10 Incredibly Empowering Books for Writers

What does empowerment look like for a writer?

It’s usually in the form of a realization.

The realization that you can write to the end of a story and you can do it again. A realization that you can write whatever you like and do with it whatever you will. A realization that you can and will master the craft with more writing (which is great, because that’s what you love to do). A realization that you’re not trapped by your schedule or other life commitments, that you’re not a victim of your own procrastination or motivation because even that resistance can be mastered. The realization that you can make money doing what you love. The realization that you can be a writer. The realization that you are a writer.

And how do writers find this empowerment?

Two ways. Writing and living as a writer is the first.

And the second is devouring all of the advice put out there by those who have walked before us, learning these same ideas, living with these same problems, and realizing these same truths that have led to their own empowerment.

Below are ten books (they’re not ranked in any order) that have been incredibly empowering for me in terms of the author mindset, the writing business, productivity, the basics of the writing job – and all of the areas these spheres intersect.

empowering books for authors

10 Empowering Books for Writers

1. The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle
Steven Pressfield

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is necessary reading for every writer, new or otherwise. This book is a treatise on resistance and the answer to beating it.

It’s straightforward, often reading more like a slap in the face than a self-help book, and cuts right to the heart of why so many writers and other creative types just can’t work out their lives or their work. Resistance.

When I first encountered this book a few years ago, I didn’t think it was for me. I’m a productive writer with a solid writing habit, I don’t need a book telling me how to get to work. I didn’t know it then, but that attitude was resistance, a mark of an amateur.

A recent career-related crisis had me calling on a mentor. “Sounds like resistance,” he said.

Slap in the face.

Resistance? Me? No! Yes.

Resistance manifests in many ways. Once I identified my problem was resistance, it was back to work and full steam ahead. AFTER I went and re-read The War of Art and this time through, I felt as though every chapter was written for me and me alone.

Empowering? This book is so empowering, it’s a veritable key to creative freedom.

Once you’re finished here, turn to another Pressfield book, Turning Pro which furthers some of the ideas from The War of Art.

 “Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy fire radiating from a work-in-potential. It’s a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.”

2. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott has already made it onto my list of favorite books for writers, but it was so important to me, it deserves another shout out.

There’s a lot in this book to love, but the thing that has been most empowering and had the most lasting impact on me is the concept of the Shitty First Draft. This is something we’re told a lot about, especially as new writers, and something we’re encouraged to pursue. Anne Lamott’s book is the thing that solidified the concept for me and has become a key to my entire creative process.

“For me and most other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.”

3. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is a creativity memoir that teaches how we can live a creative life, even if we’re not actually artists, writers or the like. Obviously, since Gilbert is a writer, most of her lessons are directly applicable to the writing life.

To be honest, I don’t actually buy one of the core principles in this book. It holds that ideas are entities unto themselves that come to us because we’re chosen to bring them into life as some kind of creation. I like this as a metaphor, and that’s about it.

Moving on from that, the other core message, and the real power of the book is how we can live with creativity courageously – that is create alongside living with all of the fear and doubt and the other crap that comes along with being a creative person.

“You’re not required to save the world with your creativity. Your art not only doesn’t have to be original, in other words, it also doesn’t have to be important. For example, whenever anyone tells me that they want to write a book in order to help other people I always think ‘Oh, please don’t. Please don’t try to help me.’ I mean it’s very kind of you to help people, but please don’t make it your sole creative motive because we will feel the weight of your heavy intention, and it will put a strain upon our souls.” 

4. Write. Publish. Repeat.: The No-Luck Required Guide to Self Publishing Success
Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant

Write. Publish. Repeat. by Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt is a no-nonsense guide to kickstarting an indie writing career, and it has just as much to teach those seeking traditional publishing routes.

This isn’t a craft book, it’s a business book. It teaches you the business of writing and selling books. And the cornerstone idea to that is in the title: Write. Publish. Repeat. That’s all. If you’re not willing to do that before you even start thinking of the rest of the marketing stuff,  then move along.

Write. First. Always. Write a lot. Publish Repeat.

When you’re done here, these guys also have a follow up called Iterate and Optimize which is all about fine tuning your author business once you’ve been in the write, publish repeat cycle for a while. But spoiler; write, publish, repeat is still the foundation no matter how far along you are.

“What we love about the new world of self-publishing – and what we’ll say repeatedly throughout this book – is that it’s s true workman’s paradise. There is almost a direct line between “how hard you work (intelligently) and “how much success you have.” Talent is required, yes, as is some luck. But hard work and smart marketing will strap booster rockets to both.”

5. How to Make a Living With Your Writing: Books, Blogging and More
Joanna Penn

How to Make a Living With Your Writing by Joanna Penn is a concise guide to doing exactly as the title says.

Again, this is a book for business-minded authors. It talks about platform and scaleable products, brands, income streams, and all the other ways an author can earn real money writing and doing things related to writing. If your eyes are glazing over right now, and you haven’t quite got your head around the idea of being an author AND and entrepreneur, then this is the book to read, because if you ever want to sell a story, you must be both.

Joanna has a handful of other books about the business of writing, and when you’re done here, I recommend moving to her slightly more in-depth, Business for Authors.

“… remember to relax into it and have fun! I used to take my writing so seriously, but these days, I try to bring joy to my writing. This is not war and peace. No one is going to die (except in your stories perhaps). Focus on entertaining, educating or inspiring your readers and just write more.”

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6. Deep Work: Rules for Focussed Success in a Distracted World
Cal Newport

Deep Work by Cal Newport is required reading for anyone working in a knowledge industry, so writers, that means us.

The premise of this book is that in this world of fast answers, cheap fixes, and instant gratification, the person who is able to think, who is able to focus and able to produce real, quality innovations will reap the power while everyone else is still surfing Buzzfeed.

And how are we going to do this?

Through deep work.

Deep work is sustained concentration. It’s genuine production over busy work. It’s only focusing on stuff that matters. Deep work is pushing yourself to the limit of your cognitive capacity to produce work that matters, work that’s valuable, and work that’s impossible to replicate.

“The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.”

7. Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less
Alex Soojun-Kim Pang

Rest by Alex Soojun-Kim Pang is somewhat of a buzz book at the moment, not unlike Deep Work was last year. And it’s for good reason. On the other side of deep work, something this author also talks about, is rest. Real rest. Active rest. Disciplined rest. Purposeful play.

This book looks into neuroscience and studies the lives and practices of generations of creatives and other knowledge workers and examines the importance of play time and real downtime.

For creators, quality rest performed with as much dedication and intention as quality work is the key for long and impressive careers. It’s the key to innovation.

So forget the myth of “full-time writer,” if you’ve only got a few hours a day at most to do your creative work, then this book is the absolute proof you need to demonstrate that is precisely the right amount of time, if you’re using that time wisely.

“Rest is not work’s adversary. Rest is work’s partner. They complement and complete each other. Further, you cannot work well without resting well.”

8. The Pursuit of Perfection: And How it Harms Writers
Kristine Kathryn Rusch

The Pursuit of Perfection by Kristine Kathryn Rusch is life changing for new writers.

The book takes aim mainly at the education system around writing, the way creative writing is taught in institutions and why that just doesn’t make any sense. Kristine is not suggesting that writing cannot be taught, quite the opposite. The premise here is that creative writing can be taught in infinite ways and there are just as many career paths for writers.

The other thesis to take away from this book, and one that blew my mind, is the potential danger of critique groups and how the culture of critique can cripple an emerging writer unnecessarily. No story is ever perfect.

This book is the permission you need to write on your own terms, following your own ideas of perfection and your own path if you want to make this a career.  Not that we need permission, but it’s good to have a firm reminder of the facts sometimes.

“Is the story perfect? Of course not. No story is. Not a one. No matter how many times it’s “polished” and “fixed” and “improved.” No one can write a perfect story. If such a thing existed, then we would all read the same books and enjoy them equally… Am I telling people to write crap? No. Because the voice isn’t between crap and perfection. Those are false choices.”

9. Marketing for Writers Who Hate Marketing: The No-Stress Way to Sell Books Without Losing Your Mind
James Scott Bell

If I had a dollar for every writer I’ve heard say they hate marketing…..

Ironically, most writers I encounter who say this are saying so in active online communities of writers and readers who do not realize, at the same time as saying how much they hate marketing, they are, in actual fact, doing the only kind of marketing that actually works in any long term way. And this is the kind of marketing James Scott Bell teaches in Marketing for Writers Who Hate Marketing.

It’s not about “buy my book” tweets, it’s not about spending a load on ads, it’s about getting among the world, making friends and forming connections with people who are interested in what you have to say, and who want what you have to give. And it’s about writing stories. That’s it.

“The most important marketing tool you will ever wield is one you already love. And it’s a tool you can sharpen each day without taking a single thing away from your writing. Because it is your writing.”

10. You are A Writer (So Start Acting Like One)
Jeff Goins

You Are A Writer by Jeff Goins is a delight. The book focuses on the same principles we talk abut here at the Write Turn – it’s action and attitude that makes a writer, so stop “aspiring” and get to work (you can read more on my take on these ideas in Take The Write Turn).

Jeff talks about his own journey in becoming one of the most powerful writers on the internet, how to start thinking as an empowered writer, how to harness the power of your writing community and stop waiting for the gatekeepers to give you permission to live the life you want.

“It’s a choice, writing is. One that belongs to you and me. We get to choose (or not) every single day. So whether the world hears your message—whether you leave the impact you were born to make—is entirely up to you.”

Have you read any of these books? I’d love to hear your thoughts on how they impacted you.

Perhaps you’ve read another book that has empowered your life as a writer. Tell us about it in the comments below.

Kate Krake
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Kate Krake

Kate Krake writes speculative fiction and non-fiction. She is the author of the urban fantasy series Guessing Tales. Kate blogs about popular culture, health, wellness and creative writing. She lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband, daughter and two beagles. Find out more on www.katekrake.com.
Kate Krake
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