When I first started thinking about becoming a freelance writer, I did what any avid reader would do—I started finding and consuming books on the topic. Not all of the books were directly related to freelance writing. Some of them were just general writing inspiration or tactics for starting your own business. And some of them only peripherally had to with taking this leap but were written by authors who discuss their struggles with getting a writing career off the ground. I found the books extremely inspiring and useful when first beginning my career. Here were the top six books I recommend if you’re thinking of taking this leap yourself.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
While I did thoroughly enjoy Elizabeth Gilbert’s infamous novel Eat, Pray, Love, I was skeptical of an inspirational book written about creative living by this same author. But I was very pleasantly surprised. This book isn’t just about writing, but as she is a writer, a lot of the advice and stories surround the writing world. But what this book does is so much more than give you rote advice on how to be a better writer; its intent is to inspire everyone to live a creative life. In whatever way that resonates with them. I found a lot of inspiration from this book, and it did encourage me to look at what could be possible instead of just sticking with the practical like I tend to do.
Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living edited by Manjula Martin
This book really gets to the heart of the debate most writers will have at some point in their career: do I want to make money or art? Can I do both? It is a collection of essays written by some incredible modern authors such as Roxanne Gay, Cheryl Strayed, Yiyun Li, and Susan Orlean. The essays don’t so much offer a perfect path to how to be a writer, but are personal stories of how each of these authors got to be as successful as they are. I found it inspiring to know that some of the authors I emulate the most, also struggled to pay their bills at the start of their career. And often for many years after that. It’s a beautiful collection that seeks to offer a dose of reality along with a ton of inspiration.
You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero
This book was probably the number one book that helped me take the leap to quit my day job and try out freelance writing full time. For some it can definitely be a bit “woo-woo” but that I think that was exactly what I needed at that point in my life. This book isn’t really about writing at all. It’s more the story of Sincero and how she went from being horribly in debt to starting a business and thriving. It’s a common story these days, but she tells it in a very interesting, heartwarming, and inspiring way. She also offers tips and tricks along the way to make a similar change in your own life. A lot of it is about positive thinking and manifestation, but she doesn’t think that’s all it takes. It takes work and a lot of it, but it all starts with shifting your mindset. Something we can all do to remember throughout our lives. This is one of those books that I’ll probably reread once every five years or so, just to remind myself that it’s all gonna be okay.
Free Within Ourselves: Fiction Lessons for Black Authors by Jewell Parker Rhodes
This is an extremely important book because it is very true that a lot of this genre of books is dominated by white women. While this book certainly wasn’t targeted for my demographic, I found reading about the craft of writing from a different perspective very enlightening and engaging. The book is also one of the more practical and helpful on this list. It walks you through writing exercises and gives you assignments such as a list of books by famous black authors to read. She addresses the whitewashing that often comes part and parcel with studying writing in school and attempts to correct that narrative by broadening the scope. The book is really perfect for beginning writers looking to delve into the world for the first time, but can also be helpful in honing your craft and exposing you to examples of truly beautiful writing by African American authors.
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
This book is a classic in the art world for helping artists of all different mediums reconnect with their craft and find inspiration every day. It walks you through a 12-week journey to find the connection between your spiritual self and your creative self. Two of the major tenants of the 12 weeks are morning pages and artist dates. Morning pages are great for writers, but she encourages people of all disciplines to wake up and write three pages in a journal every day. Artist dates are intended to help you find inspiration. Throughout the course there are tons of exercises and activities, so this book is fantastic if you’re really looking for some help structuring and want to be walked through a little inspirational journey.
Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
This book isn’t really about writing or inspirational in any kind of direct way. It is simply a collection of essays Roxanne Gay wrote throughout her career, many of which are from quite early on. I included this here because I think that this book helped inspire me by giving me a glimpse of what kind of stuff I can write, even if no one is responding to my pitches. A lot of the essays included here Gay originally posted on her blog. For me, it was helpful to see a writer that I admire greatly and follow her journey from an unknown name to one of the thought leaders we often turn to for a wide variety of issues.