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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Writers: If People Insist on Giving You Books… Get the Good Ones!

While there is a bit of debate about Albus Dumbledore’s claimed regret that “People will insist on giving me books” instead of socks, the truth is, books are not a bad gift. Especially not for writers.

In fact, many of us have trained family and friends to give us books. (If you’ve trained complete strangers to give you books, I’d like to hear how you accomplished that.)

So if people will insist on giving you books, help them give you the good ones — the ones that reduce writing resistance, keep you growing as a writer and move your writing to the next level.

You might want to print this list of outstanding gift books for writers and leave it lying around where those well-trained friends and family are likely to stumble upon it.

NEW Release! Living Revision: A Writer’s Craft as Spiritual Practice

A must-have book by my friend and fellow Loft Literary Center Teaching Artist Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew. Elizabeth teaches memoir, essay and journal writing at the Loft and has been a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award.

Revision usually triggers resistance — sometimes small, sometimes painful and enduring. But, as I wrote in the back cover blurb:

“Good writing comes from rewriting. Unfortunately, many beginning and intermediate writers lack the skills and inclination to go beyond mere copyediting and proofreading to explore the full creative potential deep revision can offer. Even experienced writers want to shy away from the love-hate relationships we have with the effort, agony and commitment revision requires.”

Elizabeth compassionately and firmly leads us through that effort, agony and commitment. The title, Living Revision, expresses her philosophy:

“Revision changes the writer, deepens the writer’s work, and infuses that work with the potential to move readers. Revision addresses our innermost longings. At its core, revision is the spiritual practice of transformation — of seeing text, and therefore the world, with new eyes. Done well, revision returns us to our original love.”


My Most Rrecommended Book This Year! Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel* (*Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere) by Lisa Cron

I’ve enthusiastically recommended this book to students, clients and colleagues. I encouraged at least a hundred NaNoWriMo writers in the past month alone to use this book to take what they wrote in NaNo to the next level.

Lisa Cron worked as a literary agent, TV producer, and story consultant. She teaches at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. In Story Genius, she explains:

“Because our response to story is hardwired, it’s not something we have to learn or even think about, which is why we are often unaware of the power story has over us. When a story grabs you, you’re in it’s sway, no questions asked…

“The power story has over us is biological. But while responding to story is hardwired, creating a story is not.”

Cron provides a series of steps and What to Do exercises that reveal your protagonist’s inside story and create the external gauntlet (plot) that drives the protagonist’s internal struggle. Each exercise is bite-sized, something you can do in one sitting. Don’t worry about trying to figure out everything in a couple of sessions (an impossible idea, but one that has triggered writer’s resistance for countless writers). Just follow the steps.

After working through the exercises, you (or the writer you give this book to) will end up with a delightful face-palm of joy: “Of course, that’s what this is all about.”


Perfect Companion for Story Genius! From Where You Dream by Robert Olen Butler

Butler defines two kinds of novelists: those who preplan and outline (aka Planners) and those who take the “merest hints to start the novel and then plunge in…” (aka Pansters). After explaining why both types are doomed, Butler offers “dreamsotrming” as the viable alternative.

To prove to myself Butler’s dreamstorming technique works, I wrote a novella using it. I’ve recommended this book to fiction writers for years, used it as a primary resource in my Loft classes and mentioned it in multiple posts. (more here and here)

From Where You Dream is more philosophical; Story Genius more pragmatic. Together, they are an outstanding gift combo!


Make it a Trifecta of Writing Tools! Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron

While you’re shopping for Cron’s Story Genius and Butler’s From Where You Dream, you may as well pick up Wired for Story and give prose writers on your list a trifecta of tools.

Story Genius will lead you through writing a specific novel; Wired for Story explains the brain science behind writing principles (e.g. Show, don’t tell).

Each of the twelve chapters applies a Cognitive Secret of how the brain works to a corresponding Story Secret that shows you how to use that bit of brain science in your writing.

For example, the Cognitive secret in Chapter 2 is “When the brain focuses its fully attention on something, it filters out all unnecessary information,” which leads to the corresponding Story Secret “To hold the brain’s attention, everything in a story must be there on a need-to-know basis.”


Around the Writer’s Block: Using Brain Science to Solve Writer’s Resistance

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you probably have a copy of Around the Writer’s Block. Don’t be selfish about it; give a copy to another writer or to a family member with untapped creative potential.

On the other hand, if you’re new to BaneOfYourResistance and like what you’ve read so far, I humbly suggest you’re going to love my book.

The point is not to be a writer who never experiences resistance (because all writers face resistance in one form or another). The point is to know how to effectively respond to resistance so you can keep showing up for the thing you love.


NEW Re-Release! Dancing in the Dragon’s Den: Rekindling the Creative Fire in Your Shadow

This book was my first attempt to answer the question, “If creativity feels so good, why do we have so many ways to avoid it?” 

Dancing in the Dragon’s Den applies the Jungian concept of shadow to explain why so many of us both yearn for and fear expressing our creativity. (In my second answer to the question, Around the Writer’s Block, I turned to brain science to explain what keeps us from writing the way we want.)

Originally published by Nicolas Hays in 1999, DDD has been out of print for years. It was re-released this year as a POD (Print On Demand) trade paperback and as an ebook. I was tickled to get a royalty check last month. You might be tickled to read what I wrote about resistance back in the day.

Classics Every Writer Should Have

In no particular order, six more books I think every writer should have.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Elements of Style by Strunk and White

The War of Art: Break Through Block and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland

The Writer’s Book of Hope: Getting from Frustration to Publication by Ralph Keyes

Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland

What are your favorite writing books? What books do you rave about to fellow writers? Please share in a comment. My sock drawer needs occasionally culling, but somehow I always make room for more books.

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2 Comments on “Writers: If People Insist on Giving You Books… Get the Good Ones!”

  1. readerchick6751 December 15, 2017 at 8:31 am #

    Definitely agree on the Story Genius:) This book is awesome and I really relate to the way she approaches writing. It is a future purchase for sure. I borrowed this from our library and renewed it twice;)

    On Fri, Dec 15, 2017 at 10:01 AM, Bane of Your Resistance wrote:

    > rosannebane posted: “While there is a bit of debate about Albus > Dumbledore’s claimed regret that “People will insist on giving me books” > instead of socks, the truth is, books are not a bad gift. Especially not > for writers. In fact, many of us have trained family and friend” >


    • rosannebane December 15, 2017 at 8:45 am #

      Glad to hear it Readerchick6751. I do that too, check out books from the library (both literally and figuratively) to decide what to buy. Or put “Buy Story Genius (book) for Rosanne” on my wife’s To Do list.


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