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Book Review: The Writer Laid Bare, Lee Kofman

A multi-layered memoir of literary wisdom.

Lee Kofman is a Russian born Israeli-Australian writer who grew up in a communist dictatorship, in which reading was her refuge. Now a renowned author, poet, and mentor, Kofman shares where her inspiration stems from, what she feeds it, and how it grows in The Writer Laid Bare

Kofman’s multi-layered memoir / manual is a fascinating read; ripe with truth, experience, and actionable advice. This is no generic guide to word-spurtage, but a carefully constructed collection of writerly guidance and literary wisdom. The Writer Laid Bare draws figurative maps around writerly obstacles, highlighting routes for overcoming creative, emotional, and practical roadblocks, with an admirable emphasis on honesty, bravery and contemplation.

From new-work jitters to first-draft paralysis, Kofman illuminates potential pathways for her fellow writers, even those who are full time workers / parents / procrastinators. Her practical writing tips include the calibration of minds through the act of writing, the psychological benefits of doing so, and the importance of knowing one’s beverage of choice. 

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The Writer Laid Bare pulsates with originality, humour, and insight. Each page contains more than its fair share of value, merging Kofman’s unique perspective with wisdom from a diverse range of literary greats. Kofman’s list of influences includes a healthy dose of philosophical writers, which is unsurprising considering the phenomenological undertones of the author’s approach and focus. Untangling passion from agenda, and discipline from the proverbial muse, Kofman pays utmost attention to aesthetic form in the writing context. 

Honesty is a major theme of The Writer Laid Bare, in which Kofman expands upon her own experiences to warn writers against reverting to safe or prefabricated topics. An entire chapter is dedicated to the collision of creativity with parenthood – a conventionally under-contemplated (and over-experienced) topic. Using her own trials-and-errors as creative templates, Kofman nudges writers away from mainstream motivation in order to draw inspiration from the inherently more authentic sources of urgency, shame, and need. Equivocating enlightenment with the written word, Kofman presents writing as a necessary act; a statement that will resonate with many of her readers. 

The Writer Laid Bare is worth savouring for the flow of Kofman’s prose; each every word holds its own weight in meaning. Detailed attention is given to the usual suspects (character, setting, dialogue, voice) in addition to more abstract literary elements like emotion, specificity, and authenticity. The furthest thing imaginable from a typical ‘show-don’t-tell, avoid-all-adverbs’ compilation of writerly sins, Kofman’s stunning book is distinctly personal and yet somehow universal – an exploration of writing as a craft, vocation, and career. 

Neatly tied together with Kofman’s Four Writing Tenets (no spoilers here!) The Writer Laid Bare might be this generation’s most honest, intelligent, and engaging treatment of writing as an artform. The untapped powers of play, procrastination, and self-imposed-deadlines are revealed by Kofman in ways that will make even the most experienced writer wish Kofman was their personal writing mentor. Then they will remember that – with The Writer Laid Bare on their bookshelf– she already is. 

The Writer Laid Bare by Lee Kofman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781920727550 
Format: Paperback 
Pages: 352 pp
Release Date: 30th March 2022 
RRP: $32.99

Nanci Nott is an Australian writer who believes in dismantling traditional pedagogy in parenting and education, for the purpose of raising freethinking, compassionate, world-changers.