If you have any interest at all in creative writing, this is definitely a book you want to keep handy. In fact, if you spend time in creative endeavors (perhaps painting or composing, for example), you will find value in this book as well. Initially published in 1999, this revision makes only subtle changes, updating some of the technical references (i.e. “floppy disk” is now “flash drive,” and similar changes).
The book is very well organized, not just because it follows the calendar, but also in the way Reeves presents her material. It is formulaic in the sense that each month is laid out in a set format, but the materials presented in each chapter are new and valuable.
The introduction sets out the goals and layout of the book quite well. After talking about some of the challenges of pursuing creative writing, and the obstacles we put upon ourselves that hold us back. She also introduces a concept that runs throughout the book of writing “prompts,” short ideas or snippets that are intended to jump start your ideas. The book contains 366 of these - one for each day, of course. Reeves also presents twelve “Guidelines for Writing Practice” at the end of the introduction, and each month takes on one of these practices in detail.
And that is where the real value of the book lies. Each chapter is presented in three sections (four, if you count the daily writing prompts). The first section restates the guideline for that month, and then goes in depth to help the reader apply that principle to their daily writing practice. And that is a HUGE emphasis in this book - daily practice. Like a musician practicing their scales, daily writing is key to successful writing. The author gives you ideas to help you become more comfortable with daily writing, and hints to help you if you get bogged down. I won’t summarize them here, but I will say they are useful, and broad enough in scope that if one thing doesn’t resonate with you, something else should.
Part two of each chapter comes under the heading “The Writing Life.” Here Reeves present quick snippets about different writers and their writing habits. She then goes beyond those quips to offer suggestions on how you might put that month’s guideline into practice.
The third section of each chapter is called “Beyond Practice,” and challenges you to take an extra step to expand your practice. For example, at the end of the January chapter, Beyond Practice invites you to make a writing date with a friend, choose a prompt from the book, and spend a couple of hours together outside of your homelife distractions in order to write and read what you’ve written. In October she encourages you to “Let loose your hair, your clothes. Unbind yourself. Go barefoot, go by yourself, go outside and into the night.” And write.
Some calendar-style books make you feel almost as though you are “cheating” if you read ahead, let alone read through to the end. But not this book. Reading it beginning to end is actually helpful, and returning to different sections again and again may assist in improving your writing practice. In addition, while the prompts will jump start your creative writing on a daily basis, mixing them up and using them randomly, either for yourself or in a group setting, would work equally as well.
In a nutshell, while writers will likely get the most out of this book, any individual looking for creative inspiration and guidance on how to set up a daily practice would benefit from this book.
~review by KatSai
Author: Judy Reeves
New World Library, 2010
pp. 245, $16.95