How Useful Are Your Tools?

How much do you get out of writing books and magazines?

I love writing magazines. I saw a quote somewhere to the effect of, “Writing is like sex. Do it, don’t talk about it,” and I totally disagree. I love talking about writing, I love reading about writing, I love writing about writing. And most people I know enjoy talking about sex as much as they enjoy talking about their work/hobby. We humans like to discuss the things we love.

But there comes a time in the writing process when you need to stop reading about writing and actually write. There also comes a time when the tips in some writing magazines just aren’t going to help anymore.

I love The Writer magazine, but when my subscription came due this year, I had a serious talk with myself about how much I use it. The truth? I don’t, really. However, I enjoy the little bump I get from it every month. I see it in my mail box and I feel a sense of community: there are other writers out there, struggling with the same things I struggle with, feeling the same joys. And that’s nice to know.

I also subscribe to and love Poets & Writers, mostly for the inspiration. The Writer is full of tips and how-to lists, while P&W is all writer-to-writer, reaching out and connecting. At this point on my writing path, that sense of community is more what I need than a bunch of lists like, “An Easy 3-Step Plan to Get Your Story Going.”

You can’t expect how-to articles like that to magically make you a better writer, because they just won’t. You have to internalize those strategies, and just reading about them and tossing the magazine won’t do that for you. But those types of articles can help you engage with your writing in a new way, and sometimes that’s all it takes to shake things loose. Reading another writer’s perspective can change your process, maybe for the better.

That’s the real benefit of tools like writing books and writing magazines. There’s no quick-fix for sloppy, scattered plotlines. Trust me, I know. But my magazines are the mental equivalent of my knee brace: they give me support when I’m a little weary and sore.

The Elements of Style, though? That bad boy is useful.

Do you use writing magazines and writing books? Which ones?

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4 thoughts on “How Useful Are Your Tools?

  1. Good question. I suppose I don’t.

    I did subscribed to Writer’s Digest for about a year or two, but when I started to see the same topics discussed again in different ways, I quit my subscription. But I do subscribe to their free newsletter. As you said, it is good to get that little “bump” to remind one what we should be doing.

    But…actually like reading about writing? Nah. I’d rather read something else. And writing about writing is a chore for me. I’m glad you like it, because I do learn from your posts.

    1. I’m glad you find my posts helpful. 🙂

      I have started to notice some repetition with The Writer. I still enjoy the bump, though, and most of the pleasure I get from reading them is in that bump.

  2. I don’t subscribe to anything. I just make a real effort to get on here and read writer’s blogs as often as I can. I’ve learned a lot that way, and met a LOT of really nice people!

  3. I read ‘The Writer’ too. Their articles were helpful a while ago but I’ve quickly come to learn that they deal with shallow issues. They are great for beginner writers, sure, but I think the next step up is fiction-writing books.

    I just finished ‘Story Engineering’ by Larry Brooks, and I can say without a doubt that it was the BEST book I’ve ever read on the craft. He lists complex issues in a clear way that make me feel like I’m saving someone’s life, not cleaning up a wound.

    Good issues you’ve brought up here.

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