Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield has been a recent exception.
Unlike some instructive tomes, Turning Pro is a relatively slimline publication, under 150 pages long. I had heard a lot of praise for Steven Pressfield online in the run up to the appearance of Turning Pro and the more I investigated, the more I found genuine, well-read people enthusing about Mr Pressfield. This wasn't just buy-my-book 'hype'. His website is thoughtful, interesting and educational and you can find an excellent biography on his about page.
I'm one of those people who tend to dip into books, maybe daily, maybe weekly. I could pretend that this is down to a deep tendency to take my time to let the book's subject matter sink into my being. I could tell you that, but I'd be lying. What actually happens is that I fit in my reading as and when I can. I have a book at my bedside, a book on my iPhone and usually perched somewhere in the house a third book for reading while I eat my lunch. I read half an hour here, forty five minutes there and perhaps a couple of minutes on my iPhone while I stand waiting outside school for my children to launch themselves into the afternoon. I rarely have lengthy reading sessions (oh the decadent luxury of an hour's quiet reading with a glass of wine and the remote control hidden from the rest of the family). I expected to read Turning Pro in my usual fashion and flicking through the book, the short sections appeared to lend themselves to this. So I got my lunch one day during the summer break and settled down to eat with Turning Pro as my companion. My children, having sped through their food to return to their computers, had abandoned me. It was just me, a sandwich, and Steven Pressfield.
A while later, my husband interrupted me. Peering round the door, he said, "You're very quiet. I thought you'd gone out. Have the kids eaten tea yet?"
Four hours had passed as I travelled with Steven Pressfield. I hadn't noticed them pass and yet they had definitely departed. What I had expected to be a book of school-room lessons turned out to be a journey through the lanes of self-doubt, discovery and triumph. Pressfield uses his own experience and wanderings to express what so many writers go through, and to describe the commitment (and self realisation) it takes to step off the 'amateur' boat and become a professional.
I was so impressed by my first Turning Pro reading fest that I finished it off the next day. Unlike a lot of instructive writing manuals that I personally find rather 'dry', this book proved to be a colourful, heartfelt delight. I love stories. I'm a story-teller myself. What better way to teach me, than with stories?
I wrote in the War of Art that I could divide my life neatly into two parts: before turning pro and after. After is better.