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Of the making of books there is no end, Ecclesiastes has it. Of the making of books about the making of books there is also a perennial flow. The shelves of a well-stocked bookstore are sure to include dozens of titles on freeing the trapped writer within, on finding one's voice, on creating that winning proposal for yet another workout book or diet guide (heaven help us all). The mustier stacks of the better libraries, too, will have a fair selection of more arcane how-to manuals in the form of writers' notebooks—famously those of Henry James, Anton Chekhov, and Thomas Wolfe—useful for obtaining glimpses into the difficult process of creation for anyone who would take the craft of writing seriously.

But there are other difficulties as well in writing, hardships many steps removed from finding a voice and getting subjects and verbs to agree. Among them are trying to meet deadlines when the phone is ringing off the hook and the toddlers are clamoring for lunch, of remaining inspired while one's bank account languishes for want of long-promised checks. Few writers have treated such matters, for reasons an anthropologist might brand "taboo deformation"—write about troubles and troubles will descend on your head. John Jerome's The Writing Trade braves such a fate, and offers a deeply considered look, at once disquieting and inspirational, into the quotidian life of a working writer.


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