Saturday, September 6, 2014

Dancing on the Head of Pen

Dancing on the Head of a Pen: The Practice of a Writing Life

"With my elbows on the old table, my chin in my hands, my pencil in my fingers, the lights of the city below and beyond... I fell in love with the craft of writing. I learned not to chase the words but to listen for them." 
~ Robert Benson, Dancing on the Head of a Pen 

This book is a pleasure to read. Once I got started, I completed my first leisurely reading in a single evening. 

As a lover of stories, I'm fascinated by what goes into telling them and the making of the books that come into my hands. 
This book is replete with quotable lines from Mr. Benson, personal vignettes, and quotes from fellow writers. 
Mr. Benson talks about the craft of writing without ever reducing it to mechanics or formula, and he talks about the business of writing without ever forgetting that word work is "fragile magic at best." 

Mr. Benson is a wanderer when he writes, and not in an aimless or unfocused way. He wanders in a "Don't cheat yourself out of a beautiful dirt road" kind of way. As he points out, the moments you never expected may be exactly what the journey was all about after all. 

I like the bits about the actual way he writes... fountain pen, sketchbook, six hundred words a day, lots of colored markers in the editing. 
He talks about the times you pretend to write a book when you're really planting four new flower beds, and he talks about how writers need to remember the world they live in when they're so deep inside the world in their head. 
He talks about the three hats that writers wear... the Beret, old Gamer, and the Fedora... and how each hat corresponds to the work of the moment. (Passionate artistry, dogged editing, and smooth marketing of the finished book.)

This book is ultimately a celebration of writing: the thing that lets us tell out stories, the thing that lets us save pieces of ourselves we would otherwise forget, the thing that lets us give ourselves away to dozens of people we may never meet. 
Writing. It is something as down-to-earth as bursitis from typing and as other-worldly as the power of paragraphs that shape our spirits. 

There's a reason God gave us a book of literature to begin revealing His heart. 

Thank you Waterbrook's Blogging for Books program for my review copy.

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