First off, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I’d rather curl up with a good piece of fiction any day than a book that dissects the writing process, so I expected I’d need to force myself to read it. Not at all.
Bird by Bird provides an honest and often humorous look at writing. Anne Lamott spends much of the book stripping away the illusion that there’s anything remotely glamorous about the life of a writer, whether published or not. She’s self-deprecating and funny and open, even while discussing some of the darker issues involved with writing and life in general. She doesn’t get into a lot of technical advice. Instead, she focuses on a realistic approach to various aspects of writing.
There are many, many things I could share about this book, like how it literally made me cackle numerous times, or how practical it is, but I’ll keep it to a minimum by focusing on the bit that affected me most.
Anne Lamott addresses writer’s block in the following hilarious, yet profound way:
“The word block suggests that you are constipated or stuck, when the truth is that you’re empty.” (p. 178)
This was a HUGE revelation for me, the equivalent of a much needed smack in the head. Being disciplined about writing certainly involves sacrifice, but there comes a point when you could be giving up too much, both personally and in terms of fuel for writing. Your job as a writer is to pour your heart and soul into the stories you write, but how can you do that when you’re emotionally drained and your well of experience has gone dry?
The author’s advice is to accept that you aren’t in a productive or creative period and use that time to fill up again. She encourages you to live like you’re dying, so that your time is fuller. She recommends participating in ordinary life, because that will refill you with “observations, flavors, ideas, visions, memories…” (p. 179). Taking the time to enjoy simple things and being truly present in those moments is not only healthy, but necessary for the creative process.
Sometimes I need to just crawl up out of that deep dark writing pit and enjoy taking part in normal life for a while—not just to preserve my sanity, but for the good of whatever writing project I’m working on. I’m no good to myself, anyone else, or my writing if I let myself run on empty. Feeding my soul will nourish my imagination which will enable me to write.
Anybody else have any revelations while reading Bird by Bird or another craft book?