The Daily Writer: 366 Meditations to Cultivate a Productive and Meaningful Writing Life
Writer’s Digest Books
I got this book for Christmas. Fred White, a Ph.d in English who teaches at Santa Clara University, has created a Writer’s Book of Days.
In his introduction, White says, “Daily meditations are an effective way or reminding you of the care and quality that must go into a writing project. Singular flashes of inspiration do not do the trick; instead a writer needs to sustain a heightened awareness that must be nurtured from day to day.” (White, p.1)
For each day of the year, including Leap Day, White starts with a two or three-paragraph meditation on an aspect of writing, followed by an exercise. I like how White mixes things up with the exercises. Some, like writing a character inventory and then a scene using dialogue and action to reveal the characteristics, are conventional, some address revision and rewriting, and others range farther afield. Take January 5: “Think back to a childhood experience with one special book. . .How did it affect you? . . .What did you learn? . . . Read the book again so that you may be reminded of its magical effect on you,” or February 10: “Allow yourself a half hour of day-dreaming every day.”
Each page includes a section called For Further Reflection, on the same topic.
The book is trade paperback size, fitting easily into a briefcase or tote bag. It can be the book you carry with you and dip into while you’re waiting at the dentist or even in line at your coffee place. It helps if you do the exercises, but the design of the book means that if you miss one, or skip one, you can always do it next year, or honestly, any time you want.
White’s reverence, or even love, for writing becomes immediately apparent. This is not a textbook or a cookbook. White is interested in the reasons we write. He wants us to do a good job, and be thoughtful about why we engage in this strange and often thankless activity. He covers territory long ago staked out by Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg, but transcends the “gimmicks”—writer’s pages! Timed writings!—attached to those two celebrity how-toers. Don’t just write three pages a day, he seems to be saying, but think about why you’re writing them. Think about why they matter. . .and if they matter, give then the attention they need in order to be the best three pages you can write.