Book Review: Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life

Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life
Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life by Douglas Wilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You know it’s a good one when you abstain from reading just to make it last longer. I’m not saying that Wordsmithy was one of those intense keep-you-up-at-night page-turners, or that I had to exercise any superhuman feats of willpower to keep myself away – rare is a tip-book that riveting. But I did enjoy it immensely, and I was in no hurry to say goodbye to my nightly hot tip fix.

I bought this for my daughter years ago, in the midst of some fit of writing or another (hers, not mine!), and of course, like any recommended reading from parent to teenager, it sat on the shelf unloved. I picked it up once, before I was writing myself, noted to aforementioned daughter that it really looked good, and placed it conveniently, once again, within her reach. You could almost hear the dust collecting.

But alas, all was not lost, for I grabbed it again recently, with an entirely new perspective, with writer’s eyes. She had her chance. It’s mine now.

Douglas Wilson crams more personality into Wordsmithy than any volume of its stature should reasonably hold, much less one promising nothing more than a little dry writing guidance. The result is a delightful 120-page romp in the bright and glorious pastures of writing and being a writer. Wilson is mighty in his opinions and impenitent for any toes stepped on, but the resulting charisma is just what is needed in a book designed to impart wisdom and inspiration of this particular kind.

Seven chapters, seven tips apiece, each with it’s own page or two of witty explication (heavy on the wit), a takeaway point (I usually hate these, but well-done, Mr. Wilson), and some suggested readings (an eclectic selection, from Annie Dillard to C.S. Lewis, Writers’ Digest to Bastard Tongues, John Bunyan to P.G. Wodehouse, to say nothing of all points in between).

There is a distinctly evangelical lilt to Wilson’s style, but as one who is fairly sensitive to these things, I didn’t think his religiosity overwhelmed (much). His unapologetic views are, after all, what makes him the forceful guide that he is, and why I am drawn to his writing. I was able to take his sideways theology in stride and get a little giggle out of it when things got overly aggressive. Think of it as an exercise in patience, if you are of the kind that needs such things. If you are not, let me know when your how-to book hits the shelves. I’ll be first in line at the book-signing.

I could throw out a few well-chosen quotes to whet your whistle, but I’ll abstain. It feels like any trailer of a book this short would be robbery. If you aspire to the writers’ life, just go ahead and order it. You can be done with it in a day, if that’s how you roll. Or you can revel in the simplicity and elegance of his language for a while and ration it out across weeks or months. Either way it is worth a quick journey through your library’s mainframe to get it into your hands.

View all my Goodreads reviews

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