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?