"The Mindful Writer" by Jan Marquart
I have written sparingly about books dealing with writing. The last time I did, I got some nasty comments for my criticism of a famous writing guru who mixes writing with neo-esoteric/mystical themes. My premise then was that one needs not to get so overly complicated about the writing process, or delve so deeply into the non-tangible to be successful. I think my repulsion to these types of writing techniques in those days was due to my full-time teaching position. Semesters are based on producing material (good material) leading to a finish product for a grade of some sort, and I was so centered on this philosophy to care about anything else. I left teaching in 2009 and never looked back. As a result, my opinion on the matter has changed greatly since, and I have come to appreciate every type of technique, no matter how over-the-top or unique.
"The Mindful Writer" by Jan Marquart contains the right combination of biography, philosophy, practical advice and exercises. This is fairly rare on these types of instructional book. The parts of the book that are narrative in nature are clearly marked from those intended to be instructional, yet the seamless border between them makes the text easy to read and approachable. There are no "do it this way" rules and the biographical passages are simply included to personalize the effectiveness of what Marquart is trying to get across. There is a persistent tone (a gentle one) on creating the kind of confidence that the reader will hopefully take to his/her own blank page later, and this alone sets this book apart from many others intending to foster the personal journal techniques to heal and understand one's own past. As a result, most of the exercises yield deeply personal (at least in my case) entries which often do the most to clarify one's mistakes, pain and unresolved heartache. The prompts of the exercises are open-ended in a way that allows the student writer to find his/her own way through the map of experience; they are general in context and deceivingly universal once the writer engages them.
This is a carefully and beautifully written book by a writer who knows the healing and the power of writing as a self-examination tool. I highly recommend Jan Marquart's book to anyone seeking advice on creating positive healing spaces for themselves on the blank page.