Book Review: Writing from the Inside Out

The more I learn to embrace my calling as a writer, and the more I read about the craft of writing, it becomes more evident to me that we are a narcissistic and introspective group. We fit into that artist category of being free-spirited, difficult to nail down, temperamental, and a little haunted by our own talent.

But in a good way.

And that’s just it: Dennis Palumbo, in his book, ‘Writing from the Inside Out,’ encourages me to EMBRACE my quirkiness as a writer – the ‘dark and twisty’ Jen, to borrow a phrase from Gray’s Anatomy. For it is the darkness and twistiness that provides the raw material, the grist for the mill.

I have alluded to this many times in my own writing, including this post about my boring happiness:

Life seems uninteresting these days from a blogging perspective, though it is FANTASTIC from the survival aspect. I’ve said this before, but it’s easier for me to write about things I’m complaining about or struggling with. Depression? Martial strife? This is the stuff great stories are born from – the setup, upset, reset. When was the last time you saw a movie about a really happy guy that led a really happy life and nothing tragic or embarrassing ever happened to him?

I think I’ve always embraced the dark and twisty Jen and recognized that it provided valuable raw material and ambiance to work with. But at the same time I think I still viewed it as a personal defect, something to overcome so I could get on to the REAL business of writing – as if writing about the dark and twisty Jen was just practice.

Palumbo’s book opened me up to embrace the many things I thought were supposed to be labeled as distractions, but were, on the contrary, quite therapeutic for me. Things such as the phenomenon he writes about in his chapter titled, ‘In Praise of Goofing Off,’ which is about the valuable downtime a writer spends daydreaming, or reading, or reorganizing a closet. It is this time we spend allowing our thoughts to ‘percolate’ or ‘simmer,’ as he puts it, that is just as necessary as the actual act of writing. “You’re allowing that part of the brain that creates to work unconsciously,” he writes, “filtering and sorting, selecting and discarding.”

It is the mystery of inspiration and the writing process.

The over-arching theme of the book is this: love what you do, because the rewards of writing won’t always come in typical or tangible success, so our reward must be IN the writing. This is not a step-by-step how-to of writing the great novel or screenplay. Rather, it is a therapeutic salve that encourages the writer to be himself, to write from his own experiences, and to find joy in the everyday mundane.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Writing from the Inside Out”

  1. Thanks for the recommendation. Thanks also for the write-up. Book reviews are what I want to start working on the most. Thanks for a great example.

  2. I’ve either read this or read so many reviews to it that I feel like I’ve read it. I should figure out which it is, shouldn’t I?

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