I'm neck deep in writing an academic book at the moment, and on the worst days I lose the will to live. To dislodge myself from the daily temptation to nuke the whole manuscript, slit my wrists and be done with it all, I've been trying to keep motivated by reading good accounts of the life of writers. I would love recommendations! Details inside.
In the past month I've found it incredibly inspiring to read this wonderful biography of John Steinbeck
, whose writing I love to pieces. Especially after a bad day of writing, it's been deeply comforting to read about Steinbeck's own literary struggles and daily self-doubts, and how he dealt with them to become the incredible writer he did. I especially love the biographical genre for this, since it lets you pan out over someone's life, and place the struggles they had during particular projects in perspective, seeing them as momentary challenges in a longer arc of a successful creative life. That sort of perspective is hard to get from inside that life (as I am finding, day by soul-crushing day).
So: I'd love to read more of this sort of thing as soul sustenance, and I'd love to hear recommendations. But, having read the Steinbeck biography, my sense was that fiction seems to be a slightly different kind of struggle from writing I do - more calling up worlds from within oneself and trying to ignore the critics, less need to marshall a jumble of research into sense, less stubbornly plowing on in the face of not knowing what one is saying, a different kind of daily discipline. So I'd particularly like recommendations for biographies of non-fiction and/or academic writers - historians, journalists, essayists, philosophers, writers, maybe even politicians if they had a literary vocation - rather than of fiction writers. I wouldn't mind more fiction-writer recommendations though, if they're especially good. Many thanks in advance!
PS. I also enjoy dipping occasionally into Daily Rituals: How Artists Work
for similar reasons, though again that skews toward creative rather than non-fiction writing.