The best books to get you writing

G. Elizabeth Kretchmer Author Of Writing Through the Muck: Finding Self and Story for Personal Growth, Healing, and Transcendence
By G. Elizabeth Kretchmer

Who am I?

As a published author with an MFA in Writing, I know how hard writing can be in terms of how to find a muse, employ an elusive craft, and deal with the soul-shaking consequences of digging deep. But as a survivor of life, including multiple moves, broken relationships, alcoholism, illness, and debilitating grief, I've also experienced the transformative power of writing. I took that belief into the community, and developed writing workshops for cancer survivors, women facing domestic violence, and many other people wrestling with trauma and illness, often recommending some of these books in my workshops. And along the way, I’ve witnessed time and again what the written word can do. 


I wrote...

Writing Through the Muck: Finding Self and Story for Personal Growth, Healing, and Transcendence

By G. Elizabeth Kretchmer,

Book cover of Writing Through the Muck: Finding Self and Story for Personal Growth, Healing, and Transcendence

What is my book about?

Life can be hard. When we get knocked off our feet and into the muck, writing can sometimes offer the leverage we need to climb out. Inspired by dozens of writing workshops for cancer patients, domestic violence survivors, and others seeking inner truth, Writing Through the Muck offers thoughtful insight and encouragement for anyone who wants to discover holistic wellness through the written word.

You’ll find: surprising evidence that shows why writing is good for you; easy-to-use tools and techniques to awaken thoughts and memories; dozens of poems and quotes to enlighten and motivate; fresh, new ways to look at yourself and your stories; and more than fifty creative writing prompts that will get you going on your journey to growth and healing today.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is readers supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Writing the Natural Way: Turn the Task of Writing Into the Joy of Writing

By Gabriele Lusser Rico,

Book cover of Writing the Natural Way: Turn the Task of Writing Into the Joy of Writing

Why this book?

Writing professor Gabriele Rico knows how to take the fear out of writing, which is why this book became such a powerful best-seller and why I love to read and recommend it. Among the many strategies and techniques she offers in Writing the Natural Way, one of my favorites is her brainstorming strategy called clustering, which gives us permission to wander and bypass the critical censorship we are often hindered by. In turn, this fuels creativity and prompts us to make associations among ideas, memories, and feelings that are otherwise seemingly diverse or disorganized. She also firmly believes that, although writing can be a painful process, it’s not what hurts us that matters but rather it’s how we deal with the pain, and it’s through an honest expression of our truth that we can grow and heal.


The Artist's Way

By Julia Cameron,

Book cover of The Artist's Way

Why this book?

Not unlike Rico, this author’s goal is to unleash creativity, which is way harder than it sounds. Like me, she believes that creativity leads toward spiritual wellness, and The Artist’s Way strives to help us grow by battling our inner enemies, reclaiming our sense of identity, experimenting with possibility, and having faith in our imaginations. Julia Cameron is sometimes known as the mother of morning pages and, likening this writing practice to prayer, she promises it can “acquaint us with what we think and what we think we need.”


Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

By Anne Lamott,

Book cover of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Why this book?

No writer, whether aiming for publication or personal reflection, should be without this classic (and classically entertaining) guide that is guaranteed to inspire the writer to put her butt in the chair and to accept the truth that all first drafts are shitty. Honestly, Bird by Bird is one of the first ones that made me believe I could write. Anne Lamott also helped me learn to not take it all so seriously with her notion that we humans “are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are,” in contrast to sheep lice, who she says “do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason they write so very little.”


If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit

By Brenda Ueland,

Book cover of If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit

Why this book?

Writers often struggle to think of themselves as “writers” because the world has us believing that we can only carry that title if we are successfully published, and of course words such as “success” and even “published” can be fraught with subjective controversy. One of the lessons I learned from Brenda Ueland, among other great thinkers, is that we need to focus first on our own authenticity and only much, much later dare we think about what the world might have to say. This allowed me to let go and move on and trust myself on my writing path. It wasn’t easy, but as emphasized in If You Want to Write, we will be all right if we believe in our inner richness.  


Finding What You Didn't Lose: Expressing Your Truth and Creativity Through Poem-Making

By John Fox,

Book cover of Finding What You Didn't Lose: Expressing Your Truth and Creativity Through Poem-Making

Why this book?

This is one of those gems that can easily get lost in the literary shuffle. Poet-teacher John Fox gets into the craft of writing poetry in Finding What You Didn’t Lose, but it’s not one of those dry books that will get you all tangled up worrying about your iambic pentameters. Instead, he takes you on a beautiful journey, showing how such useful tools as imagery, sound, metaphor, and rhythm can help you express yourself. Quotes and poetry excerpts round out the rich content of this book.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in writing, creativity, and poetry?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about writing, creativity, and poetry.

Writing Explore 27 books about writing
Creativity Explore 65 books about creativity
Poetry Explore 174 books about poetry

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit, and Write Away: One Novelist's Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life if you like this list.