Rumors of Water Thoughts on Creativity and Writingis a different kind of craft book. In it, Barkat draws from her experience as a writer, editor, wife, and mother of two young daughters. She draws from her life experiences to weave short vignettes applicable to the writing life.
The book is divided into sections and each section is divided into very short essays–up to 4 pages.
The sections are titled: Momentum, Voice, Habits, Structure, Publishing, Glitches, and Time.
Each of the shorter essays deals with the topic at hand–Momentum has essays titled: “Rumors: How it Begins”, “Purple Moths: Don’t be Idealistic” followed by “Plastic Flutes: Be Idealistic” which I see as yet another comment on writing advice–some of it will be contradictory and it’s up to the writer to decide which is applicable to the task at hand. The essay titles are catchy–inspiring title envy in this “can’t think of a title to save my life” writer.
Some of my favorite essays are: “Japanese Beans: Write with What You Have” from the Momentum section. Barkat was looking for recipes to use up her stash of dried beans. The recipe search started by her daughter Sara, sent on her search because of the copious amounts of dried beans in Barkat’s basement, led to an essay on how a writer can write with material that is on hand; there is no reason to search for exotic places or experiences to write about. Barkat writes: “As a writer, I have learned when a job needs to get done, there is little fussing about the lack of necessary ingredients like tomato and parsley….This is the secret of the prolific writer. To agree to use small beans and the ingredients at hand. To cultivate out of potlucks and basement bargins.” (page 34).
It’s that kind of advice, cultivated from day to day activities and life experiences from day to day living that makes this short–~160 pages–book easy to read. Not from the standpoint that the writing is simplistic–far from it; Barkat is a poet and it shows in her writing, but that the advice comes from places and experiences we can all identify with. The short essays mean an essay can be read in a short amount of time, but then the thoughts an essay triggers lasts far longer, working into the writer’s thoughts and subconscious.
I have a lot of writing books, but the tone in this one is different. It’s like sitting with a friend who has far more writing experience than you, and who likes nothing better than sitting outside at a picnic bench at a park, under a shady tree on a warm spring day, chatting about what she’s learned and wants to pass on to you. While many of my writing books will be packed into boxes because I don’t have room on my shelves, this one will stay on the shelf, easily accessible anytime I need to hear writing advice from a friend.