I can still remember the day I found it.
It was February 1990, and I was back in Wagga Wagga for the final year of my computing degree. Killing time before the bus arrived, I was in the local newsagency deciding which Amiga magazine had the best games on its cover disc when I saw it: the December 1989 edition of Writer’s Digest. (Hey, this was inland New South Wales. No copies being flown in by Air Express here.)
At first I thought it was another version of Readers’ Digest, and flicked through it to see if any of the short stories were worth reading. But instead I saw articles about how to write short stories, novels, scripts, articles, even poetry. Okay, so I wasn’t too interested in the poetry stuff. But the rest of it was a dream come true for someone who’d just realised he wanted to be a writer.
Guess which magazine I bought that day?
I’ve been buying that magazine for 20 years now, and I’ve read most of them from cover to cover. (Well, everything except the poetry stuff.) I’ve learned a lot from those magazines, and while they’ve cost me a small fortune it’s been money well spent.
The only real problem I had was them taking up so much room in my bookcase (and packing them in boxes whenever we moved house). So about a year ago I ripped out the articles worth keeping and threw the rest away. I now have two massive piles of articles instead.
I’m not sure when I bought my first book about writing. I couldn’t even tell you which one it was. But at last count I had 130 of them on my bookcase (taking up what little room was left by the magazines), and I’ve read all but a dozen of them. Just like the magazines they’ve cost me a small fortune, but I’ve learned a hell of a lot from them.
You’d think 130 books about writing would be enough, wouldn’t you? And if you’d asked me yesterday, I probably would have agreed with you. But tonight I saw the 30th Anniversary edition of William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well” in Borders, and the next thing I knew I was walking out the door with it. (Yes, I did pay for it.)
I’ve already read it once. I can’t remember anything specific about it, but I do remember raving about it to a friend of mine who’s also a writer. And so in the next few months I’ll probably read it again, if only to find out what’s so good about it.
But until then I’ll just put it on the bookshelf with all the other books. Or at least try to.