One of the main components of Taoism is Wu Wei, to “do without doing” and let actions flow without any effort. Ironically, in my search for books on the craft of writing, I found this book without actively searching for it. I’d never heard of it before, and it actually sounded like something my other writing friend interested in Taoism would love. So, I showed it to her. She read it, and liked it a lot, going so far as to incorporate some of the practices into her daily writing life. So then I thought, “Well…might as well pick up a copy for myself.”
And I’m very glad I did.
The Tao of Writing by Ralph L. Wahlstrom is a general writing reference aimed at the beginning writer and any writer—beginner or advanced—who has ever thought of writing as hard, impossible, or only done by those with a special talent for the craft. What makes this book different from others on the craft of writing, though, is that it incorporates principles of Taoism into writing and creativity.
And it makes complete sense.
What really makes this book enjoyable is that Wahlstrom is an English professor, and how well he understands the busy, hectic Western world that sacrifices creativity for deadlines and soulless, machine-like efficiency. He understands how the current educational system associates writing with dread and boredom: dull essays, grammatical correctness, etc. With this book, you’ll see how writing is, in its truest form, natural, flowing, creative, clear, and simple, to name a few. With seventy writing exercises and tips, Wahlstrom shows that writing and being creative don’t have to be hard, and shouldn’t be. For example, one of the exercises details keeping an affirmation journal to write down positive statements (“I am a good writer,” “I will write more this month”) so that negative thoughts about writing and your life (“I’m a bad writer,” “I’ll never get better”) don’t affect you. Wahlstrom also encourages readers to “interpret” the exercises “freely” as they please (169). There is no set required number that you have to do, and there are many different ones to choose from that incorporate Taoist philosophy.
Like any craft, it will take practice to becoming a better writer, and that means writing a lot. Reading this book straight through in one sitting will not make you the ultimate best-selling writer. However, it will get you thinking about writing differently and will, I believe, be a great companion along your writing journey, whether you are a beginner or seasoned veteran that needs a little bit of guidance.