The Writing Warrior: Discovering the Courage to Free Your True Voice
by Laraine Herring

Shambala Publications, 2010. ISBN 978-1-590-30796-0.
Reviewed by Sharon Lippincott
Posted on 10/09/2010

Nonfiction: Creative Life

I've read piles of how to-books for writers. This one stands out from the rest, and not just because I've never been advised at the start to commit to a practice of breathing and shaking to enhance my writing. But she doesn't insist on the shaking. If you don't want to shake, she agrees that other physical practices like yoga, qigong, dancing, jogging will do as well. The important thing is to get moving to break up stagnation and free your creative juices.

I appreciated that she makes it clear from the beginning that the form she suggests is only that, a suggestion. "However, just like with clothing (no matter what the labels say), a one-size structure does not fit all writers." I read food recipes for inspiration more often than directions, and I'm even less likely to follow recipes for writing. But I do love a good idea—like shaking and moving—and this book is full of good ideas.

The shaking and moving instruction is fundamental to the metaphors of movement and practice embedded in the core of the book. She sees writing as movement along a path, and she moves the writing student along a path of movement and practice, much as a martial arts warrior moves during practice. Like the martial arts warrior, the Writing Warrior "stands steady in the center of her work, not reaching too far into the past or too far into the future. She is rooted to the earth, and her spine reaches toward heaven."

Herring remains rooted in her metaphor and centered on her path. Her material is neatly sorted into five parts: Breaking Ground, Building Your Foundation, Dissolving Your Illusions, Committing to Your Authentic Path, and Deepening Your Writer's Roots. Each short chapter resembles a blog post, tightly focused on one key concept. Although the chapters are arranged to gradually build on her theme, each is a concisely contained unit capable of standing on its own. As a bonus, each part ends with Writing Warrior Practice, including several suggested exercises to help you master the principles it covers.

Just as martial arts training is about a way of life as much or more than a way of self-defense, this book is about a way of thinking as much or more than a way of writing. It's about sorting out your heart and your head so words can flow forth unimpeded.

One way to tell whether I've been engaged with a book is the number of sticky flags bristling from the edges. This book has a lot of flags.

Read an excerpt from this book.

Laraine Herring holds an MFA in creative writing and an MA in counseling psychology. Her short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in national and local publications. Her fiction has won the Barbara Deming Award for Women and her nonfiction work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She currently teaches creative writing in Prescott, Arizona, and at the Omega Institute in New York and the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Massachusetts. Visit her website.

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