Unleash the Writer Within, by Cecil Murphey (OakTara Publishers, 2011)
This book is a keeper. It’s not a “how-to-write” book, although Cecil Murphey is an excellent teacher of the craft. It’s more a collection of vignettes that prompt the reader to do what the title says: unleash the writer within.
Cec Murphey was on faculty one year at Write! Canada. I don’t remember what he said, but how he said it left me with great respect for not just his knowledge but his heart. If you read Unleash the Writer Within you’ll know what I mean.
Some of the short chapters cover typical writerly issues such as giftedness, inner critics and writer’s block. Most deal with topics like discovering who you—the writer—really are, finding/embracing/growing your voice, and learning how to like and to be gentle with yourself.
Before you dismiss the latter ideas as impractical, “out there” or whatever, stop to think about it. If we don’t really know who we are, if our creative and critical sides are in constant battle, we can’t reach our potential. We can’t write authentically, and we’ll miss touching a lot of lives.
Many of the chapters grow out of two key questions Cec Murphey asks when he teaches: “Why do you write?” and “What makes you keep writing?”
The book is an easy read, but one I chose to take in daily chapter doses so I could internalize what I’d read. Each chapter ends with a summarizing aphorism, like “I write to find out who I am” and “My inner critic can be my friend, so I honor and trust that voice.” Chapters are written in a very open, humble and self-effacing style, honestly revealing Mr. Murphey’s own struggles so that we can relate with our own.
My copy is flagged with coloured tabs for sections I’ve marked to re-read. It’s one of those books that I’d probably lend to a trusted friend, but only with a strong warning that I wanted it back.