The Writing Craft

In his book “Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer” Roy Peter Clark lists ways to improve your writing. The book starts off with technical advice on how to structure sentences. The most helpful tip was to place the important words in the beginning of your sentence. You start with subjects and verbs. The less meaningful comes in the back. This way, you can guide your reader through the longest sentences.

The second part deals with choosing the right words. You learn how to achieve tension in your plot and how you can set the pace. For example, you can vary the sentence and the paragraph lengths.

Part three is about the practicals of writing. I loved the tool “rehearsal”. Procrastination or writer’s block are less frightening if you reword them as preparation. Just the thought of writer’s block makes my inspiration river go dry. When I now dwell on the topic in my head, it helps me to improve my ideas.

You find editing and the social aspects of writing in the last part of the book. I have never had any trouble with revising my work. It is much easier to cut a phrase than to write it. Knowing what to cut is an art form. It’s like painting for me. You add some colour to your canvas and if you don’t like what you did, you add a layer above it. You shape your painting just as you do your writing, until it feels right.

Through “Writing Tools” I have understood that writing is but a craft which can be mastered. Sewing the word together requires a pointy needle, a strong thread, and a colourful fabric.

 

The Heart of a Woman

The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou

This is the fourth autobiography she has written and the second I have read (I started with “I know why the caged birds sing”). She tells the story of her son growing up. She moved around the US and then to Egypt with her husband, a South African freedom fighter, later on leaving for Ghana where her son went to university.

This book tells the story of a strong woman who always found her path. People threw many obstacles in her way, yet she always endured. She always found a job, she always found the right thing to say.

There are many impressive moments but this one stuck out to me: Her husband didn’t want her to work. But she needed something to do, she needed to take care of herself. She asked around and got a job as a journalist. When her husband confronted her, he was furious but she kept the job through the clever arguing of a friend.  Maya Angelou was an independent soul. She felt relieved, free, when her son left for college. Although she had a strong connection to him, a deep love, she knew when to let him go.

The book is beautifully crafted and I adore her stories. They are universal. The struggle of a single mum in a society that doesn’t value single women. I read an article that women today can be anything: Divorced, lesbians, childless, … but never single.

You can be anything, but single

Women are asked about their relationships; men about their careers. We cling to the standards and values of the last centuries, we engrave them in our lives. “I was already married at your age” – What is that supposed to mean? Times have changed. Women today don’t want to have relationships anymore just for the sake of them.

The relationship of a woman is seen as the finest thing she can achieve. In reality that doesn’t seem true because

… you can lose your job if you have children, you do not get adequate payment for the time off you need to birth them, your children are not cared for when you want to go to work, and you have to fear for your health and life

… young girls are married off to much older men by their parents

… women suffer from domestic violence and can’t even talk about that in public (men are also subject to violence but not to the same extent)

… lesbians cannot get married or adopt children in many countries

Our worth is not defined by the relationships we are in. A woman without a man is still a woman. And a woman without a woman is also still a woman.

Get to know the author (through books)

My mum read to me books about pricing strategies as a baby. She read a lot to me. It seems to have stuck. You will always find me with my nose in a book. Or possible three at once. When I want to figure out what I’m reading at the moment I have to open my goodreads to check. You just have to know where you can find the answer.

When my dad and I have a conversation, he already counts down the minutes it takes for me to say this sentence: “I have read a book about this, and …” What better way to get to know me than through the books I love?

Favourite environmental book: This changes everything by Naomi Klein (A book about climate change, it’s brilliant)

Favourite crime novel: Millennium-Series by Stieg Larson (Which motivated me to try non-fiction writing)

Favourite memoir: My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem (You will not read a single article written by me without quoting her. No, honestly, this book is a treasure)

Favourite play: The physicists by Friedrich Dürrenmatt (It’s so clever, so witty. Oh, and I love physics by the way)

Favourite humorous book: The Martian by Andy Weir. (I laughed so loud at 3 at night my neighbour woke up)

Favourite children’s book: The Six Bullerby Children by Astrid Lindgren (I don’t know how often I have read it. But now, finally, I can read it in the original Swedish version. There has to be some benefit of learning a new language)

Favourite let’s-change-the-world! book: I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (I read every line in absolute awe of the strength and the courage of this young woman)

Favourite cry-my-heart-out book: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (I nearly didn’t finish it. My dad had to ask me every ten minutes if everything was ok because I was crying so hard)

Favourite I’m-sad-give-me-poetry book: The complete poems by Emily Dickinson (I felt a funeral in my brain… you know)

Favourite life-changer: The Starch Solution by John A. McDougall (This made me go vegan. Pretty life changing I guess.)

Favourite eye opener: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey (I understand so many things now. You have to re-read this book every two weeks, though, because there is so much wisdom in there. Otherwise your mind explodes)

Favourite Iiiiii-will-always-love-youuuuuuu books: Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (I bet you just waited for these. How could I not mention them? They always leave me with a buzz, a deep-felt joy, and also a sadness that again, their stories are over. Until the next time. My fondest memory is starting the first book under the table in musics class in school when outside it rained… A new world opened to me.)

Now you have got a little insight into how my brain works and which books I enjoy. Which books would you connect to the categories I mentioned? Do you have any suggestions for the humble bookworm?