Over the last couple years that I’ve been reviewing books, I’ve come across the same piece of advice, over and over again, “The best way to learn to write, is to read, Read, READ!” I’ve learned that it is not only important to sit down and write, Write, WRITE, but that it is just as important to pick up a book and read. With my nose page deep in books most nights, I’ve not only felt my love for reading resurface, but I’ve felt a little piece of me come back to life, a piece of me that used to stay up late at night dreaming up my own make believe tales. That storyteller inside me lived behind the scenes for many, many years, resurfacing every now and then, sometimes long enough to get five thousand words deep into a story, or just long enough to log an idea or two into a notebook, and months long enough to even finish a short tale for a writing contest. No matter, that flame always seemed to burn out for one reason or another. I had the passion, and the dream, but I just wasn’t sure I was good enough to really reach for such a distant star.
When I first saw Robert Benson’s book, Dancing on the Head of a Pen, I was excited because this book was about the life of writing, and when you are a writer at heart, there’s nothing more exciting then getting a glimpse into the heart of another writer. I always wondered what I would do if I ever came face to face with a successful author, and the questions I’d long to ask them. First chapter into Robert Benson’s book, I learned it would be just like that. His book was exactly what I dreamed a conversation with a real author would be like. In his book, he is here not just to tell you what it would be like to live the life of a successful writer, but he is here to give you a glimpse into Robert Benson’s personal life as an aspiring writer. Unlike a book that gives you impersonal step by step advice or ideas, Robert Benson’s book gives you a play by play into his daily routines, habits, thoughts, and writing process, with hopes that you will find something to take from it.
“If you are not sure whether or not you can write a book, this one will not answer the question. You will have to write a book before you will know. I do hope these pages will give you a way to begin to make dark marks on pages of your own. . .if they remind you to practice more faithfully, more rigorously, more diligently, I will count the dark marks on these pages worthwhile.” -Robert Benson, Dancing on the Head of a Pen
Robert Benson starts each chapter with a quote from a well known author or artist. I will admit, I am one who sometimes looks over the quotes in most books, but this one I found I loved. Each quote left me reading it carefully and pondering it for a moment. Each related to the chapter that followed, for instance, On the Discipline of Being a Writer, it started with a quote from Vincent Van Gogh, “In spite of everything I shall rise again: I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing.” I absolutely loved this quote, as I did the inspiration that came from Robert’s chapter on disciplining yourself. What I found great about his writing process, is his habits are just as messy and undisciplined as the rest of us. He reflects on his many days of procrastination, on struggling with “writers pause”, on feeling inadequate compared to the more talented, successful writers. For a young, unpublished writer as myself, it was a breath of fresh air. I wasn’t alone.
I have to say, in conclusion to my two nights I spent reading, cause I couldn’t put down, this simple, but funny, amusing, and very inspiring treasure, I found this book to be one of the best books on writing I have ever come across. It has become one of my favorite books in my now “inspirational” collection, and although it may not be full of the “how to’s” on writing, it has pages full of inspiration that will surely ignite the storyteller inside of you. When I read it I felt myself ignite with the realization that I am a writer at heart, and always will be. I related to Robert in so many ways, ways I thought were just quirks and habits of my own, but that I realized are those of a struggling writer just as he was. I appreciate Robert for taking his time to share his words, and am glad to have been a part in reviewing his work.
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way required to give a positive review, and gladly accept these opinions as my own.