing, what has drawn them to create in this medium, and meditations on the place of literature in civilization.
Or, you know, they provide inspiration through their own excellence and their own obvious love of the craft - leading by example, as it were.
So if you're suffering through a dry spell yourself, or if you just want to be prepared in the face of its eventuality, do please peruse the authors' work on offer here and see if perhaps one of them doesn't hold the key to your rejuvenation and release.
Writers on Writing: just what are you trying to do?
Okay, we don't run into burning buildings. We don't save babies or puppies or cure cancer. But even if there aren't parades to celebrate the heroism of writers, can you really say that what we do doesn't matter?
Virginia Woolf is no poster child for psychological health, but her collected letters are a testament to a great strength of conviction that through writing one can bring about real tangible change. She and her husband, so different in their literary approaches, were both deeply involved in the social and political landscape of their time - and as Virginia works to dig herself out of one depression after another, you'll find that she commiserates with your feelings of helplessness and irrelevance and that she's nevertheless found something worth coming back for. Be heartened, dear reader: Mrs. Woolf knows of which you speak, what causes you to flounder, and she thinks you probably have a little more in you to give.
For a more scientific and mechanical (but still well-written) tack, you might try Steven Pinker's The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature. From the jacket: "Language... is at the heart of our lives, and through the way we use it - whether to inform, persuade, entertain, or manipulate - we can glimpse the very essence of what makes us human." Melodrama and essences aside, it's a very readable look into the science of how we use language and how it shapes our world.
The historically inclined will find Nicholas Ostler's Empires of the Word: a Language History of the World to be a fascinating and holistic look at humanity's linguistic genealogy. It goes through the rise and fall of previous 'universal' languages, with an eye to the cultural and political aspects of language communities' interaction. Absolutely delightful.
Inspirational Approach: sharing a love of language
Ex Libris, a collection of essays on books and reading by Anne Fadiman, is of course the obvious place to start here - providing as it does both a re-examination or new-found appreciation of the craft and, delightfully enough, exquisite writing.
Lionel Trilling's The Liberal Imagination is primarily the latter: reading just a few pages of this book will leave you gobsmacked. Not only does he write beautifully, but the strength and depth of the arguments and views thus shared are well worth the effort. He writes at a pace and quality to which we should all aspire.
Waving from an entirely different genre, we have Haruki Murakami - his short stories and novellas are startling and musical. Rather like the literary equivalent of a double espresso.