January 3


5 Books You Must Read To Transform Your Writing

By Odyssa

January 3, 2021

All writers are readers. All readers are leaders in their own right.

Regardless of jobs and position titles they hold, anyone who loves to read has unique ideas and thoughts to share that could affect someone else’s life.

The idea is simple: garbage in — garbage out. Ideas in, ideas out. We let the good stuff in; we let the good stuff out.

When we read, we take in an expert’s years of expertise, compiled researches, life stories, things learned from grave defeat and outstanding success.


Here’s a shortlist of books that changed my perspective on writing:

1. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

This book was my permission slip to call myself a writer, an artist.

I’ve written in a diary since I was a child. It was fun to write about my day, and it was the best outlet as I was never one to confide about things I go through.

I have always preferred writing them down to gain more clarity and understanding of what was happening. Although I didn’t know that I was receiving those benefits.

It’s still true up to this day. And reading this explained to me why.

After reading this book, I started writing my morning pages and wrote about how we, writers and artists, can use journaling to unleash our creativity.

These are my favorite words from this book:

The grace to be a beginner is always the best prayer for an artist. The beginner’s humility and openness lead to exploration. Exploration leads to accomplishment. All of it begins at the beginning with the first small and scary step.

2. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser

This is an enormous book describing all types of writing — fiction, travel, interview, business, among others.

It talks about the 4 articles of faith: clarity, simplicity, brevity, humanity. When we keep these in mind when writing, we’ll be fine.

This was the book that planted the seed, and dream, of writing a memoir someday.

These are my favorite words from this book:

Writing is a powerful search mechanism, and one of its satisfactions is to come to terms with your life narrative. Another is to work through some of life’s hardest knocks — loss, grief, illness, addiction, disappointment, failure, and to find understanding and solace.

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

Anne talks about her childhood with no sort of hesitation. You can sense her openness about her father’s sickness, her not-so-happy-but-okay childhood, and her battles with weight and hair.

This book is not only a guide on writing but also a guide on taking in writing material off the simplicity of life.

She encourages writers to look into their memories of childhood, our own stories of sorrow and success because that’s where the story lies. And to write shitty first drafts.

These are my favorite words from this book:

Maybe what you’ve written will help others, will be a small part of the solution. You don’t even have to know how or in what way, but if you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its own little lighthouse. Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.

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

King met an accident while walking on the side of the road in Maine, one Saturday afternoon. This made him stop writing for a few months. I remember tearing up while reading this part. Can I imagine not being able to write? Nope. 

After he finished writing his first 500 words after several months, he described the experience like this:

‘I was dripping with sweat and almost too exhausted to sit up straight in my wheelchair. The pain in my hip was just short of apocalyptic. And the first five hundred words were uniquely terrifying — it was as if I’ve never written anything before them in my life. All my old tricks seemed to have deserted me.’

He found strength in his wife.

Writing is a lonely jobHaving someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don't have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.’

Here are my favorite words from this book:

Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friendsIn 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.

5. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

This book taught me that writing a heartbreaking piece does not mean I am heartbroken. It only means I went through that moment in my full capacity and I was completely awake to capture it and write it all down.

I learned that to write details — the bones — one must listen well with all the senses and listen deeply.

She talks about meditation and her Buddhist background in almost every chapter, and I especially like how she calls writing ‘a practice’. How she knows she can fail at other things except at writing.

Here are my favorite words from this book:

A writer’s job is to make the ordinary come alive, to awaken ourselves to the specialness of simply being.

Whether you call yourself a newbie, emerging, an aspiring writer or you’ve been writing for decades and have successfully published books, these will add great value to your writing.

If you haven’t, include them into your reading list and share them with your fellow writers, friends, and peers.

Then go back to your desk, sit down, and keep writing.


If you liked this article, you might enjoy these too:

My Top Non-Fiction Books From 2020

Things I Learned After My First Year On Medium


About the author

Odyssa is a writer from the Philippines. She is the author of Like A New Sun Rising: A Collection of Poems on Love. When not working or writing at home, she's out walking their dogs. She enjoys traveling, practices yoga, gets lost in books and Korean drama. To her, making time for a daily practice or ritual is the best gift to one's self.

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