Wednesday, January 7, 2009

One at a Time

I mentioned a few of the books I read over Christmas break, but not all of them. One book I've been particularly enjoying, and thus sipping oh-so-slowly so as to savor the experience, is Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Now, I can easily imagine reading and enjoying Lamott's grocery lists, so of course her book on writing is of great interest to me. I didn't know that she'd written such a book, until a friend recommended it - a friend who has never mentioned to me that she's a writer. In the interest of preserving her privacy, then, I'll just assume that she too would happily read Anne Lamott's shopping list, and that's how she came to read her book on writing. And I'll keep assuming that until she decides to come out of the closet!

This book is beautifully written and serves as an example of the craft I am working so hard to learn, in addition to being chock full of terrific bits of wisdom and a great deal of humor.

I wrote at Kaldi's again this morning, for the first time since two weeks before Christmas. It felt so good to be back into it, I was actually grateful that their WiFi was malfunctioning. I only got about a thousand words down, but I'm pleased with the words and the scene I wrote. I'm pleased with the way the book is coming together. I'm pleased to be writing on this novel again, and am bolstered by confidence from Lamott's book.

The most valuable thing the book has given me so far is a restored sense of confidence. I am a writer. I might still be learning the craft, I might still be producing decent short stories and amateur novels that I'm not ready to show anyone yet, but I'm still a writer. I've written (almost) three novels, and that's a lot! Many people - like me, for years - talk about wanting to write a book "when they have the time." I made the time, while being a full-time caregiver for two very young children. That's an accomplishment indeed! And I am proud of it.

But best of all are sections like those on Page 22, "We all often feel like we are pulling teeth," and "The right words and sentences just do not come pouring out like ticker tape most of the time." She goes on, later, "For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous." I hear so much from other writers about their characters' voices in their heads, about how writing is always so much fun, after a while I got to wondering if I was doing something wrong, or if, worst of all, perhaps I just wasn't meant to be a writer. Perhaps I was meant to be a reader.

I am a reader. But I'm a writer too. I love writing, and I write something nearly every day, even if it's not always fiction. I have hard places. I have doubts. And they're normal! They don't mean that I can't write. They don't even mean that my current book sucks.

The Monday Mentor on my Sisters in Crime discussion list this week was Elizabeth Lyon and she said that right where I have been - around two-thirds through a novel - is where a lot of writers hit the wall. Ah hah! Again, I am in good company. Fortunately, today's writing pushed me past that point and I think I'm ready to, well . . . not coast, but at least make steady forward progress without yanking out my hair.

I am excited by what I'm doing, again. And it feels good, even if it is also hard work sometimes.


  1. Ha! I think I'd enjoy reading Anne Lamott's grocery list too!

    A very belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you. I too ended up spending a lot of time offline in the last few weeks and am only just now catching up on my blog reading.

  2. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year right back atcha!

    I think my Google Reader has over 400 unread posts. Gulp.