As someone who writes professionally, I find that different types of writing feed each other–for me at least, the strategic and marketing writing I do for pay both helps and is helped by the creative non-fiction writing of book reviews and essays, and the work of creating short stories and longer fiction. That’s why I was delighted and challenged by Bret Lott’s two exceptional books about writing:
Before We Get Started: A Practical Memoir of the Writer’s Life, and Letters and Life: On Being a Writer, On Being a Christian. As a successful author who also teaches in MFA programs, and as a Christian who does not write in the Christian publishing industry, Lott has a perspective on writing that shares similarities with other books on craft and vision, but also brings a refreshingly different twist on familiar topics.
Lott examines long fiction, short stories, and narrative non-fiction to get at the root of what each genre is and why and how we write it. Further, he explores how our understanding of fundamental principles informs our writing even–and especially–when we are simply writing honest stories.
Both books are also personal memoirs of Lott’s development as a writer and major events in his family relationships. I found those sections interesting as memoirs, but also instructive as narrative non-fiction and the roles that writing, words, and thinking about creativity and art play in a writer’s life.
What made the books stand out as exceptional to me was their mix of vision and practical application, as well as Lott’s perspective as a Christian who is a writer ( and not a writer for Christians). Lott’s insight helped me to to see how my work with words can be seen as a calling, which is sometimes hard for me to see or communicate since some people see corporate writing as a lesser way to write or selling out or something like that, and also how important it is to remove myself from the equation entirely and pursue the work whether or not I make a successful attempt at publication for my other–currently just personal–writing efforts.
If you’re a writer in any form, or if you are another type of creative or artist, and especially if you’re a Christian creative, I’d recommend both of Lott’s books on writing. You’ll find a lot to think about, and will come away inspired and challenged.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.