3 of the Best: Finding the Writer’s Magic

three book covers: The Artist's Way, Writing Down the Bones, Becoming a writer

So much advice out there on writing process but these three books, old ones but good ones, are my favorites. You can see how well-loved they are by how many pages are marked with stickers. I’ve used the books many times when teaching my ‘Writing from Within’ course where we try to harness the unconscious by falling into an artistic coma.


Have you ever longed to be able to draw or paint, write or compose music? In ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron you can discover how to unlock your latent creativity and make your dreams a reality.

‘The Artist’s Way’  provides a twelve-week course that guides you through the process of recovering your creative self. It dispels the ‘I’m not talented enough’ conditioning that holds many people back and helps you to unleash your own inner artist.

‘The Artist’s Way’ helps demystify the creative process by making it part of your daily life. It tackles your self-doubts, self-criticism and worries about time, money and the support to pursue your creative dream.


In ‘Writing Down the Bones’ by Natalie Goldberg, the secret of creativity, she makes clear, is to subtract rules for writing, not add them. It’s a process of “uneducation” rather than education. Proof that she knows what she’s talking about is abundant in her own sentences. They flow with speed and grace and accuracy and simplicity. It looks easy to a reader, but writers know it is the hardest writing of all.’ – Robert Pirsig

‘Writing Down the Bones’  Natalie Goldberg’s first book, sold millions of copies and has been translated into twelve languages. For more than thirty years she practiced Zen and taught seminars in writing as a spiritual practice.


‘Becoming a writer’ by Dorothea Brande is a reissue of a classic work published in 1934 on writing and the creative process. It recaptures the excitement of Dorothea Brande’s creative writing classroom of the 1920s. Decades before brain research “discovered” the role of the right and left brain in all human endeavor, Dorothea Brande was teaching students how to see again, how to hold their minds still, how to call forth the inner writer.

‘Refreshingly slim, beautifully written and deliciously elegant, Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer remains evergreen decades after it was first written. Brande believed passionately that although people have varying amounts of talent, anyone can write. It’s just a question of finding the “writer’s magic”–a degree of which is in us all. She also insists that writing can be both taught and learned. So she is enraged by the pessimistic authors of so many writing books who rejoice in trying to put off the aspiring writer by constantly stressing how difficult it all is.

‘With close reference to the great writers of her day–Wolfe, Forster, Wharton and so on–Brande gives practical but inspirational advice about finding the right time of day to write and being very self disciplined about it–“You have decided to write at four o’clock, and at four o’clock you must write.” She’s strong on confidence building and there’s a lot about cheating your unconscious which will constantly try to stop you writing by coming up with excuses. Then there are exercises to help you get into the right frame of mind and to build up writing stamina.

‘This is Dorothea Brande’s legacy to all those who have ever wanted to express their ideas in written form. A sound, practical, inspirational and charming approach to writing, it fulfills on finding “the writer’s magic.”‘ – John Gardner

I hope these recommendations are helpful. Do you have useful books on writing process you would add? Let me know in the comments and please share this post with a friend if you enjoyed it.

8 thoughts on “3 of the Best: Finding the Writer’s Magic

  1. Three days ago, my son (25) showed me a list of books he wanted to read, drawing my attention in particular to a handful he thought I might also be interested in reading (a subtle hint to me to buy them, I suspect). One of these books was ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron. Now, I’m not a great believer in fate; but when disparate trajectories intersect like that I am inclined to sit up and take notice.

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  2. I’ve heard of The Artist’s Way and from your comments here one I will consider putting it on my Christmas list – they are all great recommendations. A few years ago I read and worked from Elizabeth Berg’s ‘Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing’ until it was looked like your books here, full of bits of paper and lots of notes inside. It did help a lot and gave me permission to write in my own way. 😃

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    1. ‘Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing’ by Elizabeth Berg sounds good already, from the title. as you say, it gave you permission to write in your own way. i like the idea of less rules for writing, but freedom to find our own unique writer’s voice and a writing practice that suits our lifestyle 🙂

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  3. Stephen King’s book, On Writing, is good, but of recent books, I THINK I like Ann Lamott’s Bird by Bird the best. Writer’s Digest publishes so many titles, and many rather poor efforts IMO…
    I’ve been reading books like these all my life; John Gardner’s books are good if you see writing as high art; Jack Woodford’s OOP and probably scarce titles are fun but dated; Damon Knight’s book on short stories gave me a valuable approach to quick-and-dirty descriptions; and Brande and Goldberg’s books are great. The Artist’s Way I merely skimmed once a decade ago, so I don’t really have an opinion except that it didn’t grab me. Oh, and Ken Macrorie’s book seems particularly excellent for younger writers. Might have been Reading Writing…Amazon has several of his titles, and I’ve read several, so I’m not sure which one impressed me the most.
    Your newest follower.

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