Writing With Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process

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A classic handbook for anyone who needs to write, Writing With Power speaks to everyone who has wrestled with words while seeking to gain power with them. Here, Peter Elbow emphasizes that the essential activities underlying good writing and the essential exercises promoting it are really not difficult at all.

Employing a cookbook approach, Elbow provides the reader (and writer) with various recipes: for getting words down on paper, for revising, for dealing with an audience, for getting feedback on a piece of writing, and still other recipes for approaching the mystery of power in writing. In a new introduction, he offers his reflections on the original edition, discusses the responses from people who have followed his techniques, how his methods may differ from other processes, and how his original topics are still pertinent to today's writer. By taking risks and embracing mistakes, Elbow hopes the writer may somehow find a hold on the creative process and be able to heighten two mentalities–the production of writing and the revision of it.

From students and teachers to novelists and poets, Writing with Power reminds us that we can celebrate the uses of mystery, chaos, nonplanning, and magic, while achieving analysis, conscious control, explicitness, and care in whatever it is we set down on paper.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2 edition (July 9, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195120183
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195120189
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.9 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds

Customer Reviews

It worked for me!

86 people found this helpful.
 on January 31, 2006
By T. A. Smedes
It seems as if writing books can roughly be divided in two categories. First, there are the books that tell you to plan your writing project in advance in meticulous detail. Second, there are books that tell you NOT to plan anything in advance, but urge you to start writing until you drop.

Worth it, I promise.

90 people found this helpful.
 on August 22, 2002
By Brian Vander Kamp
I have been an ardent reader all my life, as far back as I can remember. I can remember tearing through my bookcase on some days as if I was physically hungry. Books were always a source of enjoyment for me, – better than dreaming, man – but they were also always a mystery to me. How could someone do something like this? Where do people find all this incredible material inside? Reading was my joy. Writing was never that. Instead, it was always difficult, and frustrating and humiliating. Oh, my writing was all right when it was done. But it took hours piled on hours of struggle to get there. I didn’t understand how writers did it, how they could create entire novels – and not just one to each author! – when it took me a week to write one silly page for a book report. And not only did it take forever; it was never fun. It was hard and brutal, exacting and costly. I thought that when you wrote something it had to come out perfect, or nearly so, the first time it was copied down.

An antidote to all those rules your English teacher taught!

37 people found this helpful.
 on December 25, 2001
By Howard Aldrich
Before reading Elbow’s book, I was quite skeptical concerning “freewriting” — raw writing, writing without concern for the rules of grammar, writing for the sheer sake of getting words on paper. Elbow overcame my skepticism with powerful examples, reports from his own experience & that of his pupils, and clever exposition. Rather than ducking the complexities and contradictions of good writing, Elbow tackles them head-on. His strategy involves aggressively seeking counter-arguments to his suggestions, and he often admits that two opposing principles both contain elements of truth. He then gives thoughtful advice on how to cope with such complexity. Many of his guidelines involve dialectical or cyclical practices, e.g. paying attention to breathing life into your prose, but then revising for structure, and then returning once again to make sure you haven’t choked the life out of what you’ve written.

Five Stars

 on February 13, 2017
By k.fahlbusch
on time and as described

Four Stars

 on March 17, 2017
By Gee Tash
As described – thanks!

Unorthodox & Helpful

19 people found this helpful.
 on December 7, 2000
By Shannon
In Writing with Power, Peter Elbow shares several of his thoughts on techniques for everyone and anyone who writes. Divided into several sections with titles of “Audience” and “Feedback,” Elbow walks writers through every step of the writing process, including thoughts on relieving writer’s block, sharing individual writing with others, and several different types of actual writing processes and revision. His unorthodox approach to teaching how to write is something that inevitably spills over into this book. Personally, I found this book to be very useful in my own personal writing. I never would have considered giving myself a set amount of time to get something done (and stopping when that time is over) or adding a dialogue to a serious paper. I would also have never given myself permission to “waste” my time on something as frivolous as freewriting to get my mind going. Writing with Power is easy to read and highly enjoyable. His suggestions are valuable and very applicable to every kind of writing. Elbow is not afraid to go out on a limb in his own writing, which only serves as proof that Elbow “practices what he preaches” – and that it can work in daily writing.

Writer’s block?

20 people found this helpful.
 on August 20, 1999
By Michelle E. Madsen Camacho
Elbow embraces Natalie Goldberg’s philosophy (“Writing down the Bones, Freeing the Writer Within).” He stresses the separation of the creative process from the critical/editorial. The difficult task (for me) was breaking the habit of trying to edit while I composed. This book helped liberate my writing. I produced my dissertation in part thanks to this book!

A Powerful Book

12 people found this helpful.
 on January 11, 2007
By Paul Nordquist
At one time, writing was slow and awkward for me. My college assignments forced me to write, but each essay and paper was an excruciating ordeal. Peter Elbow’s book, recommended by one of my professors, turned my writing life around.

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