This book is in part an account of lessons learned, learned by a writer and an editor working together over nearly forty years. Good Prose is addressed to readers and writers, to people who care about writing, about how it gets done, about how to do it better. That you can learn to write better is one of our fundamental assumptions. No sensible person would deny the mystery of talent, or for that matter the mystery of inspiration. But if it is vain to deny these mysteries, it is useless to depend on them. No other art form is so infinitely mutable. Writing is revision. All prose responds to work.
I am leisurely making my way through this book, enjoying the wisdom and practical advice of its authors and today I find I am smiling to myself as I read through. The hard part about that? I am alone. No one to read copious passages aloud to; no one to bounce the fresh, trickle-down ideas off of…So the smile fades slowly as I settle back into this writing life. This lonely life (at its best).
But wait. There’s you. My gentle and kind readers. And aren’t most of you writers too? Do you strive to improve your craft as I do? I think you might like this book. Take this from the introduction, for instance:
I know, right?
One thing I’ve learned on this journey is that the writing goes stale when I take it for granted. Paying attention to the wisdom others have to pass on helps me keep growing. I don’t know about you, but I want to keep growing and learning until I die. I’ve been suffering a bit from writer’s block and Kidder and Todd have been talking me down from the ledge. They’ve been working together as writer and editor since 1973 and in Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction, we—the readers—are the beneficiaries of their long and robust partnership.
Good Prose not an artsy book, as some of my favorite books on writing are. But I will go so far as to say it is beautiful in parts, well-crafted, and plain old smart. These guys know about writing. In this book they are talking about three kinds of prose: writing about the world (who doesn’t do that?), writing about ideas (I need some new ones), and writing about the self.
Next Wednesday I’ll post some thoughts on the first chapter: Beginnings. If you are reading Good Prose already, I hope you’ll stop by and share your thoughts too. That’s the fun of books: reading together. If you’re not reading, I pray my gleanings might be helpful to you in some small ways.
And we’ll work on that fundamental assumption together. Because,
Writing remains the best route we know toward clarity of thought and feeling. (Kidder and Todd, p.xviii)