Writing Heroes by Sydney Salter

I've had many different writing heroes.

Early in life, I had inkling that I wanted to be an author, but I didn't think I could be one. Writers didn't live ordinary lives in ordinary towns. I didn't really want to be an alcoholic (wasn't that a requirement?). What if I tried and failed? I mostly didn't try. I planned to try--later. Someday. Maybe.

Natalie Goldberg to the rescue! Her book Writing Down The Bones gave me permission to practice! I loved her ten minute timed writing. Goldberg taught me how to let words flow without judgment. I filled notebooks with writing I never reread. Eventually, I wrote stories.

So much writing advice seems aimed at a man's life--not a mother's. I appreciate so much of Stephen King's writing advice in On Writing. But he writes like a man, hunkered down in his basement, working, working, working. I've had to squeeze my writing into limited time and space.

Madeleine L'Engle to the rescue! As a child I loved her fantasy books, but as a
writer, I loved her memoirs about writing, marriage and family. She gave me permission to forgive the interruptions in a woman's writing life.

Publication did not solve my writerly issues, even though I kind of thought it would. I continue to turn to heroes like Keri Smith whose Wreck This Journal gave me a healthy, productive way to deal with perfectionism.

I've also found heroes in other artistic mediums. I keep buying and giving away copies of Art And Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. I found inspiration in dancer Twyla Tharp's book The Creative Habit.

I also seek heroes in writers. For years I kept an Anthony Trollope quote on my desk: "A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labors of a spasmodic hercules." I could be a writer during those few hours while my daughter attended preschool!

Recently, I discovered a hero in Sinclair Lewis. The heroine in Main Street was so relatable and
human--even a hundred years later. He captured daring human truths at a time that valued more florid writing and idealized storytelling. That's what I'm trying to do in my WIP--tell the truth.

Writing heroes are there to give us the courage we need to succeed!


  1. I *love* MAIN STREET. I think it's also relevant to our political situation today, the red-blue divisions.

    "Publication did not solve my writerly issues, even though I kind of thought it would." *grin of recognition*

  2. I like Natalie Goldberg; I have several of her books. I always wished that I had the time and money to go to one of her writing workshops; they sound like the kind of workshop where people would come away from them not only happy but with many new pages of writing.


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