I admire many authors who teach writing. However, my go-to coach is William Zinsser. Reading his book On Writing Well transformed my writing in college. I devoured his later works. More recently, I have contemplated his thoughts on memoir.
Zinsser dropped many great lines. This one rings true as I write slice-of-life pieces: “be yourself, speak freely, and think small.” It appeared in the essay “How to Write a Memoir” (The American Scholar, Spring 2006). Among the nuggets:
And above all, be patient with yourself. Amazingly, in Writing about Your Life: A Journey into the Past (2004), Zinsser stated he did not find his voice until he wrote On Writing Well while in his fifties. The generous teacher and author remained current, embracing new forms. His popular blog, Zinsser on Friday, won a National Magazine Award in 2012—when he was 89.
To learn more about William Zinsser, visit his website. You’ll find him on saxophone, improvising with Arnold Roth on piano.