I have a love/hate relationship with books by writers about writing. Some books I like. Bird by Bird comes to mind. I also liked the Steven King book, even though I can't remember what it's called.
Usually, however, I hate these kinds of books. I'm sorry if this sounds snobby, but I sort of think they are for posers. It's not that I don't think you can learn to write--I teach writing for a living--but such books often cover familiar terrain and maybe one or two books will do you. If you want to write: WRITE!
I'm also always suspicious that such books are sentimental memoirs in disguise. I don't like life lesson stories. I'm still mad about the movies "Mr. Holland's Opus" and "Dead Poets Society," and I saw those decades ago. Mostly, I don't trust such tales. If you want to make me laugh, make me laugh. If you want to make me cry, make me cry. But don't tell me that hardship is a blessing that will be rewarded in the end. Hardship can be a blessing, but it's seldom rewarded. That an entire industry wants us help us believe otherwise shows just how complicit in our own oppression we want to be.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I fell in love with True Notebooks: A Writer's Year at Juvenile Hall by Mark Salzman. The title has life lesson all over it! But it's not life lessony, and it's certainly not sentimental. It recounts Salzman's year teaching a writing class to juvenile delinquents in LA. The beauty of the book is that it's not really about Salzman. We never learn how he grew from this experience. We don't get to sympathize with how his eyes were opened to injustice. Instead, we hear from the boys he taught. We hear them in conversation with each other and Salzman, and, best of all, we get to read their own short pieces of writing. The boys aren't dirty little angels. (They've done awful things. Most were accused of murder, although we don't really hear about that either.) But they are boys, and when you read their writing and begin to get glimpses into their lives you mostly just feel a poignant sadness about how their lives got so out of whack. (You know what they seem to want most of all? Their moms, and most of their moms don't seem to have been so great to begin with.)
This is a beautiful book that sneaks up on you and hijacks your soul. I loved it.