Writers on Writing: Top 5 Craft Books by Famous Authors

5. Why I Write by George Orwell


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George Orwell outlines what he believes to be the four major motives for writing in Why I Write. They are sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose. Orwell exemplifies all these traits in his own writing, and it is fascinating to see how he balances his passion for political reform with his artistic ambition.

“[T]he more one is conscious of one’s political bias, the more chance one has of acting politically without sacrificing one’s aesthetic and intellectual integrity.”

4. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury


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Ray Bradbury is one of the most inventive writers in recent history. His imaginative tales such as Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles are renowned for their extravagant and poignant sci-fi scenarios. In Zen of Writing, Bradbury gives us a sneak peek into his whimsical thought process.

“You grow ravenous. You run fevers. You know exhilarations. You can’t sleep at night, because your beast-creature ideas want out and turn you in your bed. It is a grand way to live.”


3. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott


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The title comes from a short anecdote Lamott shares about her ten-year-old brother who was tasked to write a report on birds. He had three months to write it, but he waited until the last day to complete it. Distraught and overwhelmed by the enormity of his task, Lamott’s father gave him the advice to take the project “bird by bird.” Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life is Anne Lamott’s attempt to understand what those words mean in relation to the process of writing.

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”



2. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

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On Writing is part memoir, part master class. King recounts his childhood up to his early career where he struggled immensely as a writer. Interwoven throughout the book are invaluable pieces of advice that show how one’s personal biography is linked to their experience as a writer.

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”


1. Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke


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In 1903, a young man sent a few of his poems to Rainer Maria Rilke to have them critiqued. What followed was a several-year-long correspondence in which Rilke expounded upon the merits of artistic integrity and the anxieties that every young writer must face in regard to criticism, self-doubt, sincerity, and much more.

“If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.”
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