When I asked the Hive what their fav "how to write" books were for the list I was making for my high schooler Creative Writing class, Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird was mentioned over and over again. Unbelievably, I had never heard of her before. Sometimes the best is last and right now she is vying for "best find of the year" in my 52/11 list!
Bird by Bird is Lamott's "Some instructions on Writing and Life." It's kinda the Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for Writers. Great points on writing and the writing life and a whole lotta philosophy on living and dealing with getting stuck- in writing and in life- and on dealing with one's own narcissism and self-doubt.
Ann is liberal and opinionated and bare bones, with enough swear words to make even me, reformed (most days) gutter mouth that I am, flinch every now and then. Along with all of that she is laugh out loud funny; evry funny; really funny; and wise. I want to call Anne and confess to her that even though I probably disagree with her political and social views I would like to hire her as my writing mentor, adopt her as my sister, or both.
I do have a better understanding of writing from reading this book. In fact, Anne makes writing for a living seem do-able. Maybe it's cause I relate to her random global rambly-connectedness. She is bunny trailer extraordinaire (and my dh thought I was!). Anne makes writing as simple as putting down thoughts, as reasonable as confession, as poetic as weather. She defines character, first drafts, plot and design. She also goes over interesting tid-bits such as why you write, getting published, and index cards, an item apparently not to be overlooked by the serious writer.
She also talks about the importance of transparency, honesty and morality. Along the way, she points to the co-dependence 98% of us live with, the importance of naming pain and treats us all to a healthy dose of 12 step and faithful living.
I loved this book. My new fav author for the year was going to be Addison Allen- mystical realism, baby, bring it on. I LOVE Allen's writing. But Lamott's nitty gritty, life's a b*tch, own your grief and anger and the damaged person that you are and be there with it, breathe, laugh about it, laugh hard and long, spoke to me profoundly. I've requested all of her titles from the library. I need the dose of nitty-gritty, and the dose of funny right now.
Lamott ends her book on writing with this: "So, why does our writing matter..."
Because of the spirit, I say. Because of the heart. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life; they feed the soul. When writer's make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It's like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can't stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship."
Yep. That's what words and books and stories have been for me. She gets it, she is writing my truth, with wit and humor.