Word Work by Bruce Holland Rogers

Writers are different. We think a vacation means more time to write. We say the phrase “good rejection” without irony. We’re mean to our imaginary friends. Whether writing full-time or balancing other paid work with writing, writers don’t have the kind of life their neighbors do. Which is why WORD WORK is one of my favorite books. It didn’t teach me how to write. It taught me how to be a writer.

The self-contained chapters were previously published as articles in Speculations magazine. They are a balance of psychology (why do we do this?) and practicality (here’s how to handle it). Whatever part of your life isn’t working, Rogers has worthwhile advice. Wondering why you can’t get started? Read “Procrastination as Armor.” Uncertain about your critique group? Read “The Hazards of Writing Workshops.” On a deadline? Read “When the Novel Has to be Done Yesterday.”

The book is divided into sections, but it doesn’t have to be read sequentially. I confess I skipped directly to the section called “Other People.” When I write, it’s just me and the page, but the rest of my life has people in it–people I love who can also drive me crazy. The chapters on marriage were particularly interesting. Rogers has been married twice, once to a non-writer and once to a writer, so he knows what he’s talking about. Every marriage is about compromise, but in writers’ marriages, the writing can get compromised too. It was nice to see that everyone goes through this, and also have some concrete help in dealing with it. Likewise, the chapters on friends, fellow writers, and mentors. Unlike people who are thrown together in a workplace, writers get to choose who they hang around with. It’s important to choose wisely and Rogers explains why.

Rogers covers things important to all writers, but WORD WORK is also an intensely personal book. He talks about his own attention deficit disorder, his marriages, writer friends, even dreams that helped him to write. In WORD WORK, Rogers has made the personal into the universal. He has the experience to know what he’s talking about and the compassion that comes from being where you are. In fact, the weakest chapter in the book is the one that’s the least personal. “Writing With Children in the House” falls a bit flat because Rogers doesn’t have kids.

Although the chapters each address a discrete topic, taken as a whole, they add up to a complete portrait of a writer’s life. I want to give this book to every writer I know. I also want to give a copy to everyone who loves or lives with a writer. I’m sure there would be more harmony in those families, and more writers who successfully integrate writing into their lives.


WORD WORK can be found here.


rating: 5 stars


This book is best for: intermediate writers


I recommend this book.

2 thoughts on “Word Work by Bruce Holland Rogers

  1. Just checked out the rest of your site after finding the review of ‘Word Work’, & I look forward to reading your other reviews. I’ve only recently come around to accepting the idea of writing how-to books. But now that I have, I’ve learned a lot. Both about craft and about the more nebulous areas Bruce discusses. Still, some ‘you can write’ books are really weak. I appreciate your wading through them and assessing them for others.

    • So glad you find my blog useful, Alisa.

      I’d like to steer writers toward the great how-to books and away from the stinkers. There are plenty of both out there, but even among the good, not every book is for everyone. I hope my reviews can cut through the clutter and match every writer with a book they love.

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