A writer's wisdom

Julius McCarter

5 Stars

July 22, 2014


In his simply beautiful, Dancing on the Head of a Pen:  The Practice of a Writing Life, Robert Benson, the acclaimed writer of books on life and spirituality, sets out to answer a question often posed to writers:  "Can you tell me how to write a book?"  In the 12 chapters that compose this masterpiece, Benson describes his own "practice" of a "writing life".  

He's quick to point out the debts he owes to other writers.  He's cobbled together his own practice from so many sources.  He's honed his craft utilizing the tools and tricks of good reading and writing over the years.  And that craft shines in the book with all the poetic intensity of a masterpiece from a master writer. 

Standing on the shoulders of so many good writers, he's learned how to write by "dancing on the head of a pen" -- reminiscent of the medieval thinkers who spoke of theology as dealing with such intricate questions as how many angels might dance on the head of a pin.  This book is filled with the same meticulous yet artful exposition. 

He writes of solitude and silence, procrastination and pen and paper.  He writes about the habits of writing, and not writing with a dependence upon the writing muses.  And in the near-poetic language, his wisdom shines in every word.  From word count goals to how much to trust to give talking to others about writing, this book is a real treat and treasure to writers. 

All of his wisdom is tested with time -- the time necessary to make good writers.  It reminds me of other great writing wisdom from folks like Annie Dillard and Anne Lamott and Frederick Buechner.  Dancing on the Head of a Pen is a practical treasure.  And I can't recommend it too highly. 

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I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.