The people I met at Powell’s

The Best Books on Writing as told by Malakoa

On Writing Well, William Zinner

Bird by Bird, Anne Lemott

On Writing Stephen King

Writing down the Bones by Natalie Goldman

The Writing Life Annie Dillard

You’re not fooling anyone…. John Scalzi

Books on bipolar

An Unquiet Mind- Kay Redfield Jameson

Electro Boy – note: I don’t think I finished all of it

Bipolar Survival Guide

Others I don’t remember

At Powell’s legendary book store in Portland Oregon, I found myself in my favorite section – the books on writing. To tell you the truth, I would spend more time reading books on writing than actually writing if I did not discipline myself. I love Annie Dillard’s passion, Anne Lemott’s humor and even Stephen King’s advice. They are great books – if I even taught a class on writing, or English, or even botany I would choose these books.

When I got to the shelves, there were two people there staring at the shelves. I couldn’t push them out of the way like I wanted to do. It was a woman and a man, who I think was her son. They were talking about what books would be the right ones to spur on a new writer. I debated stepping in to help but decided they probably didn’t need it. Then I debated with myself some more. When they finally decided on Bird by Bird, Anne Lemott’s missive on her life’s experience as a writer, I decided to butt in.

“That’s a wonderful book.” We had a conversation about the book, and what type of thing they were looking for. The woman, Lynn, said that her son, Steven wanted to become a writer and was looking for a good place to start, and was I a writer?

I was. I told her about this webpage; the ministry for people and their families with mood disorders. This intrigued them. Steven cocked his head to one side again. I searched for some more books I could recommend about writing, but they weren’t there. Lynn wrote some names down. I told them that I wasn’t sure I should offer to help them, but they were glad I did.

I was excited. I asked her if she wanted my webpage’s address and gave it to her, warning her it was Christian so it might offend somebody. She politely ignored the warning and told me that Steven was bipolar. I burst out with “I’m bipolar, too!” I don’t know why, but when I find a fellow bipolar person I get excited. There is someone whose experiences match mine more than anyone else in the world. It reminds me of when I was twenty two and headed back to Texas for my grandmother’s funeral. I had not been back for many, many years and was astonished that all of these relatives looked like me! They had far apart eyes, little noses and soft little chins. There was no doubt they were my relatives. I feel the same way about encountering another bipolar person. “He has Tourette’s too” said his mom, “that’s why he moves his head so much.”

”Bipolar people make great writers,” I said without humility. “We get these ideas in our heads that would never occur to most people and then we can run with it.”

Is that true? Sometimes. Sometimes the ideas get stuck or grow stagnant or even blow up depending on our moods. There is so much depending on the mood of someone with bipolar. It’s unfortunate. However, writing creates discipline. To do it right; to do it well, you have to be disciplined. Choosing the right word is a discipline, not over doing it with too many words is a discipline. Writing every day no matter what is a discipline, one which must be developed to write in any quantity. (None of these are disciplines which I have mastered.)

Steven? Lynn? I hope you enjoy the books, get in touch, and write well.


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