Writing Words: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

I haven't been reading much this summer {oh, shameful admission} since I've been too busy juggling softball, t-ball, Girl Scout day camp, and the needs of three kiddos from dawn til dusk.

I've been writing even less {oh, even more shameful and frustrating admission}; what you see here and here is pretty much it.

One book that I have read and find myself picking up to re-read bits and pieces is this fine little gem:



Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott isn't about teaching you how to write. This book is more of road map to the realities of the writing life, both the good things (loving the very process of creating something from nothing) and the bad things (hating the very process of creating something from nothing).

Ok, that last was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but if you write with any earnestness, you know what I mean. Writing is a roller coaster: some days, you absolutely scream down the hills at impossible speed as the story bursts from your mind. Your fingers can barely keep up with the words and you feel invincible.

I am WRITING! Your inner voice gleefully squeals. And I LOVE it!

Then there are the days when you show up to wherever it is you do your word work and you feel your hands and throat tightening in fear; there is NOTHING to write, it seems, and there will NEVER be anything to write EVER again.

That hill in front of you looks impossibly tall and wait - is it laughing at you?

You have nothing to say, your inner voice taunts. Nothing that anyone would want to read, anyways.

Anne Lamott talks about that inner voice in Bird by Bird among other things. I'd like to strangle my inner voice most days, wrap it up with a bungee cord and shove it down into the bottom of the messiest closet in my house (oh, there are many Bermuda Triangle closets here at casa de Writer-Mommy); she gets this, and talks about how she imagines all those inner voices - her own doubts, the voices of the naysayers in her life that offer only criticism - as mice that she drops into a glass jar with a volume control knob.*

I like that image, too.

One of my favorite quotes from the book - favorite because it slapped me in the face with my own habit of avoiding writing about what really matters - is this one:
After thirty years or more of floundering around and screwing up, you will finally know, and when you get serious you will be dealing with the one thing you've been avoiding all along - your wounds. This is very painful. It stops a lot of people early on who didn't get into this for the pain. They got into it for the money and the fame. So they either quit, or they resort to a type of writing that is sort of like candy making.**

As much as I want to earn an income from writing books (assuming I can ever get just one finished), I don't want to write just for the money. I've tried that and my heart just isn't in it; I suspect if I'd trotted out those manuscripts, the agents and editors would have noticed the same thing themselves.

I highly recommend Bird by Bird; you'll feel less crazed as a writer after reading it from cover-to-cover.

At least, I did - but don't tell my inner voice that, m'kay?

It's still hollering from the depths of my closet.

*p. 27
**p. 234-235