Tessa's Reviews > Seven Steps on the Writer's Path: The Journey from Frustration to Fulfillment

Seven Steps on the Writer's Path by Nancy Pickard
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's review
Jul 26, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: writers-helpers
Read from July 26 to 28, 2010

I've read many, many how-to writing books - the good, the bad and the ugly - and this is one of my favourites.

Let me explain why. These two ladies do not, in fact, tell you what to do. There's no list of master plots or characters, no scene cards/character forms to fill in. In fact, they say it best with the quote they put at the start of their book:

"Let no one be deluded that a knowledge of the path can substitute for putting one foot in front of the other." Mary Caroline Richards

This is a book that aims to help you - to help all writers (and probably quite a few other artists, too) put one foot in front of the other, to take one step at a time until you reach your goal (in our case, that would be publication - or perhaps the NYT bestseller list/purlizer prize/Oscar for Best Writing-Original Screenplay).

Truly writing for a living (and I'm not talking about giving up your day job, I'm talking about living for your writing) is a hard thing to do. We (and I'm going out on a limb here - you're reading this review, so you're probably some subspecies of writer) have chosen a difficult path, full of obstacles and switchbacks and ogers under bridges. It's easy to get discouraged, even if you're living the best-case scenario and have a family or a circle of friends that supports you whole-heartedly, and a day-job that allows you to write (or maybe you don't need a day job, good for you).

There are moments when we all want to throw our notebook/laptop/desk against the wall or at our muse in frustration. Times when writing is so painful you'd think you're using your own blood or brain matter for ink. Times when you aren't writing at all, when life gets in the way and thoughts of 'why bother' cross your mind.

If any of this sounds familiar, this is definately a book for you. It isn't unlike books on the stages of grief (and what an analogy that is!), listing the seven steps of the writer's path, ranging from the first one - Unhappiness - to the last - Fulfillment, explaining symptoms and suggesting strategies for moving on (or simply telling the reader that yes, it's normal to feel discouraged at times, it happens to everyone). There's also lots of little annecdotes about the authors or about people they'd met illustrating the Seven Steps. They lighten up the topic and make for a fluent and amusing read.

Additional plus: The margins of this little book are filled from start to finish with quotes, mostly on writing, all appropriate to the 'step' they accompany, all of them brilliant. But then I have a thing for quotes... here's an example that really made me smile:

"It's all right to have butterflies in your stomach. Just get them to fly in formation." Dr Rob Gilbert (p.48)

This book is all about not giving up hope, and an extra dish of hope is something most of us could do with on occasion. If you're a writer, if you're stuck in a rut or if you think you're the only one with your problem/feeling as you do about your writing, this is definately the book for you.
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