7 Memoirs Every Aspiring Writer Needs To Read
If you're a writer, you know how bad it can feel when you hit a dead end to a story you've been working on so hard, or when you finally finish that piece you're proud of but it keeps getting rejected. All writers have been there, and even though it's a mandatory a part of the writerly process, it still never exactly feels good. A writer's life isn't all bad, though: there are the uplifting moments when stories get published, and inspiration strikes like a thousand lightning bolts, too.
One of my writing teachers described the writer's life to be similar to a roller coaster, full of build ups, terrifying drop offs, and a lot of tangled twists and turns to watch out for. Famous authors you love and adore have said similar things, and fortunately for us, many wrote down their best advice in books that you can keep and read as many times as you wish. And in a world full of rejections, rewrites, and endless nights, writers need all the helpful advice we can get.
This list of memoirs has been especially like medicine for my writer's soul. Each one is full of wisdom, hilarious anecdotes to help the writer in you feel better, and a journey that's relatable on different levels. So, for writers out there who are searching for great stories, grab a warm cup of coffee or tea and get cozy with these amazing memoirs. You need to read these:
On Writing by Stephen King
After owning a pen and piece of paper, this book is the first thing every aspiring writer needs near her desk. Rich in detail and full of honest realities every writer faces, Stephen King's On Writing offers just about everything and anything you'll want to know about writing and the life that comes with it. Although his methods (writing an entire book in a few months) can be a little extreme, his thoughtful advice is like having a writing coach at your side. He's also lived a pretty incredible life worth reading about.
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
This memoir isn't focused on writing, but it will show you how to convey a true story while making it sound as voluminous as any fictional narrative. The powerful emotions Jeanette Walls conveys through her unconventional upbringing that included homelessness, alcoholic parents, and learning independence at a young age is unforgettable. It doesn't matter that you might not be able to relate to the story Walls tells — you'll be able to identify with the emotions she renders, which is her greatest feat.
The Lost Landscape: A Writer's Coming of Age by Joyce Carol Oates
Told through the captivating voice Joyce Carol Oates is known for, this is the story of her farm-life childhood and the moments she discovered her passion for reading and writing. If you're more of a fan of story collections, then this is the memoir for you. Each of her stories will inspire you and bring you back to your own childhood and the moments you first realized you wanted to become a writer.
Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman
Alice Hoffman, one of the queens magical realism, has written the guide to life when terrible things come barging through. When her breast cancer diagnosis hit in the midst of her writing career, Hoffman couldn't seem to find the inspiring words she needed to hear. So she did what every great writer does: she wrote what was missing from the world. For any writer going through a tough time — which could range from illness to life obstacles — this book will bring you back on your feet, ready to write and live to the fullest you possibly can.
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
"One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place ... Something more will arise for later, something better."
This memoir will give you that extra push you know you need. With her wisdom and insight on the writing life, Annie Dillard just might change your perspective on writing and get you inspired to a point you didn't know was possible. Sure, there are plenty of books on how to write better, but Dillard will teach you how to have faith in your creativity in her intricate and beautifully written memoir.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
This book does so much more than inspire. At some point in your life, you might find out that your dream life, dream career, or dreamy significant other isn't everything you'd hoped it to be. That was the case for Elizabeth Gilbert, and in her brave and witty memoir, Gilbert goes on worldly adventure to rediscover herself again. This book is the perfect example of how unpredictable and crazy a writer's life can be — and what it means to take risks to do something meaningful.
Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck
With only his trusted dog, Charley, and an RV, John Steinbeck set out on an all-American journey to rediscover his country and fall in love with the world around him again in this timely memoir. This may not include a ton of insight on writing, but it will remind you where the best stories come from: by taking in the world around you and telling an honest story from the heart.
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