An acquaintance from my local town sent me her book "Bird by Bird." from Amazon as a gift. This was such a tender nudge of support in a time where if not all, most people here from my tennis team, to preschool to nearly anyone with a heartbeat loathed me for the foibles and mistakes and horrors I'd committed, but even more so for my candor in owning them. In that tempest of shit-slinging and falling out, the beacon-book arrived.
In full disclosure, I read the first few chapters but at the time was in a "writing mania." When those hit, I don't do anything other than minimum necessity to stay alive to write more. Last night though, while I was stuck doing inventory and menial administrative tasks for a business I'm trying to launch, (as a means to possibly support my love for writing.) I decided to put on her audio book.
Before I knew it, I was crying about the death of her father, so similar to my experiences with my father. I was laughing at her biting self-deprecation and honesty. More than anything, I was absolutely stunned and embarrassed to acknowledge I was the same person that believed she was "peg-able" by one aspect of herself. Sure, she is spiritual, but my god, she is political! She is funny as F*ck! She is brilliant and her comedic timing and analogy use made me stop and take notes.
I adore her. I spent an hour trying to find these classes of which she references in California, but came up with nothing. I was painting at the time, and through the enchanting first two hours of the audio book, I had completed two paintings. One of which I had started a week ago, but hadn't figured out exactly what the quote on it should be...something about balance, or mess and poise. Then her chapter on perfection hit a nerve of recognition and boom!
I'm no gifted sage, nor am I a great writer, but I do know that I've been published and that was met with the loudest resounding thunk of silence. She spoke to my soul explaining the fantasy and disillusion writers often have of that "step." I felt as if she validated and comforted me, not for being "good" or because I think I'm comparable to what she says is necessary to be "good." No, I heard my own thoughts, mind, and neurosis in every word she said about the work, the doubt and the gutting pendulum of sitting at your keyboard and running away.
I often describe the lonesome feeling of a fledgling (fumbling?) writer to be similar to the scene in the recent movie Gravity where Sandra Bullock is flipping haphazardly in her space suit into the giant, swallowing emptiness with no sign of stopping or anything remotely close.
Its not lonely, it's not even alone, it's a solitude too grand to be explained in words, hence the visual and that accompanying pit in all the viewers stomachs as they watched. That, right there is all too often my general state of being...until I heard Anne's words. I heard myself! I realized I'm not at all alone. Nor do I seem to be the unique anomaly of a writer who loathes herself, gives up, brings the wrath of every critic and yet, has the arrogance to stay at the desk, writing, for fear of either losing my mind, or not sharing what I believe I have inside myself.
It was an ah-ha moment. It was a pivotal point in my most recent block. Energetically, literally, and philosophically, I've been a bit blocked with my life and writing in general. I must say it now, and I will probably say it every day for months in my daily prayers and meditations:
"THANK YOU, ANNE. YOU WERE THE WARM FUZZY PSYCHE-SNUGGIE THAT FIT ME PERFECTLY ALL THE WAY TO MY TIP-TOES."
If you are a writer, or creative, or married to, dating, or parent, child or friend to a writer, you can't go wrong reading this book. It gives so much and so graciously and without ego. I may be found on eBay looking for signed copies to keep tucked in my pants as a new ritual. Who knows? Stranger things happen in my life.
Here are a few wisdom nuggets from the novel:
"A writer paradoxically seeks the truth and tells lies every step of the way."
" It is a lie if you make something up. But, you make it up in the name of the truth and then you give your heart to expressing it clearly."
"The other voices are banshees, drunken monkeys....somehow, in the face of all this you clear a space for the ' writer voice' hacking away at the others with machetes."
"Bird by bird, buddy. Take it bird by bird." - On how to approach a school report on birds, to his son on the eve of it's due date. (Anne Lamott and her late, great father: Kenneth Church Lamott.)
I know, without hesitation that her father is beaming with a pride and slight criticism of the technical or some random "puffery", but beaming. There is something about us daughters and losing our dads before they could see us do what they watched us dream of.
***A special thank you to the woman (you know who you are) for being brave and kind enough to throw me a olive branch in the floods. I can not thank you enough. -
Yes that reads like I'm receiving an award. Worry not, I think no such thing, rather I'm grateful for the five of you reading this blog. Love you!
"Shimmer with a smile. Life is hard, bloom anyway."