I have a section of my library shelves that still contains all the books I’ve collected about the process of writing, of being a writer, of thinking like a writer. I marvel how little I consider taking a book off that shelf for a look. In a sense it’s the conscience of my book collection, my Jiminy Cricket. If I actually read the words contained in those books, then I’d become a keeper of them, responsible for them, and perhaps need to apply them to my life. So, could I just make them go away in the next clean-sweep before the library book sale? What!? Do without the collected wisdom of Eudora Welty, William Gass, Stephen King, Gwendolyn Brooks, Christopher Isherwood, John Gardner, and E. B. White? I may not dare to open their books these days, but the writers on this shelf inform my idea of who I am as clearly as my family’s genealogy.
I do dust them, as regularly as any other book.
Today, just because I need something to write here, I open Brook’s Young Poet’s Primer, a 15-page tome that is thinner than a Broadway showbill. The text is a list, a starting off point for discussion and instruction about things every beginning writer needs to know.
“1: Use fresh language.”
What a mouthful that idea actually is, Ms. Brooks.